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The Director's Chair: Adam Shankman's Hairspray Diary #7

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BroadwayWorld.com has an exclusive look into the making of the movie musical HAIRSPRAY with this special Director's Diary written by Adam Shankman. Check back daily for new entries!

ELEVEN HUNDRED TRACY'S

So the search for Tracy begins.  David Rubin and Richard Hicks, my casting directors, have sent out a breakdown and posted on the internet that we are holding an open call basically all over the world (at least in all English speaking countries).  This is going to be an interesting adventure trying to find this girl who needs to possess the following qualities: 

1. Obviously, she must be seventeen. I don't want to "90210" this kind of casting, meaning I'd really like to find a girl who is at the very most, under 21 to play Tracy. I really want the teenagers to be real teenagers. That's very important to me because I want everybody to feel the honesty of Tracy's plight.  Ricky Lake was that age and I think my new Tracy needs to be the same. 

2.  She needs to be really pretty.  I want audiences to really root for her when Link leans in to give her the kiss.  I want that to be as believable as possible. 

3. Obviously she needs to be a girl of…well, size.  John Waters told me he really doesn't want a plump girl playing Tracy.  It's really important to him that I find a girl who is, well, not to put too fine a point on it, but, frankly, fat.  And I don't mean Hollywood heavy. I want a girl who is the real deal. 

4.  She obviously needs to have a singing voice that soars with great honesty and be able to understand the styles of the late fifties and early sixties. I'd like her to sound a bit like Ronnie Spector at times.  Good luck to me.

5.  She needs to be able to dance. I'm going to be putting a lot of dancing into the movie that didn't exist in the play. In the play, in so many numbers, Jerry Mitchell, who did a fantastic job was handcuffed to the fact that the dancers had to be able to sing at the same time so they couldn't get overly athletic. I don't have that problem since all of my dancers are going to be able to lip synch.  That doesn't mean that I am going to go for a Cirque Du Soleil approach, it just means that I can get really aggressive with the dancing.

This girl also needs to have confidence, courage, sweetness and exuberance.  I know that I'm going to find her. I know she's out there. I'm combing the world. Every time there is an incarnation of this particular project, lightening strikes.  I'm hoping that I'm going to be the lightening rod on this one and I can't wait to see who we discover.

A few weeks later…

So, I've been out doing location scouting, rehearsing with Mama and watching what feels like thousands of auditions from potential Tracy's on our casting service online. After every city I'm sent all the top candidates via internet from David and Richard.  We found some interesting candidates.  It looks to me like we are going to see about eleven-hundred girls.  Eleven-hundred "Good Morning Baltimore's".  Eleven-hundred "Mama I'm a Big Girl Now's".  Frankly, sometimes my vision gets blurry watching the auditions over and over again. One girl did stick out to me though. She's a little girl from Great Neck. I can't remember her name.  I think the guys told me that works in a Coldstone Creamery and that she was doing a production of "Sweeney Todd" in her high school. Who does "Sweeney Todd" in high school? Wow.  She was very cute though.  Very Tracy-like.  I don't know, but I just keep returning to her audition.

More tomorrow with entry #8...

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Adam Shankman Adam Shankman is a master of comedy yet is still able to capture the sensitivity of each story, making him one of the most loved and commercially successful filmmakers of his generation.

Currently in post-production on Hairspray, Shankman is bringing the feature film adaptation of the Tony award-winning Broadway production to life with a remarkable collection of talent including John Travolta, Queen Latifah, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken. Hairspray is scheduled for a July 2007 release from New Line Cinema.

Shankman is also in pre-production on Bedtime Stories, which he will direct and executive produce through his Offspring Entertainment banner for Walt Disney Studios, with Adam Sandler set to star. Additionally, Shankman is producing an Untitled Project in the works also through Offspring, with Hairspray star Zac Efron set to star. He is also producing, through Offspring, All Of Me, starring Queen Latifah and based upon the 1984 film starring Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin.

Shankman and Gibgot?s Offspring Entertainment are set to produce Monday Monday, a film about a neurotic teenager forced to relive the first day of high school until he gets it right. Offspring Entertainment is also producing an adult treasure hunt project in association with Benderspink.

Most recently, Shankman produced the Sandra Bullock film, Premonition, as well as Step Up for Walt Disney Studios. Step Up, directed by his co-choreographer Anne Fletcher, garnered critical acclaim and grossed over $100 million at the box office. The sequel Step Up 2, directed by John Chu, is scheduled to begin production this summer. In addition, Shankman recently directed the box office success, Cheaper by the Dozen 2, the sequel to the 2003 20th Century Fox smash hit family film.

Shankman began crafting an enviable career with his directorial debut, Columbia Pictures' The Wedding Planner. The Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey film was the heart-felt hit of 2001. Shankman's following grew with his next film A Walk to Remember, distributed by Warner Bros., starring Mandy Moore and Shane West. A Walk to Remember was nominated for a 2002 Phoenix Film Critics Award for Best Live Action Family Film.

Shankman followed this up with Bringing Down the House, a Walt Disney comedy starring Steve Martin and Queen Latifah which was number one at the box office for three weeks in a row, grossing over $130 million. Shankman followed that up by directing another Disney film, The Pacifier starring Vin Diesel. To date, Shankman?s films have grossed over a half-billion dollars.

Prior to directing, Shankman was one of the entertainment world's premiere dance and physical comedy choreographers, putting his creative stamp on many well-known comedies, dramas, thrillers, and animated films. His projects include The Addams Family, Casper, Inspector Gadget, Anastasia, George of the Jungle, Boogie Nights, Miami Rhapsody, and The Flintstones for which he was nominated for a Bob Fosse Award. Shankman won the Bob Fosse award for his work with Simon West.

At age 24, Shankman teamed up with influential video director Julian Temple as a music video choreographer. One of the first videos as choreographer was Whitney Houston's "I'm Your Baby Tonight." He has also choreographed videos for The B-52's, Barry White, Aaron Neville, Chic and Stevie Wonder.

A native of Los Angeles, Shankman developed a love for the theater at an early age. After high school, he moved to New York and attended the Juilliard School.

After five years as an actor and dancer in New York and regional theater, he moved back to Los Angeles and began dancing in music videos, including videos for Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson. He also performed at the 1989 Academy Awards.


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