Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, has only one passion – dancing. Her dream is to appear on “The Corny Collins Show,” Baltimore’s hippest dance party on TV. Tracy (Nikki Blonsky) seems a natural fit for the show except for one not-so-little problem – she doesn’t fit in. Her plus-sized figure has always set her apart from the cool crowd, which she is reminded of by her loving but overly protective plus-sized mother, Edna (John Travolta). That doesn’t stop Tracy because if there is one thing that this girl knows, it’s that she was born to dance. As her father Wilbur (Christopher Walken) tells her, “Go for it! You’ve got to think big to be big.”
After wowing Corny Collins (James Marsden) at her high school dance, Tracy wins a spot on his show and becomes an instant on-air sensation, much to the chagrin of the show’s reigning princess, Amber Von Tussle (Brittany Snow), and her scheming mother, Velma (Michelle Pfeiffer), who runs television station WYZT. Even worse for Amber is the fact that it’s not just the audience who loves the new girl in town; Amber’s sweetheart, Link Larkin (Zac Efron), seems to be smitten with Tracy’s charms as well. This dance party gets personal as a bitter feud erupts between the girls as they compete for the coveted “Miss Teenage Hairspray” crown.
At school, however, a short stint in detention and raised-eyebrows caused by the budding relationship between her best friend Penny Pingleton (Amanda Bynes) and Seaweed (Elijah Kelley) opens Tracy’s eyes to a bigger issue than the latest dance craze or the coolest hairdo – racial inequality. Throwing caution to the wind, she leads a march with Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah) to fight for integration and winds up with an arrest warrant instead. Tracy is on the lam now and goes underground – literally – to her best friend Penny’s basement.
Has Tracy’s luck finally run out? Will she miss the final dance-off against Amber and forfeit the title of “Miss Hairspray,” or will she sing and dance her way out of trouble again?
When big hair meets big dreams anything can happen – and does – in this high-energy comedy that proves you don’t have to fit in to win.
Based on the 1988 John Waters cult classic film and the critically-acclaimed, Tony Award-winning Broadway hit musical, Hairspray features the all-star ensemble of John Travolta as Edna Turnblad, Michelle Pfeiffer as Velma Von Tussle, Christopher Walken as Wilbur Turnblad, Amanda Bynes as Penny Pingleton, James Marsden as Corny Collins and Queen Latifah as Motormouth Maybelle, as well Brittany Snow as Amber Von Tussle, Zac Efron as Link Larkin, Elijah Kelley as Seaweed, Allison Janney as Prudy Pingleton, Jerry Stiller, Paul Dooley and introducing eighteen-year-old newcomer Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad.
Hairspray is directed and choreographed by Adam Shankman (Bringing Down the House, The Pacifier) from a screenplay by Leslie Dixon (Freaky Friday, Mrs. Doubtfire).
The music is by Emmy, Tony and Grammy Award-winner and five-time Oscar®-nominee Marc Shaiman (“Hairspray: The Musical,” Sleepless in Seattle, The American President, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut) with lyrics by Tony and Grammy Award-winner Scott Wittman (“Hairspray: The Musical”) and Shaiman and features several brand new songs created specifically for the film adaptation. The film is based on the 1988 screenplay, Hairspray, written by John Waters, and the 2002 Musical Stage Play, “Hairspray,” Book by Mark O’Donnell, Thomas Meehan, Music by Marc Shaiman, Lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman.
The film is produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the executive producers of the Academy Award® and Golden Globe Award-winning Best Picture, Chicago, as well as television’s “Annie,” “Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows,” “Gypsy” and “Cinderella”. The executive producers are Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, Toby Emmerich, Mark Kaufman, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and Adam Shankman, Jennifer Gibgot (Step Up, The Pacifier) and Garrett Grant (Cheaper by the Dozen 2, The Pacifier).
The creative production team includes director of photography Bojan Bazelli, ASC (Mr. & Mrs. Smith), Oscar®-nominated production designer David Gropman (The Cider House Rules), editor Michael Tronick, A.C.E. (Mr. & Mrs. Smith), Oscar®-nominated costume designer Rita Ryack (How the Grinch Stole Christmas), Academy Award®-winning set decorator Gordon Sim, S.D.S.A. (Chicago), and three-time Academy Award®-winning sound mixer David MacMillan (Apollo 13, Speed, The Right Stuff).
New Line Cinema will release Hairspray (rated PG by the M.P.A.A. for “language, some suggestive content and momentary teen smoking”) in theaters nationwide on July 20th, 2007.
The story of Hairspray’s genesis begins in 1988, when filmmaker John Waters and New Line Cinema released the original Hairspray. Like his prior films, including Pink Flamingos and Polyester, Hairspray was written, directed and produced by Waters and quickly became another comedy cult classic. The film starred newcomer Ricki Lake as Tracy Turnblad, the titular Divine (née Glen Milstead) as her loving mother, Edna, and veteran actor Jerry Stiller as her father, Wilbur. This was a story that only John Waters could have told (and cast) in his own inimitable way.
“I wrote it on my bed in my kind of slummy apartment in Baltimore,” says Waters. “I lived a lot of this movie growing up in Baltimore in the early ‘60s. I used to watch the local TV teen dance show, “The Buddy Dean Show,” and even was on it once. I, like all the other white kids, was listening to the black music back then. We had three black radio stations.”
“John really lived the coming together of those two cultures in Baltimore,” says Jerry Stiller, who now portrays Mr. Pinky, the owner of the Hefty Hideaway, a dress shop with “Quality Clothes for Quantity Gals” in the new version of the film.
“The result was a story that could have only come from his uniquely crazy personality and perspective on life,” says Stiller, whose children, Amy and Ben, urged him to take the role of Wilbur Turnblad in the 1988 film. “John has no limits or restrictions when it comes to his sense of humor, and that is his brilliance as a filmmaker. His vision of life in 1962 Baltimore may be a bit twisted, but you can’t deny the fact that it’s incredibly funny.”
Waters explains that his film is actually a white person’s perspective (as seen through the eyes of teenager Tracy Turnblad) of the integration movement. “I think my movie resonated with people because it was really funny but socially redeeming without being preachy. The biggest difference, no pun intended, was that on the real Buddy Dean show, there was never a fat girl. So that’s where the character of Tracy came from. To me, Tracy, the fat girl, basically represented every outsider, and her dream to dance on The Corny Collins Show represented the dreams of anyone facing discrimination of any kind.”
The dreams of Tracy Turnblad did not end with the final box office tally for Waters’ 1988 film. In 2002, New Line debuted “Hairspray: The Musical,” the smash hit Broadway adaptation of Waters’ cult classic film. Written by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, with music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman, “Hairspray: The Musical” was nominated for 13 Tony Awards and won eight, including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score (Music and Lyrics), Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical (Harvey Fierstein), Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical (Marissa Jaret Winokur), Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical (Dick Latessa), Best Costume Design (William Ivey Long) and Best Direction of a Musical (Jack O’Brien).
The show continues to attract audiences to Broadway’s Neil Simon Theatre and to road productions all over North America thanks to its catchy music, likeable characters, underdog/outsider themes and comedy which have struck a chord with audiences of all ages. The show is also expanding internationally with a 2-week run in Japan in July 2007 and a London opening in October 2007.
For the original Tracy Turnblad, Ricki Lake (who, like Waters and Jerry Stiller, appears in a cameo role in the new film), John Waters’ movie is a Cinderella story not only in terms of its themes but for her personally as well.
“It was actually a little overwhelming to be on set in Toronto on the day I did my cameo,” Lake recalls. “I mean, it was 19 years ago when we made the original. It’s surreal to think that I am actually old enough to be the new Tracy’s mother! Seriously, I think the story is still relevant today…you know, the ideas of tolerance and acceptance and inclusion. And I love the idea of the underdog winning. It’s such a positive story about being true to yourself and if you can do that, then your dreams can come true. Like mine did. Being in the original opened every door for me, and I’m eternally grateful to John Waters for discovering me and plucking me from obscurity and making me a star. In a lot of ways, Nikki Blonsky is wearing the shoes that I filled so long ago, and may she have as long and as lovely a career as I have had.”
Now, in 2007, the third generation of John Waters’ story has been created. Neither a remake of the 1988 film nor a filmed version of the 2002 stage musical, the film is a “re-invention” based on the hit Broadway show.
In Fall 2004, New Line Cinema – the common thread to all three iterations – enlisted producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron to help shepherd this new version to the screen, which began with their hiring of screenwriter Leslie Dixon (Mrs. Doubtfire, 2003’s Freaky Friday). The duo are veterans of the musical genre, having executive produced the Academy Award®-winning Chicago (which was the first movie musical to win the Oscar® for Best Picture in 34 years) and produced television productions of “Gypsy,” “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” “Annie,” and “The Music Man.”
“All three incarnations of Hairspray have the same DNA, the same bloodline,” says Neil Meron. “They’re all very much related to one another, but unique in their respective artistic sensibilities. This film utilizes the building blocks of the original movie and combines it with the energy and fun of the Broadway musical to create a singularly different translation of the story. It’s like having triplets…they’re not always identical, they don’t always look the same, but they come from the same family.”
“For all of us, it was first and foremost about honoring the source material,” says Craig Zadan. “Whether it was comedic elements from the original film or musical elements from the Broadway show, we approached this movie with a deep respect and dignity for the story that John Waters so brilliantly conceived.”
New Line Cinema and the producers found a perfect choice for director in Adam Shankman. Hairspray also marks a return to Shankman’s roots in the entertainment business. “This is truly a dream come true for me, and I feel like I’ve come home,” says Shankman, who spent the first half of his career as a successful dancer and stage and film choreographer. He then turned to directing movies like The Wedding Planner, A Walk to Remember, Bringing Down the House, The Pacifier and Cheaper By the Dozen 2, which combined to earn more than $600 million worldwide.
“Craig and I have known Adam for many years and have watched him grow into a talented filmmaker,” says Meron. “When we first sat down with him to talk about the possibility of him directing this movie, he was very, very passionate. He told us that he understood this show more than anything he’s done in his entire career. To him, the story of Tracy Turnblad and her indomitable spirit to succeed somewhat echoes portions of his own life and his desire and determination to work hard and be successful. Given his expertise in the genres of dance, musical theatre and film, and his intrinsic relationship with the material, he truly was the guiding force behind this film.”
“The films I’ve been lucky enough to direct over the past few years didn’t utilize the skill sets of my years as a dancer,” Shankman says. “Directing Hairspray took me back to doing what I felt I was always supposed to do…and I loved it. On top of which, I was surrounded by some of the most talented people I have ever met. The cast is so rich in talent and their collective courage in stepping into a project like this was awe-inspiring.”
Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron believe the magic of Hairspray is created from the combination of Shankman’s unique skills as a director-choreographer; the stellar cast of award-winners and hot, young newcomers; and the upbeat music and lyrics of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who have written several new songs for the film, including the Elvis-inspired “Ladies Choice” for heartthrob Link Larkin (played by Zac Efron) and “Come So Far (Got So Far To Go),” sung by Queen Latifah, Nikki Blonsky, Zac Efron and Elijah Kelley, which appears over the end title credits.
For his part, Marc Shaiman credits John Waters for laying out a timeless blueprint with the original film. “What we’ve come to today is all based on John Waters’ classic story of 19 years ago,” says Shaiman. “At the heart of that story is the idea of realization of one’s dreams.”
Shankman adds, “I’m a huge fan of John’s film and the Broadway musical. And the reason they both succeeded is because the story of the big girl with the big hair and big dreams holds up no matter what medium is used to tell it. So now, by telling the story using the best of both worlds of film and theatre, a whole new generation of audiences are going to get to experience the crazy comedy of the original film and the sheer joy and exuberance of the Broadway show.”
A NEW TWIST ON TRADITION
This new version of Hairspray is not without at least two traditions of the franchise’s legacy: the role of Tracy Turnblad has always been played by an unknown talent; and the role of Edna Turnblad has always been played by a male actor. First it was Ricki Lake and Divine, then Marissa Winokur and Harvey Fierstein and now, Nikki Blonsky is Tracy and John Travolta is Edna.
“Come to Mama.” With arms wide open, those were the first words actor John Travolta said to his latest leading lady, Nikki Blonsky, upon meeting her for the first time back in August 2006. Seeing them together, everyone involved in the production knew they were on to something special.
“Their connection was immediate,” recalls producer Neil Meron. “That first meeting exemplifies the relationship they had from the get-go. It was a bit overwhelming because it was like these two people were destined to be together in some way. We all just took a step back because we knew we were witnessing the beginning of what might be one of the greatest ‘mother-daughter’ acts of all time.”
“The day I met John Travolta is a day I’ll never forget,” says Blonsky, the high school senior who was working part-time at a Long Island ice cream store before landing a starring role opposite one of the most famous movie stars in history. “When we hugged, I felt like I was hugging my real mom. He made me feel so comfortable and loved and protected…which is just what moms are supposed to do.”
“A star has definitely been born,” says Travolta of Blonsky’s performance. “I don’t think I’ll ever have to eat my words about that. Once you see Nikki perform it will be quite evident that she has a presence, talent and charisma not unlike a young Barbra Streisand or Bette Midler. She is as unique in her abilities as those two women are in theirs.”
The chemistry between Travolta and Blonsky may have been instantaneous, but the casting of Edna and Tracy Turnblad was not accomplished quite as quickly. In fact, it took more than a year for producers Zadan and Meron to convince Travolta to star in the film.
“John is the greatest movie musical star of this generation, but he was reticent for a long time because he was concerned about a return to the genre that made him a star,” says Meron. “He kept telling Craig and me that if he was to make another musical he wanted it to be a project that was not going to be ordinary in any way. Well, we just kept saying to him that John Travolta portraying Edna Turnblad would be anything but ordinary.”
Zadan adds, “Understandably, John was hesitant for many reasons, but we kept telling him that this was his role, that it would be unlike any role he has ever done in his career. John has always kept surprising his audience, and we told him this would be his biggest surprise ever, literally and figuratively speaking.”
This was not the first time Meron and Zadan had approached Travolta about starring in a musical. They initially hoped that would accept the role of Billy Flynn in Chicago, but he turned it down and the part ultimately went to Richard Gere.
“Honestly, Chicago was the first musical film project that tempted me to return to the genre, and now I have regrets that I didn’t do it,” says Travolta. “So, Craig and Neil told me that I was not getting away this time. They gave me all the details of how they were going to approach the material and all the reasons why I should play this part. For quite a while, though, it was hard for me to grasp the concept of being a leading man for 30 years, and now I am being sought out to play a fat woman from Baltimore. But after many, many months of indecision, they successfully convinced me to shake my booty again, but this time as Edna.”
Helping transform Travolta into Edna was the special makeup design expertise of Tony Gardner and his incredibly talented team of makeup artists and prosthetic craftsmen. Essentially, for four to five hours on each of his work days, Travolta was encased from forehead-to-toe in a full body fat suit (weighing over 30 pounds) and five separate gel-filled silicone prosthetic appliances (chin & lower lip, upper lip, two cheek pieces and one wrap-around neck and cleavage piece). In total, three full body suits (plus a half-body silicone suit weighing 75 pounds) were built, and 11 pairs of legs, nine pairs of arms and over 40 sets of facial appliances were manufactured to use in the transformation.
In regards to the daily makeup process, Travolta had a love/hate relationship with Edna.
“I can say being Edna was fun, but becoming Edna was not fun,” says Travolta. “I loved the effect the look had on people when they would see me on set as Edna, but I did not love the process involving the prosthetics and the fat suit. It was very uncomfortable and very hot. It was like wearing seven layers of very uncomfortable clothing, and I remember thinking I would never want to be a woman if that was the case.
“However, I was thrilled the first time I saw myself as Edna and I bought it,” he says. “Out of nowhere really she just appeared, and it was a lot of fun walking on to the set and having people greet me as Edna…people kind of forgot that I was inside there somewhere, so that was funny to me. Instead of playing the old joke of being a man in a woman’s fat suit, I decided to play a new joke and create and become a blue collar woman from Baltimore.”
As daunting of a task as it was for the producers to convince Travolta to play Edna, it was, by all accounts, an equally formidable challenge for Adam Shankman to find the girl who would become his Tracy.
“I was always committed to finding an unknown to play Tracy, and Neil and Craig and the studio backed that notion 100%,” says Shankman. “It was critical to the film and the role itself that whoever was to play Tracy couldn’t bring any baggage to the character. Not only did I want to cast an unknown, I insisted that the actress be the same age as the character. That was imperative in my vision for the role. Audiences need to see this chubby teenager for the first time and immediately fall in love with her.”
“However,” adds Shankman, “Tracy clearly has a distinctive look. We all knew it was going to be a momentous challenge to find an adorable, loveable 17-year-old, overweight girl who could sing, dance and act and hold her own up against the likes of John Travolta, Queen Latifah, Christopher Walken and Michelle Pfeiffer. But we did…boy did we ever!”
The filmmakers undertook an exhaustive worldwide search with open casting calls in Canada, Britain, Australia and the United States and set up an Internet web site for taped audition submissions as well. Over 1,000 girls were seen by the filmmakers before Nikki Blonsky rose to the top of the list.
“Once I saw Nikki’s audition, I immediately put her on my list,” recalls Shankman. “She was the right age, certainly looked the part, she could sing very well and she made me laugh. She had incredible confidence and a lovable sexuality about her that is very Tracy. As the casting process continued I saw lots of other girls and lots of other audition tapes. But I kept going back to Nikki’s. I’d watch a few others and then I’d watch hers again and then see a few others and then watch hers again. Eventually, I realized I just could not get over the fact that this little chubby teenager from working- class Long Island had the same passionate dreams of performing as the little chubby teenager from working-class Baltimore. The parallels between their lives were so apparent it gave a sense of inevitability to the decision to cast her. Finally, we all just recognized the fact that Nikki was Tracy. All she really had to do was show up, put on the wigs and it was done.”
More call backs and meetings with the filmmakers followed, and finally a screen test in Los Angeles that sealed the deal for everyone. Several months later, Blonsky arrived on set to begin rehearsals. Her first impression had indeed become a lasting one.
“Nikki was a machine,” says Shankman, laughing. “She was a sponge. She was tireless and there was no amount of direction you could waste on her. With no dance training and only her high school musical theatre experience, Nikki just immersed herself in the work. It was scary how quickly she learned the dances, how to hit her marks and figure out camera left from camera right. In fact, she was so good that all the other dancers and actors had to step up their game to keep up with her.”
“The only time we were able to have the entire cast together was for one table read and sing-through in August,” says composer/lyricist and co-executive producer Marc Shaiman. “The energy and excitement in that room was palpable and contagious. It was outrageously thrilling and exciting to see this incredible and diverse amount of triple-threat talent in one room. In the midst of it all, we witnessed Nikki emerging as Tracy. It was an incredibly moving experience and something we will never forget.”
“Being a part of that incredible read-through actually brought tears to my eyes,” says lyricist and co-executive producer Scott Wittman. “Watching Nikki alongside all those incredible actors that day made me her biggest fan.”
“I owe such an incredible amount of gratitude to Adam,” says Nikki Blonsky. “I believe he was my guardian angel watching over me all the time as I was living my dream. He brought me to tears on many occasions. To hear that I was doing a good job from him was just the most gratifying thing I had ever experienced. He made me the happiest girl in the world, and he will always have a place in my heart…always.”
CASTING THE ULTIMATE ENSEMBLE
John Travolta, the movie star veteran, and Nikki Blonsky, the new “discovery,” are just the beginnings of what would become a truly all-star Hairspray cast. Singing and dancing their way through the film are an unprecedented collection of talent that ranges from Hollywood’s biggest names to its hottest young stars.
For the characters of music-loving mom Motormouth Maybelle and the scheming Velma Von Tussle, the filmmakers went straight to their first choices, Queen Latifah and Michelle Pfeiffer. Both actors are big stars, beautiful women and, thanks to some hair-raising wigs, blonde.
“Being blonde brought out a whole other side of me,” says Latifah, smiling. “It was a side I didn’t even know I had. I mean, I’ve had my hair lightened but never been platinum like that before…it was cool…I felt like a superhero with all that hair. I felt powerful.”
Latifah accepted the role without ever having seen a script, based on her previous collaborations with director/choreographer Adam Shankman (Bringing Down the House) and Hairspray producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who executive produced Chicago, for which Latifah received Oscar®, Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal as Mama Morton. “I just relied on their collective expertise, and I was very comfortable that they were going to deliver all the things they promised…and they did,” she says.
For Latifah, the part of Motormouth Maybelle hit close to home in many respects, perhaps culminating in her moving and spirited performance of “I Know Where I’ve Been.”
“Well, Maybelle and I both love music and understand the impact it can have in people’s lives,” she says. “Music can be the energy of change, and change can happen and will happen, but sometimes you got to help move it along. So, the protest march in the movie was very special to me. Not only because I get to sing a great song that Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman wrote, but also because I felt the spirit of my own mother coming through. She was a high school teacher who was very inspiring to her students and her own children. She would always encourage and empower them and let them know that the world was theirs if they wanted it. I think Maybelle is that same type of woman. She sees her kids and their friends as a powerful force for the future and understands that there is always more life to live, but you have to be willing and able to go find it. That’s what these kids in the movie do…and they do it all through the music.”
Music and change are clearly not what drive the character of television station manager and not-so-merry widow Velma Von Tussle, as played by Michelle Pfeiffer, who received one of her three Academy Award® nominations for her last singing role, Suzie Diamond, in The Fabulous Baker Boys.
“Velma is a woman on the edge,” says director/co-choreographer Adam Shankman. “For the ex-beauty queen, life is still all about winning and winning at all cost. That’s how she runs the TV station, and that’s how she runs her life and her daughter Amber’s life. This is a woman who is so very beautiful on the outside and so hideously ugly on the inside.”
“As a huge fan of Michelle’s, and especially her work in Batman Returns and The Fabulous Baker Boys, I knew she could handle the physical, comedic and singing elements of Velma,” says Shankman. “There was no question, though, that she had a very daunting task in playing the villain, who is essentially just a big racist. Michelle, however, took over the role with an unmatched style, energy and commitment. She never tried to run away from how horrible Velma is…she bit into it, locked her jaw and held on tight.”
“I think calling her the villain would be a very fair assessment, if not a glaring understatement,” says Pfeiffer, laughing. “I was a bit reluctant at first to play her. I didn’t really know how to approach such a hateful character. Every scene I tried to humanize her and sometimes it just wasn’t possible. So, I must give thanks to Adam. He was very collaborative and yet always gave me a sense that he was in control and keeping the bigger picture in mind. He was always very generous with rehearsal time and making sure I was comfortable with the staging, but whenever I would get too ‘actor-y’ and question ‘my motivation,’ Adam would just say ‘Honey! It’s Vaudeville!’ That would always put me back in the place I needed to be to be Velma.”
Pfeiffer admits the singing and dancing (and baton twirling!) was much more demanding than any of her work in Grease 2 or The Fabulous Baker Boys. “The songs themselves are very challenging,” she says. “It was difficult for me to find any room for interpretation because the melodies are so fast you can barely catch your breath. Once I got through that ‘Oh my god, what have I gotten myself into’ phase, it really was so much fun to be singing again. And the ‘Miss Baltimore Crabs’ number really pushed my limits as to how many different things I had to concentrate on at one time. But Brittany (Brittany Snow, who plays Velma’s daughter, Amber) and all the wonderful young dancers really helped to keep my spirits up. Their enthusiasm and tireless energy was infectious and I loved working with every single one of them.”
“I think people are really going to be taken by how funny Michelle is in this movie,” says Shankman. “If they’ve forgotten that she can sing and dance, too, they’re in for quite a ride.”
Another casting coup was the addition of Christopher Walken, an actor primarily known for his award-winning performances in dramatic (and oft times villainous) film roles. In reality, Walken is a kid from Queens who has been singing and dancing ever since he was a little boy. As a young man, he was a chorus boy in many musicals and touring stage companies, including a two-year stint in the classic “West Side Story.”
“I did a lot of musicals until I was about 30,” says Walken. “Then I got a job in a play strictly as an actor and from that job I got a job in a movie, and that’s how I ended up with a film career. It was all kind of by accident.”
It was no accident, however, when Walken’s name was first brought up by John Travolta, who explained that Wilbur is not only a role for a great actor, but also for a great actor who can really sing and dance. Fortunately, the filmmakers were all aware of Walken’s musical background, which includes his memorable role in Pennies from Heaven and, more recently, his dance appearance in the Spike Jonze-directed music video, “Weapon of Choice.”
“John’s suggestion to get Chris was brilliant,” says producer Craig Zadan. “He was that triple-threat performer we needed to play Wilbur, and because he is such an incredible dancer, Adam Shankman was able to expand on the musical number ‘Timeless to Me.’ In the Broadway show it is just a song sung between Wilbur and Edna, but Adam created an extraordinarily special song-and-dance performed by two real song-and-dance men, and it is truly one of the highlights of the movie.”
“Chris Walken is like a human novelty shop,” says Shankman. “He is quirky, original and always full of surprises. He brought an enormous amount of off-center wonder to the character. He and John were so committed to their ‘relationship’ that you honestly believe they truly love each other as husband and wife. So in choreographing ‘Timeless to Me,’ I knew I had two of the greatest movie musical talents who could handle the steps and the fantasy concept and help me illustrate the greater scope of Wilbur and Edna’s love. It is a love that goes beyond their house and backyard into a world where great romance is found. It’s a crazy concept but their work together makes it one of the sweetest moments in the film.”
Another surprise the filmmakers had up their sleeve was the revelation that actor James Marsden, who portrayed Cyclops in the three blockbuster X-Men films, can sing. Marsden makes his feature film musical debut as Corny Collins, the host of Baltimore’s American Bandstand-style show that gives a whole new meaning to black-and-white television.
Hairspray is not, however, the first time Marsden has sung professionally. For 12 episodes during the 2001-2002 season, he played Glenn Foy on the hit TV show “Ally McBeal” (produced by, coincidentally, Michelle Pfeiffer’s husband, David E. Kelley). Years later, Marsden was hired to be the voice of the commercial jingle for Sarah Jessica Parker’s perfume, Lovely (with music produced and arranged by, coincidentally, Hairspray composer-lyricist Marc Shaiman).
“Marc and Scott (Wittman) have been friends of mine for a couple of years now, and Neil Meron and I are friends, too,” says Marsden. “They all knew that I had been looking for some sort of musical project for the last few years. They used to tell me, ‘Throw the superhero guys aside and sing something!’ So, when we found out that this movie was a go, they said there was a great role for me, and it all just kind of came together and the rest is just Corny.”
Corny, indeed. Marsden decided the character’s name was “a free pass to be over the top,” but credits director Shankman for keeping it from becoming “a total cheese fest.”
“Adam’s vision is so cinematic. He wanted all these seemingly crazy characters to feel very real, to have a real emotional center,” says Marsden. “It’s that emotional core of the characters that makes the music and the message ring through so beautifully and with so much humor and heart.”
“Jimmy was never on my radar as someone to play Corny Collins,” admits Shankman. “But once I saw 30 seconds of tape of him singing on ‘Ally McBeal’ I said to our casting director ‘That’s my guy…that’s my young Dick Clark…that’s my Corny.’”
In addition to the musical number “Hairspray,” which he says reminds him of an old Busby Berkeley-type production, Marsden also performs “Nicest Kids in Town,” a song which introduces the film audience to the televised segregation of the early 1960s and re-introduces the Baltimore audience to the Corny Collins Council Members every day after school.
During production, however, the “real” nicest kids in town were the young triple threat performers that were handpicked by the filmmakers to play high school heartthrob Link Larkin (Zac Efron), Tracy’s best friend Penny Pingleton (Amanda Bynes), Velma’s daughter Amber Von Tussle (Brittany Snow) and Motormouth Maybelle’s two kids, Seaweed (Elijah Kelley) and Little Inez (Taylor Parks). Just within the last year, Efron, Bynes, Snow, Kelley and Parks have all experienced a surge in their individual careers, culminating with their casting in Hairspray.
Efron, who became a household name last year thanks to his performance as Troy Bolton in the phenomenon “High School Musical,” recalls the day he was transformed into his character.
“It all seemed to happen so quickly,” says Efron, whose real life status as a teen heartthrob has certainly surpassed that of his alter ego, Link. “I walked into the hair trailer looking like, well, me, and by the time I walked out they had dyed my hair jet black, cut it short, then greased it back into a DA. I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I swear I had some sort of identity crisis the rest of the day. I couldn’t look in the mirror because I was a bit afraid of who or what would be looking back at me. It was shocking, but finally I got used to it and told myself that if I’m going to rock like Link, I’d better rock it well and the new haircut was just the beginning.”
Efron says that the two-month singing/dance rehearsal process took more than a little getting used to as well. “For ‘High School Musical,’ we only rehearsed for about a week and a half and shot the entire movie in six weeks. That’s actually less time than we spent just rehearsing ‘Hairspray.’ So, yeah, it was different and exhausting and unlike anything I had ever experienced but Adam and the assistant choreographers made us understand how important the rehearsals were because once we started filming there would not be any time to do anything but shoot the movie. It was a great lesson…tough, but a great lesson.”
For Amanda Bynes, who started in the business at the age of 10 and was, by age 12, the youngest performer to host her own variety sketch show, the opportunity to be in a movie musical was one she would never pass up.
“Oh, I wanted to play this part so badly,” says Bynes. “Penny is just such a great character. She really gets to make a big personal change in the story and as an actor that’s so much fun when your character goes from frumpy to va-va-voom like Penny does. I love musicals and grew up doing any kind of musical or comedy that I could possibly be a part of because making people laugh and being goofy is, to me, the greatest joy in the world.”
Bynes recalls the day she was “bookended” in a scene with veterans John Travolta and Christopher Walken: “I definitely felt freaked out,” she says. “I was so excited and I called my parents and told them I wish they were there to see it. John and Chris were both so nice, but for someone like me who loves movies, they are huge movie stars. So getting to do Hairspray was probably one of the coolest gifts I’ve ever received.”
Penny’s mother, Prudy Pingleton, is played by Emmy Award-winning actor Allison Janney, in a role that makes Archie Bunker look like a Sunday school teacher. Janney was invited to join the cast by her friends Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and relished the opportunity to play such a conservative character.
“Prudy Pingleton – as her name suggests – is a bit prudish,” says Janney. “She’s not very happy with the direction that society’s heading and is very protective of her daughter, so I get to do some pretty crazy things to make sure Penny is in the house at all times. But the role is so much fun, because there’s certainly a little bit of camp involved. I had no problem jumping right in to Prudy’s skin. And wearing those clothes and the wig and the glasses – not to mention carrying a Bible all the time! I enjoy playing characters that are a bit repressed, so I loved this role.”
While Prudy is the one major character in the film that doesn’t get to sing or dance, Janney enjoyed the opportunity to utilize some physical comedy in the role and appreciated the freedom director Adam Shankman gave her to ad-lib. “Let’s just say there are a couple of lines that I think will be very memorable,” adds Janney with a laugh.
Brittany Snow continues to bounce back and forth between dramatic roles in shows like “Nip/Tuck” and “Law and Order: SVU” as well as big screen comedies like John Tucker Must Die and Hairspray. As Amber Von Tussle, Snow has created a unique and memorable version of the legendary character.
“I had a blast playing Amber,” says Snow. “Besides the amazing hair, makeup and costumes, the character of Amber is just so outrageous in her behavior that as an actor you can just go crazy with her. I mean, on the outside she’s all pearls, poise and perfection…just like her mom…and she thinks everyone else is a moron. But that’s the funny part…she’s a moron. Honestly, she doesn’t have a clue about the real world…just like her mom. Amber is an apple that certainly hasn’t fallen far from her mother’s tree.”
Snow says she has always had an affinity for the 1960’s era, which was also the setting of the TV show “American Dreams” on which she starred for three seasons. “Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve just had a fascination with the sixties,” she says. “I remember for my eighth birthday party, it was a 60s-themed pool party. Bridget Bardot has always been an icon to me and all the fashions and fads back then were so new and original and colorful. People made a real effort to look good and dress well, especially in the early to mid-sixties, so a lot of the fun of getting to play Amber was like getting to play dress-up all day for three months straight.”
In contrast to Efron’s inital distress, Elijah Kelley was thrilled to have a totally new hair cut for his role as Seaweed. “Oh man, I loved my hair,” says Kelley. “The finger waves were the bomb. I did a lot of research into the look of the guys back then and their hair was smooth, their clothes were smooth and their moves were smooth. And Seaweed is definitely smooth…he’s the real romancer in the movie.”
For Kelley’s performance in his signature number, “Run and Tell That,” it was all about the moves. “That’s just such a great song that I got to sing,” says Kelley. “You know the song takes the audience on a little ride to show the black kids’ world…it moves from the detention room onto the school bus and then to Maybelle’s record store. So my research looking back at The Temptations and James Brown came in handy because Adam choreographed it so authentically. It’s such a great high-energy number…people are going to love it!”
Portraying Maybelle’s daughter and Seaweed’s sister, Little Inez, is 13-year-old Taylor Parks. Parks research for her role wasn’t all about the clothes and the music. She spent days on the Internet learning about integration, segregation and the civil rights movement.
Parks says, “I read about the Little Rock Nine and the Emmett Till story and Rosa Parks (no relation), of course. I always kept those struggles in the back of my mind while I was learning the dances and the songs. I think it helped me to express not only the fun of the music back then, but also the spirit of the people who helped make such big changes. I think that’s why Hairspray is so much fun…because there is a happy ending in the movie and a happy ending in real life.”
THE LOOK OF HAIRSPRAY
Creating the visual universe for the iconic 1960s-era Hairspray images was a monumental task that fell to the team of production designer David Gropman, costume designer Rita Ryack and hair designer Judi Cooper-Sealy. For all of them, their inspiration was the genius of John Waters, and a whole lot of homework.
“The absolute first thing I did was watch the original Hairspray,” says Gropman. “You have to start there. It’s the source material, the genesis of the story, and it shows you when and where the story takes place. So even before I started my intensive research at the New York Picture Collection or took my first trip to Baltimore, I watched John’s movie. It’s a wonderful film and beautifully designed and there’s no question I threw in a couple of design details, a couple of moments here and there as a wink and a nod to the first film – my way of paying tribute to the original.”
Gropman and his team of art directors, set designers, decorators, dressers, prop masters and construction crew were responsible for the physical look of every soundstage set and practical location in the movie, from the restrictive interior of the “Run and Tell That” school bus to the expansive, triangular, three city-block Baltimore streetscape which serves as the backdrop to “Good Morning Baltimore” and “Welcome to the Sixties,” two of the movie’s biggest production numbers.
“Undoubtedly, the streetscape was the single largest undertaking for the art department,” says Gropman. “We converted over 60 existing modern-day storefronts, changed all the signage to circa 1962, filled the roads with period automobiles and closed down a three-street intersection of one of Toronto’s busiest commuter neighborhoods for almost two weeks.”
Like so many of the filmmakers and other designers, Gropman began his career designing sets for the theatre, but Hairspray is his first feature film musical. “It was much more like working on a stage play or musical than I had anticipated, with the long rehearsal process and being able to actually see most of the finished, choreographed musical numbers even prior to the start of set construction. Seeing how Adam was choreographing and staging the numbers gave me an inordinate amount of useful information that I could take back to my designs and implement so that they would function properly within Adam’s vision for each particular scene, song or dance.”
Gropman points out that director Shankman made it clear from the beginning that he did not want the film’s look to resemble a Broadway show in any fashion. “Adam didn’t want the look to be theatrical or exaggerated in any way,” says Gropman. “He wanted a very real-looking world of Baltimore in 1962 and I think we gave him what he wanted. Whether it was the color palette of Tracy’s bedroom or the stonework on the outside of her house, everything was circa ’62. Tracy’s school is a real school that opened in 1962, the Turnblad backyard is a detailed, full-scale set from the chain link fences to the laundry on the line, and the WYZT television studio is replete with early-sixties cameras, microphones, studio lights and audience bleachers. It was all great fun because I found myself combining all the disciplines that I have studied and known and practiced for years.”
As with all film collaborations, Gropman, as the production designer, worked very closely in concert with Oscar®-nominated costume designer, Rita Ryack. In fact, the two had previously worked together on The Human Stain. Ryack, a graduate of the Yale School of Drama with a Masters in Design, spent many years in the New York theatre circles and found herself fortunate to have designed several Broadway musicals, including “My One and Only,” for which she received a 1983 Tony Award nomination for Best Costume Design.
“I fought like a cat to get this job for several reasons,” says Ryack. “I have been obsessed with musical theatre since I was 4-years-old. I absolutely adore the genius that is Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and John Waters’ original film. It validated me as a person and as an artist. I felt affirmed by his work. He can take a kind of anarchy and put it up on the screen in living color and be fearless about it. That, to me, is true inspiration, and I so wanted to be a part of his legacy.
“You know, I lived that period, too, I’m sorry to say,” says Ryack, laughing, “but it still resonates with me. Integration was starting to happen when I was just becoming aware of the music and politics of the time and I was struggling with how I, as a misfit, was going to fit into the world. Sort of like Tracy Turnblad.”
Like Gropman, Ryack and her staff spent hundreds of man-hours researching the styles and clothing of the period, whether it was flipping through old copies of magazines like Look, Life and Ebony, watching old movies and archived news and television footage or trudging through all the cinema reference facilities and costume houses in Los Angeles.
Hair and wig designer Judi Cooper-Sealy also depended heavily on research materials, including combing through early-60s high school yearbook pictures. “Well, it is first and foremost a comedy about big things, so we could go a little bigger with the hair to get the laugh,” says Cooper-Sealy. “But honestly, we never went so over the top that the hairstyles became completely unbelievable. Girls and women back then did have very big hair and were very experimental when it came to styling it.”
Cooper-Sealy says just keeping track of all the wigs and hairdos was perhaps her biggest challenge. “At times, we had 300 extras or 150 background dancers or all of our principal actors and dancers working at the same time,” she says. “Nobody in this movie got away without wearing a wig or having their own hair done every day they worked. Whether it was Jerry Stiller’s Liberace-type wig, Maybelle’s big, blond and beautiful beehive, the Dynamites’ triplets look or Penny’s pigtails, every person who appears on screen spent quite a bit of time in the ‘hair chair.’”
THE HAIRSPRAY FAMILY
While the importance of chasing a dream and working for social change are recurring themes in Hairspray, the film is ultimately about family. Whether it’s the Turnblads, the Stubbs, the Von Tussles or the Pingletons, the film repeatedly stresses the importance of family in a person’s life.
That sense of family extended to the film’s production as well, with long friendships between producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan and between composer-lyricist Marc Shaiman and lyricist Scott Wittman (when Zadan directed the Broadway production of “Up In One” in 1979, starring singer/songwriter Peter Allen, his musical director was a then 19 year-old Marc Shaiman). Shaiman, Wittman and director-choreographer Adam Shankman have also been friends for over 20 years. However, perhaps the best example would be the familial relationship between Shankman and associate choreographer/2nd unit director Anne “Mama” Fletcher. The two friends met in 1990 when both were appearing as dancers on that year’s Academy Awards broadcast and have been friends and collaborators ever since.
“After we met on the Oscars, Mama became my assistant,” says Shankman. “When I then turned to directing, she sort of took over where I was leaving off with my choreography jobs. Next thing you know, she‘s directing her own movie, Step Up, which I produced. So it’s been really cool for us as friends to watch each other graduate to the next level of our careers.”
“Adam and I have worked together and known each other for so long that we have our own language that nobody really understands,” says Fletcher, laughing. “For Hairspray, we just fell right back into what we do so well together and we both realized early on how lucky we are to have had this opportunity.”
Fletcher goes on to say that this film is “the soul” of Adam Shankman. “If anyone was to ask me, ‘What is Adam’s stamp as a choreographer?,’ this would be it,” she says. “Hairspray is essentially everything that Adam is as a person and an artist. If I had to pick one genre, one idea, one song, one musical, one word to describe his style, I would say Hairspray.”
Fletcher goes on to describe the four-ring circus that was the rehearsal process for this film. She says that she has never seen Shankman choreograph as fast or as effortlessly as he did for Hairspray.
“He was a choreography machine,” says Fletcher. “He just pumped it out from his entire being. It was amazing to watch as we started rehearsals. It began with Adam and me, and then our other two associate choreographers Joey Pizzi and Jamal Sims and our assistant choreographer Zach Woodlee came into the studio with us. They started learning the steps and sequences so that by the time we started bringing the dancers and the principal cast to Toronto, we all had our designated duties. Adam oversaw everything and would bounce back and forth between all the rehearsal rooms and recording sessions. While I would be working with Michelle Pfeiffer in one room, Jamal would be next door with the Detention Kids, Joey would be working with John and Christopher on their duet, and Zach might be down the hall working with Nikki. It was a scheduling nightmare, but it was so cool for all of us because we were just moving all day every day and we did that for about six weeks before we started shooting.”
“It was a pretty crazy time that I’ll never forget,” adds Shankman. “It was creative and fun and that’s when I am the happiest.”
Shankman and Fletcher agree that if there is one number in Hairspray that characterizes the collective experience of everyone involved, it would have to be the film’s finale, “You Can’t Stop the Beat.”
“Okay, that has to be the longest song in musical history, but it’s probably some of the best choreography Adam has ever done,” says Fletcher. “I’m just so proud of him for that number because it just grew and grew. There are so many elements involved, the entire principal cast performs in that number and so many plot points had to be resolved in the middle of this crazy television pageant, but Adam kept it all logical and believable and incredibly entertaining.”
“Yes, I’d say that ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat’ is probably my favorite number in the movie,” says Shankman. “Less because of what I did, and more about what the music made me do. The music and lyrics are so strong and powerful and filled with joy and emotion and it ties everything up so beautifully. Velma gets her due, Penny becomes a ‘checkerboard chick,’ Tracy and Link finally kiss, Edna finally breaks free and discovers her inner Tina Turner and the Corny Collins show is officially integrated. It’s also such a great example of the real collaboration and commitment from every department, every dancer and every actor who worked on this movie, and I am grateful to them all.
“As much I love the beginning of the movie with Tracy riding in on the garbage truck singing ‘Good Morning Baltimore,’” says Shankman, “I absolutely adore the finale for its truth and humor. It is really a celebration of the power of one teenager’s dreams. And who doesn’t love a happy ending?”
ABOUT THE CAST
JOHN TRAVOLTA (Edna Turnblad)
John Travolta has been honored twice with Academy Award® nominations, the latest for his riveting portrayal of a philosophical hit-man in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. He also received BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for this highly acclaimed role and was named Best Actor by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, among other distinguished awards.
Travolta garnered further praise as a Mafioso-turned-movie producer in the comedy sensation Get Shorty, winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy. In 1998 Travolta was honored by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts with the Britannia Award; and in that same year he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Chicago Film Festival. Travolta also won the prestigious Alan J. Pakula Award from the US Broadcast Critics Association for his performance in A Civil Action, based on the best-selling book and directed by Steve Zailian. He was nominated again for a Golden Globe for his performance in Primary Colors, directed by Mike Nichols and co-starring Emma Thompson and Billy Bob Thornton.
He previously starred in some of the most monumental films of our generation, including earning his first Oscar® and Golden Globe nominations for his role in the blockbuster Saturday Night Fever, which launched the disco phenomenon in the 1970’s. He went on to star in the big screen version of the long-running musical Grease and the wildly successful Urban Cowboy, which also influenced trends in popular culture. Additional film credits include the Brian DePalma thrillers Carrie and Blowout, as well as Amy Heckerling’s hit comedy Look Who’s Talking and Nora Ephron’s comic hit Michael. Travolta starred in Phenomenon and took an equally diverse turn as an action star in John Woo’s top-grossing Broken Arrow. He also starred in the classic Face/Off opposite Nicholas Cage and The General’s Daughter co-starring Madeline Stowe. Recently, Travolta reprised the role of ultra cool Chili Palmer in the Get Shorty sequel Be Cool. In addition, he starred opposite Scarlett Johansson in the critically acclaimed independent feature film A Love Song for Bobby Long, which was screened at the Venice Film Festival, where both Travolta and the film won rave reviews.
Other recent feature film credits include the hit action-thriller Ladder 49 with Joaquin Phoenix, the movie version of the wildly successful comic book The Punisher, the drama Basic directed by John McTiernan, the psychological thriller Domestic Disturbance directed by Harold Becker, the hit action picture Swordfish with Halle Berry and Hugh Jackman directed by Dominic Sena, the successful sci-fi movie Battlefield Earth, based upon the best-selling novel by L. Ron Hubbard, and Lonely Hearts co-starring James Gandolfini and Salma Hayek which is based on the true story of the elusive “Lonely Hearts Killers” of the late 1940s.
Travolta most recently starred in the box office hit comedy “Wild Hogs” and will next be seen starring opposite Robin Williams and Kelly Preston in “Old Dogs.”
MICHELLE PFEIFFER (Velma Von Tussle)
Michelle Pfeiffer has earned three Academy Award® Best Actress nominations, one for her performances as Dallas housewife Lurene Hallett in Love Field, and one as the sexy chanteuse Suzie Diamond in The Fabulous Baker Boys. Her third nomination came in the Supporting Actress category for her role as the long suffering Madame de Tourvel in Dangerous Liaisons.
Additionally, Pfeiffer won a Golden Globe for her performance in The Fabulous Baker Boys and received Golden Globe nominations for her performances in The Age of Innocence, Love Field, Frankie and Johnny, The Russia House and Married to the Mob.
Pfeiffer will next be seen in Paramount Pictures’ August 10th release, Stardust, an adaptation of the Neil Gaiman fantasy novel directed by Matthew Vaughn. Pfeiffer portrays the evil witch “Lamia” in the film, which is an old fashion fairy tale set in ancient England. The cast includes Claire Danes, Robert DeNiro, Sienna Miller, Rupert Everett and Ricky Gervais.
In 2003, she lent her voice in Dreamworks’ animated feature Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas with Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Joseph Fiennes. In 2002, Pfeiffer received a Screen Actors Guild nomination for her role as the murderous mother Ingrid Magnusson in Warner Brothers’ White Oleander.
In 2001, she starred in the critically acclaimed I am Sam, opposite Sean Penn. In 2000, she starred in the summer blockbuster What Lies Beneath, opposite Harrison Ford.
As the wife of Al Pacino’s Tony Montana in Scarface, Pfeiffer made a strong impression with her stunning looks and haunting style. She has since become one of the motion picture industry’s most respected actresses and ranks as a top-grossing box office star in roles opposite leading men like Bruce Willis, George Clooney, Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson and Sean Connery.
Pfeiffer’s films also include The Story of Us, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, One Fine Day, To Gillian on her 37th Birthday, Up Close and Personal, Dangerous Minds, Wolf, Batman Returns, The Witches of Eastwick, Tequila Sunrise, Sweet Liberty and Ladyhawke.
CHRISTOPHER WALKEN (Wilbur Turnblad)
Christopher Walken won the 1978 Academy Award® for Best Supporting Actor for his astonishing performance in Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter, a role that also earned him the New York Film Critic’s Circle Award and a Golden Globe nomination. Walken also received a 2002 Academy Award® nomination for Best Supporting Actor and won BAFTA and SAG awards for his role opposite Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks in Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can.
His film career skyrocketed after his unforgettable role as “Duane Hall,” brother to Diane Keaton’s title character in Woody Allen’s Oscar®-winning Best Picture Annie Hall. Since then, Walken has appeared in more than 50 feature films, including Herbert Ross’ Oscar®-nominated Pennies From Heaven; David Cronenberg’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dead Zone; James Foley’s At Close Range, opposite Sean Penn; Mike Nichols’ Biloxi Blues, based on the Neil Simon play; Abel Ferrara’s gritty crime-drama King of New York; Joe Roth’s comedy, America’s Sweethearts, co-starring Julia Roberts, Billy Crystal, and John Cusack; and Tony Scott’s Man on Fire, opposite Denzel Washington. Other recent film credits include the hit comedy Wedding Crashers, opposite Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn; John Turturro’s ensemble musical Romance and Cigarettes; and in the heartwarming drama Around the Bend, opposite Michael Caine.
This August, Walken will be seen in the comedy, Balls of Fury, opposite Dan Fogler.
Walken has succeeded in creating some of the most memorable characters in film history, appearing in supporting and cameo roles such as: “Vincent Coccotti” in Tony Scott’s True Romance; “Captain Koons” in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, “Carlo Bartolucci” in Suicide Kings; “The Headless Horseman” in Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow; and crooked businessman, “Max Shreck,” in Burton’s Batman Returns.
Walken began acting and dancing as a boy. He trained to be a dancer at the Professional Children’s School in Manhattan, and eventually went on to appear in numerous stage plays and musicals. He received the Clarence Derwent Award for his performance in the Broadway production of The Lion in Winter, an Obie Award for his role in The Seagull, a Theatre World Award for The Rose Tattoo, and the 1997 Susan Stein Shiva Award for his work with Joseph Papp’s Public Theatre. In the Fall of 1999, he co-starred in the stage adaptation of James Joyce’s The Dead. In the summer of 2001, Christopher again appeared in a revival of Chekhov’s The Seagull for the New York Shakespeare Festival, directed by Mike Nichols, opposite Meryl Streep.
On television, Walken has hilariously and memorably hosted Saturday Night Live a total of six times since 1990 and contributed a mesmerizing dance performance to the Spike Jonze-directed music video for Fat Boy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice.”
AMANDA BYNES (Penny Pingleton)
Born and raised in California, Amanda Bynes began her career at a comedy camp. As she continued to work on her craft, it was at a showcase performance in Los Angeles that she was discovered and added to the cast of Nickelodeon’s All That. After just one season, she was nominated for a 1997 Cable Ace Award, putting her in the company of such established actresses as Tracey Ullman and Janeane Garofalo.
Working steadily since the age of 10, Bynes charmed audiences in the hit comedy Big Fat Liar, with Frankie Muniz. In the spring of 2003, Bynes starred in her first lead role in the hit film What A Girl Wants, co-starring Colin Firth and Kelly Preston. In the spring of 2004, Bynes loaned her voice to the animated hit film Robots and recently starred in the Dreamworks comedy feature She’s The Man.
Known for her unique style of bold, no-holds-barred physical comedy, Bynes has risen to the top on the Nickelodeon series and remained on All That for four seasons. By the age of 12, Bynes became the youngest performer to host her own variety sketch show, The Amanda Show, which earned her the Favorite Television Actress honor four years in a row from Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Awards. In 2003 & 2004, she won a Kids’ Choice Award as Favorite Movie Actress for What A Girl Wants. In 2003, Bynes was featured on the “It’s Totally Raining Teens” cover of Vanity Fair. She was nominated for Choice TV Actress in a Comedy at the Teen Choice Awards in 2003 and 2005.
JAMES MARSDEN (Corny Collins)
Displaying astonishing versatility with a wide range of films, James Marsden has quickly carved out a distinctive place in Hollywood.
Marsden will next be seen in Kevin Lima’s Enchanted, opposite Susan Sarandon, Amy Adams, Idina Menzel and Patrick Dempsey for Disney. Enchanted is a romantic fable, mixing live action with CGI animation set to open November 21, 2007.
Marsden is currently in production on 27 Dresses, a romantic comedy for Fox 2000 and Spyglass Entertainment. The film centers on a young woman, played by Katherine Heigl, who always ends up as a bridesmaid, but never the bride. Marsden plays the lucky man who will change her bridesmaid status for good. Fox is set to release the film in January or February 2008.
Marsden was most recently seen in Superman Returns for director Bryan Singer. Following a mysterious absence of several years, the Man of Steel comes back to Earth in the epic action-adventure. Marsden stars as ‘Richard White,’ a relation to Daily Planet editor Perry White and a new rival for the affections of ‘Lois Lane.’ Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, Brandon Routh and Frank Langella also starred.
Marsden also recently starred in X-Men: The Last Stand, directed by Brett Ratner. Marsden reprised his role as ‘Scott Summers/Cyclops’ in 20th Century Fox’s hugely successful franchise based on the Marvel comic book series.
Also due for release is the independent filmThe Alibi. The film tells the story of ‘Ray Elliott’ (Steve Coogan) who runs a successful business providing alibis for men and women who cheat on their spouses. Marsden plays ‘Wendall Hatch,’ a man who murders his girlfriend while on a clandestine weekend get-away. Selma Blair, John Leguizamo and Rebecca Romijn also star.
Recent films also include the Nick Cassavetes romantic drama “The Notebook” with Rachel McAdams, James Garner, Gena Rowlands, Joan Allen, and Ryan Gosling, Merchant Ivory’s “Heights” with Glenn Close and Elizabeth Banks, and the blockbusters “X-Men” and “X2” with Patrick Stewart, Rebecca Romijn, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin and Ian McKellen.
Additional film credits include the MGM thriller Disturbing Behavior with Katie Holmes and Nick Stahl; 10th and Wolf; Davis Guggenheim’s Gossip, a Warner Bros. drama opposite Kate Hudson; Tony Piccirillo’s 24th Day; New Line’s comedy Sugar and Spice with Mena Suvari and Marley Shelton for director Francine McDougall; Interstate 60 with Gary Oldman, Chris Cooper, Ann Margaret, Amy Smart and Christopher Lloyd. His notable television roles include ‘Glen Floy’ on the final season of the Emmy winning, David E. Kelley series “Ally McBeal.”
Marsden currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.
QUEEN LATIFAH (Motormouth Maybelle)
Blessed with style and substance, Queen Latifah has blossomed into a one-woman entertainment conglomerate. She is a musician, television and film actress, a label president, author and entrepreneur. Heralded by the press and the industry as a force to be reckoned with, Latifah has quite simply done it all and shows no sign of slowing down.
Latifah has had amazing success in Hollywood in recent years, and became the first hip hop artist to be crowned with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on January 4th, 2006. She received rave reviews, an Oscar® nomination for Best Supporting Actress, a Golden Globe nomination and a SAG Award nomination for her portrayal as Mama Morton in Miramax’s Chicago, which was executive produced by Hairspray producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. Following Chicago, Latifah starred in and executive produced Disney’s box office hit, Bringing Down the House, which was directed by Hairspray director Adam Shankman.
Most recently, Latifah wowed critics in the HBO film “Life Support,” in which she was both the star and executive producer. In the true-life drama, she plays a mother who overcomes an addiction to crack to become a positive role model and AIDS activist in the black community.
Latifah’s recent successes include Wayne Wang’s The Last Holiday, in which she starred opposite LL Cool J, and Marc Forster’s Stranger Than Fiction, playing opposite Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman. She also lent her voice to Ice Age 2, playing the part of the Wooly Mammoth and starred in and produced MGM’s Beauty Shop (a spin-off of the hit Barbershop). She is currently filming Mad Money opposite Diane Keaton and Katie Holmes.
To most people releasing multiple movies would be enough, but Queen Latifah wasn’t satisfied. In 2004, Latifah once again returned to the music scene with a brand new album, demonstrating her singing talent. She teamed up with Grammy Award-winning producer Arif Mardin as well as Ron Fair to release her first vocal album, Queen Latifah – The Dana Owens Album which earned her a Grammy nomination. The platinum-selling album was a collection of timeless classics chosen and covered by the Queen herself. As Latifah demonstrated both in Living Out Loud (1998) and her Oscar®-nominated performance in Chicago (2002), her vocal talent is as impressive as her acting.
Queen Latifah is also one of music’s most well respected rappers. From her ground breaking 1989 debut All Hail the Queen, which set the visual and contextual standard for female rappers, to her bold foray into R&B, Latifah continues to define what a woman in the music industry should be. She has earned four Grammy nominations as well as a Grammy Award for Best Solo Rap Performance in 1994. Latifah toured the U.S. as part of The Sugar Water Festival with fellow soul sisters, Erykah Badu and Jill Scott.
And then there’s Flavor Unit Entertainment, a production company owned and operated by Queen Latifah and her partner, Shakim Compere. The company, based in New Jersey, is quickly establishing itself as one of the most important production companies in the film industry. They began by executive producing the box office hit Bringing Down the House and then continued with Beauty Shop for MGM. They have also produced The Cookout with Lion’s Gate.
Latifah is also not a stranger to the small screen. Her first television series, “Living Single,” was a huge success and is currently in syndication. From the small screen, Latifah made a leap to film and her acting skills have earned her the status of leading lady.
Since her screen debut in Spike Lee’s 1991 film Jungle Fever, her film career has taken off. She starred in Set it Off, which earned her a nomination for a Spirit Award in the Best Actress category and co-starred with Holly Hunter and Danny DeVito in the critically acclaimed Living Out Loud. In 1999, she was seen in Universal’s The Bone Collector directed by Philip Noyce and starring Denzel Washington. In 2002, she co-starred with Taye Diggs and Sanaa Latham in Fox Searchlight’s Brown Sugar.
Queen Latifah is diligent in her pursuit of excellence, as is evident by the awards she has received for her work in film and music. Her sincere concern for others is revealed by the generous amount of time and money that she donates to worthwhile charitable organizations. Every year, Queen Latifah serves as co-chairman for the Lancelot H. Owens Scholarship Foundation, Inc. Established by her mother, Rita Owens, to perpetuate the memory of a loving son and brother, the foundation provides scholarships to students who excel scholastically, but are limited in financial resources.
BRITTANY SNOW (Amber Von Tussle)
Brittany Snow is one of the brightest and most engaging acting talents to emerge in recent years. Snow recently wrapped production as the title role in the independent film “Finding Amanda” opposite Matthew Broderick as well as the lead role in the Screen Gems film Prom Night. Snow also recently completed the independent film On the Doll, where she plays a young prostitute in Los Angeles, directed by music video director Thomas Mignone.
Snow was seen last spring in the FOX movie John Tucker Must Die, which marked her first leading film role. She made her big-screen debut in the box-office hit The Pacifier for Disney starring opposite Vin Diesel. Snow had a recurring role as Matt’s neo-nazi girlfriend on FX’s “Nip/Tuck” last season.
A native of Tampa, Florida, Snow began her acting career appearing in and lending her voice to numerous national commercials. She also starred in theater performances including the national tour of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
Snow made the transition to television when she landed a starring role on the long-running daytime drama “Guiding Light.” She would commute on the weekends from Florida to New York City where the show was taped. Additional television credits include: “Safe Harbor,” “Sea Quest DSV” and the pilot “Murphy’s Dozen.” Her next project was the NBC series “American Dreams.” Snow played Meg Pryor, a teen in the 60’s struggling to find balance between her family’s strict upbringing and her own desires as a young woman.
ZAC EFRON (Link Larkin)
Nurturing an impressive body of work that encompasses film and television, Zac Efron is positioning himself as one of Hollywood’s most promising young talents as his career continues to evolve with exciting and challenging projects.
In August 2006, Efron won two Teen Choice Awards – the Choice TV Breakout Star and TV Chemistry (with his “High School Musical” co-star). Segueing effortlessly between the big and small screen, Efron quickly garnered attention and became the breakout star of the Emmy Award-winning Disney Channel phenomenon, “High School Musical.” He will reprise his role as Troy Bolton, head of the basketball team, in “High School Musical 2,” which will debut on the Disney Channel in August 2007.
His other television credits include a recurring role on the first season of the WB series “Summerland” (he became a series regular on the second season) and guest starring roles on “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody,” “ER,” “The Guardian” and “C.S.I. Miami.” Additionally, Efron starred on stage in the musical “Gypsy” and has appeared in productions of “Peter Pan,” “Mame,” “Little Shop of Horrors” and “The Music Man.”
A native of Northern California, Efron currently resides in Los Angeles and enjoys surfing, skateboarding, playing video games and hanging out with friends. He is also fixing up two cars, a Delorean and ’65 Mustang convertible, both treasured hand-me-downs from his grandfather.
ELIJAH KELLEY (Seaweed)
Elijah Kelley recently starred as “DJ,” the macho yet introverted and artsy student who perfects his dancing skills to outwit a fellow student in New Line Cinema’s Take the Lead alongside Antonio Banderas and Alfre Woodard.
Born in LaGrange, Georgia, Kelley grew up knowing acting, singing and music were his passions. In June of 2004 Kelley made the move to Los Angeles to further his acting dreams. Accompanied by his parents, who left everything behind in support of him, his career did nothing but surge ahead. He has landed roles on television shows including Everybody Hates Chris, Numbers and The Shield. He also plays the supporting role of “Leroy Wright” in the feature Heavens Fall with David Strathairn, Timothy Hutton and Leelee Sobieski, which premiered March 13th, 2006 in Texas at the South by Southwest Film Festival.
In addition to his acting, Kelley enjoys singing as well as writing and composing music, spending time on the basketball court and playing tennis. He resides in Los Angeles.
ALLISON JANNEY (Prudy Pingleton)
Displaying astonishing versatility with a wide range of roles in film, television and theater, Allison Janney has taken her place among a select group of actors who combine a leading lady’s profile with a character actor’s art of performance.
Currently Janney is in production on Jason Reitman’s dramedy Juno alongside Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman. She also recently wrapped production on Kenneth Lonergan’s Margaret opposite Matt Damon and Anna Paquin.
Janney received a 2006 Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for Our Very Own, which debuted last year at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Additionally, she appeared in the independent films Winter Solstice, The Chumscrubber, which received its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and Picadilly Jim, which had its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.
She previously appeared in the comedy Strangers with Candy and was heard as the voice of ‘Gladys’ in Dreamworks’ animated comedy Over the Hedge. Janney also starred opposite Meryl Streep in The Hours, which received a SAG Award nomination for Outstanding Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture. Other feature credits include the Academy Award winning films American Beauty (for which she won a SAG Award for Outstanding Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture) and Finding Nemo as well as Nurse Betty, How to Deal, Drop Dead Gorgeous, 10 Things I Hate About You, Primary Colors, The Ice Storm, Celebrity, Six Days Seven Nights, The Object of My Affection and Big Night.
Janney is probably best known for her starring role as CJ Cregg in the award-winning NBC series “The West Wing.” She won a remarkable four SAG Awards and four Emmys for her work on the series. She earned Golden Globe nominations four years in a row for her performance on the show as well.
Janney is also no stranger to the theatre. While a freshman studying acting at Kenyon College in Ohio she auditioned for Paul Newman and got the part. Soon after, Newman and his wife Joanne Woodward suggested she study at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York. She followed their advice and was later nominated for a Tony Award and won the Outer Critics Circle Award and the Drama Desk Award for Best Supporting Actress for her Broadway performance in Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge.” In addition she has starred in the New York Public Theater’s production of “Taming of the Shrew,” which was part of the Shakespeare in the Park series.
JERRY STILLER (Mr. Pinky)
As Frank Costanza on “Seinfeld,” Jerry Stiller was nominated for a 1997 Emmy Award and won the 1998 American Comedy Award for ‘Funniest Male Guest Appearance in a Television Series’. He has just completed a nine year run as “Arthur” on the hit CBS series, “King of Queens.”
Jerry and his wife, Anne Meara were part of The Compass Players (which later became Second City). Then as Stiller and Meara, they performed at David Gordon’s Phase II in Greenwich Village. They went on to play record-breaking engagements at Max Gordon’s Blue Angel and The Village Vanguard. They toured the country playing Mr. Kelly’s, The Hungry i, The Crescendo, The Flamingo and The Sands, working with Count Basie, the original Supremes, Billy Eckstine and Diahann Carroll. Anne and Jerry performed at The Establishment in London, and appeared thirty-six times on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
Stiller made his legit debut in “The Silver Whistle” with Burgess Meredith then appeared with Lawrence Tibbett and Veronica Lake in the National Company of “Peter Pan.” T. Hambleton and Norris Houghton cast him as a resident in the first two seasons at the Phoenix Theatre, where he appeared in “The Golden Apple” and later “Coriolanous” for John Houseman. He worked again for Mr. Houseman at the Stratford Festival.
Broadway has seen Stiller in “Hurlyburly,” directed by Mike Nichols, “The Ritz,” “Passione,” “The Golden Apple,” “Unexpected Guests,” “Three Men on a Horse” (with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman), “What’s Wrong with This Picture?” and “The Three Sisters.”
He toured the boroughs in the first season of Joe Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival and created the role of Launce in John Guare’s musical version of “Two Gentlemen of Verona.” He also appeared as Dogberry in “Much Ado About Nothing” with Kevin Kline and Blythe Danner. At Lincoln Center, Jerry appeared in David Mamet’s “Prairie Du Chien” for Greg Mosher. He played Bourbouroche for Walt Witcover’s Masterwork Laboratory Theatre. Stiller played Nathan Detroit in “Guys and Dolls,” the first musical produced at the Guthrie Theatre. He played opposite his daughter, Amy, in “I Ought to be in Pictures” and “Beau Jest on the Straw Hat Circuit.” Stiller starred with Anne Meara in her award winning play, “After-Play,” at Theatre Four Off-Broadway and theatres on the summer circuit.
Shoeshine, which starred Jerry and his son Ben Stiller, was nominated for an Academy Award in the 1988 Short Subject Category. Other film appearances include The Taking of Pelham One-Two-Three, Those Lips-Those Eyes, Airport ’75, Nadine, The Ritz, The McGuffin, Hot Pursuit, Hairspray (original 1988 film) and The Pickle. He and Meara starred in the Joan Micklin Silver film, The Fish in the Bathtub. Other films include On the Line, Servicing Sara and Zoolander, (directed by and starring his son Ben Stiller). His starring role in The Independent opposite Jeaneane Garafolo garnered rave reviews nationwide. Stiller will next be seen in the Farrelly Brother’s next film The Seven Day Itch (once again co-starring with Ben).
On television, Stiller won praise as the charlatan psychoanalyst, Dr. Tamkin, opposite Robin Williams, in a PBS Great Performance of Saul Bellow’s “Seize The Day,” produced by Robert Geller. He also appeared in “The Hollow Boy,” again for Mr. Geller. He and Meara starred together in “The Detective” (part of The Sunset Gang on American Playhouse). Stiller appeared in the HBO film “Subway Stories” and as the Devil’s Advocate in “Tales From the Darkside.”
He co-starred on the series “Joe and Sons” and “Tattinger’s” and has guest starred on “Murder She Wrote,” “Law and Order,” “LA Law,” “In the Heat of the Night,” “Homicide” and “Touched by an Angel.” Recently Stiller was heard as the voice of ‘Pretty Boy’ on the Disney animated series, “Teacher’s Pet.” He is featured in the animated films, Teacher’s Pet, Lion King 3, Lion King 1 1/2 and on the CBS holiday special, “Robbie the Reindeer.”
Stiller and Meara have written, performed and produced award winning radio commercials for Blue Nun Wine, United Van Lines and Amalgamated Bank among many others. Stiller appeared as Vince Lombardi in Nike ads, AT&T commercials with his “Seinfeld” wife, Estelle Harris, and for Total Cereal, Glad Bags and America Online 9.0. He was also featured in a video for the band Rush which opened every performance on their recent tour. performance on their recent tour.
Stiller has performed for Isiah Sheffer’s “Selected Shorts” series, heard on Public Radio reading John Sayle’s At The Anarchist’s Convention, S.J. Perelman’s Eine Kleine Mothmusik and Russel Baker’s Uncle Harold. He and Meara are also featured on the CD One People, Many Stories, for the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles Stiller and Meara host an informational video on the business of acting, entitled “So You Want To Be An Actor?” Stiller credits Professor Sawyer Falk at Syracuse University and Esther Porter Lane at the Henry Street Playhouse as his mentors. He has taught at the Herbert Berghof Studio and studied with Uta Hagen. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Speech and Drama from Syracuse University.
In April 2004, Stiller returned to his alma mater, Syracuse University, to perform his own one-man show to a rousing standing ovation. He has since performed his show at the Cape Playhouse and for several other organizations in Florida and the Northeast.
In February 2007, Stiller and Meara were honored with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, only one of four married couples to ever be honored with their own star. In May of 2004, the couple received the Productive Aging Award, presented by the Jewish Council For the Aging in Washington, D.C. and in July of 2004 received the Thalia Award from Humber College in Toronto.
Stiller and Meara have been honored by the City of New York with a Crystal Apple Award and are in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Walk of Fame. The most recent honor is the Fourth Annual Alan King Award in American Jewish Humor, given by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture. Stiller has received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and was the receipient of the first annual George Burns Memorial Award by the Lower East Side Festival. He was also awarded a Biffy by the Baltimore Film Festival and the first Big Apple Orange Award by Syracuse University and is also is on their Walk of Fame. In October 1999 he was honored by The New York Friar’s Club at their annual roast. The televised event, “The New York Friar’s Club Roast of Jerry Stiller,” received the highest ratings for any program in the history of the Comedy Central Network.
Stiller’s autobiography, Married to Laughter was published by Simon and Schuster and the audio version of the book, read by Jerry, was released by Random House. The audio version received a 2000 Grammy Award nomination in the Spoken Word category. The paperback version of Married to Laughter was also released by Random House.
PAUL DOOLEY (Mr. Spritzer)
1977 was a big year for actor Paul Dooley. That’s when he was “discovered,” and after twenty five years in show business, became an “overnight success.”
It all happened when legendary film director Robert Altman caught Dooley on stage in the Jules Feiffer comedy “Hold Me.” Altman signed Dooley on the spot to play Carol Burnett’s husband, and the father of the bride, in his film The Wedding.
After another starring role in Altman’s A Perfect Couple, Dooley landed the part that would change his life forever, in the unforgettable coming-of-age classic, Breaking Away. His hilarious portrayal of the long-suffering Dad earned him critical acclaim and set the stage for another triumph in the beloved John Hughes classic, Sixteen Candles. As Molly Ringwald’s distracted yet sympathetic father, Dooley endeared himself to an entire generation of young people.
Since then, Dooley has played the father of some of our finest actresses, including Helen Hunt, Toni Collette, Mia Farrow and Julia Roberts (in Runaway Bride). In addition to being Hollywood’s favorite Dad, Dooley has become one of the busiest actors working today, creating one memorable character after another in such films as Popeye, with Robin Williams, where he appeared as the hamburger-loving Wimpy. Other films include Paternity, with Burt Reynolds, Kiss Me Goodbye, opposite Sally Field and Jeff Bridges, Happy Texas, with William H. Macy, Insomnia, with Al Pacino, the Disney/Pixas film, Cars (he provided the voice for “Sarge”) and three films for writer/director Christopher Guest: Waiting for Guffman, A Mighty Wind and For Your Consideration. He will next be seen in The Horsemen, with Dennis Quaid.
On television, Dooley starred in his own sitcom, “Coming of Age,” on CBS, which kicked off a series of recurring roles on other TV shows, including “ER,” “Grace Under Fire,” “My So-Called Life,” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” “Once and Again,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” HBO’s “Dream On” (as the out-of-the-closet father), for which he received an Emmy nomination, and “The Practice,” for which he received his second Emmy nomination for his portrayal of a feisty judge.
Despite appearances, Dooley’s success didn’t happen overnight. Upon graduation from West Virginia University, he headed to New York City in a broken-down 1948 Dodge, with just fifty dollars in his pocket and nothing to lose. To pay the rent, he worked as a clown, entertaining kids at birthday parties with his magic, juggling and cartooning skills. Luckily one of his college chums was none other than Don Knotts. Already a working actor, Knotts convinced the producers of a new children’s TV show that Dooley would be perfect as a comic cowboy.
Next came a role in the New York premiere of Kurt Weill’s masterpiece, “The Threepenny Opera,” a job procured for him by another friend, John Astin, who was appearing in it, along with Charlotte Rae and Bea Arthur.
Dooley’s love of comedy led him to develop an act as a stand-up comic, and after several years of playing nightclubs, he landed on “The Tonight Show.” From there he joined Second City, where his fellow actors included Alan Arkin and Alan Alda. Improving became Dooley’s passion.
While at Second City he met director Mike Nichols, who was about to begin the original Broadway production of “The Odd Couple.” Dooley was cast as one of the poker playing buddies and received kudos when he replaced Art Carney as Felix, playing opposite Walter Matthau.
The Second City actors were suddenly in demand on Madison Avenue, their improvisational wit beginning to change the face of commercials. Teaming up with fellow writer-performers Andrew Duncan and Lynne Lipton, Dooley formed a company called All Over Creation, and over the next ten years he appeared in over five hundred TV commercials and nearly a thousand radio spots.
Dooley also was the co-creator and head writer of “The Electric Company,” The Emmy-award winning children’s program on PBS. Throughout all this, he continued to perform onstage in New York, including his much-lauded portrayal of “Casey Stengel,” in a one-man show about the life of the eccentric baseball coach.
In recent years, Dooley has turned his talents to screenwriting, collaborating with his son, Adam, on a story inspired by his coming of age in West Virginia. He’s currently putting together the financing to bring this very personal story to the screen. Now at work on a second screenplay, Dooley is married to Winnie Holzman, also a writer, and lives in Los Angeles. He has four children and three grandchildren.
NIKKI BLONSKY (Tracy Turnblad)
Hairspray marks the professional debut of eighteen-year-old Nikki Blonsky.
Nikki was born and raised in Great Neck, Long Island, New York. Although she graduated from the Great Neck Village School in January, 2006, she received all her dramatic and musical training at Great Neck South High School, which is a four-time Grammy Foundation Signature School, with its most recent honor bestowed in 2005.
Nikki’s high school performing credits include ‘Madame Tanardeau’ in Les Miserables, ‘Mrs. Lovett’ in Sweeney Todd, ‘Kate’ in Kiss Me, Kate, ‘Rebecca Hillicker’ in The Laramie Project and the title role in Bizet’s Carmen, which was performed entirely in French.
She has sung for many organizations and events in and around the Long Island, New York area, including an original song for 2002 Olympic gold medalist figure skater Sarah Hughes’ homecoming parade in Great Neck.
Nikki is a regular volunteer and supporter of the Special Olympics. At last year’s New York state games, which were held at Hofstra University and presided over by New York Senator Charles Schumer, Nikki had the honor of singing the National Anthem at the opening ceremonies. It was an especially moving experience for her, as the 3,000 Olympians in attendance began to sing along with her.
She is also a published poet, having written an original piece in honor of Jonathan Lee Ielpi, a member of the Fire Department of New York and a volunteer firefighter at Great Neck’s “Vigilant” Fire Department, who was killed in the September 11th World Trade Center tragedy. Nikki used to baby-sit for Jonathan’s family.
Nikki quit her day job scooping ice cream at the local Cold Stone Creamery in Great Neck in June when she found out she had won the role of Tracy Turnblad. She still lives in Great Neck with her parents, Karen and Carl, her twelve-year-old brother, Joey, her Uncle Steve and her pug, Rocky.
TAYLOR PARKS (Little Inez)
13 year-old Taylor Parks’ credits include the feature film Love…& Other 4 Letter Words and the short film Beyond the Pretty Door.
Her television appearances include roles on the series “Everybody Hates Chris,” “Untold Stories of the ER,” “Carpoolers” and “Gilmore Girls.”
Taylor’s stage credits include The Kennedy Center performance of “Dancing in the Wings,” an original dance musical written, directed and choreographed by Debbie Allen, with whom Taylor has studied dance and acting for several years. She has also studied acting with Kevin McDermott and Cynthia Bain and singing with Billy Purnell and Terrence Lee Jones.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
ADAM SHANKMAN (Director, Choreographer, Executive Producer)
Adam Shankman is a master of comedy yet is still able to capture the sensitivity of each story, thus making him one of the most loved and commercially successful filmmakers of his generation.
Shankman is currently 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.
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. 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.
Shankman and producing partner Jennifer Gibgot recently renewed their overall deal with Walt Disney Studios and their Offspring Entertainment and currently have many films in development.
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.
LESLIE DIXON (Screenplay)
Leslie Dixon’s writing credits include the upcoming The Heartbreak Kid, Freaky Friday,
The Thomas Crown Affair (1999), Mrs. Doubtfire, Overboard and Outrageous Fortune.
CRAIG ZADAN and NEIL MERON (Producers)
Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, under their Storyline Entertainment banner, are the producers of critically acclaimed and award-winning feature films, television movies and series. All totaled, their films and television movies have garnered six Academy Awards®, five Golden Globes, eleven Emmy Awards, two Peabodys, two GLAAD Media Awards, the Actors Fund Nedda Logan Award, and the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Award. For their work in television, their movies have amassed 66 Emmy nominations.
Their feature film, Chicago, which they executive produced for Miramax, starring Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere, won the Academy Award® as Best Picture of the Year. Nominated for thirteen Academy Awards®, it won six. Nominated for seven Golden Globes, the film won three, including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Nominated for eleven BAFTA’s, it won two. Nominated for five SAG Awards, the film garnered three. The film was awarded the Producers Guild of America Award for Best Picture of the Year and Rob Marshall won the Directors Guild of America Award for Best Director of the Year. The film also won a Grammy for Best Motion Picture Soundtrack of the Year and was chosen by the Broadcast Film Critics Association as the Best Motion Picture of the Year. Chicago has gone on to become Miramax’s highest grossing movie in the studio’s history, and was the first movie musical to win the Oscar® for Best Picture in 34 years.
Their most recent television musical, “Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man,” starring Matthew Broderick and Kristin Chenoweth aired in 2003 on ABC to acclaim and received five Emmy Nominations. The film’s director, Jeff Bleckner, won the Director’s Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Telefilms.
Their production of ABC’s “Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows” was both a critical and ratings success, topping most Ten Best lists, receiving thirteen Emmy nominations including Outstanding Miniseries, and winning five. The movie was also nominated for three Golden Globes, winning one for Judy Davis as best actress. Of the 256 films of the season, it was the highest rated movie or miniseries of the year. The film was also nominated for the DGA Award, the PGA Award, the WGA Award, the Editor’s Guild Award, Sound Editor’s Guild Award, two AFI Awards, and three Golden Satellite Awards. It won the Television Critics Association Award, two Broadcast Film Critics Awards, the SAG award, the Costume Designers Guild Award, the AFI award, two Golden Satellite Awards, and the Prism Award.
Storyline’s production of “The Beach Boys: An American Family,” which was nominated for three Emmys including Best Miniseries, was produced for ABC. It was the highest rated miniseries of the season in the key demographic. The film’s kudos included a DGA Award for Jeff Bleckner.
Storyline executive produced a new version of the musical “Annie,” which won two Emmys, the Peabody Award, and the TV Guide Award for Favorite TV Movie or Miniseries. It was nominated for a total of twelve Emmys including Outstanding Made for Television Movie, and was also nominated by the Television Critics Association for Best TV Movie. Of the 252 TV Movies and Miniseries of that season, “Annie” was the highest rated of the year. Kathy Bates received an Emmy nomination, a Golden Globe nomination, a SAG nomination, and won the American Comedy Award for Best Actress for her lead role. First-time director Rob Marshall received an Emmy nomination for Best Director, won an Emmy for Outstanding Choreography and received a DGA nomination. The critically acclaimed show was produced for The Wonderful World of Disney and ABC, and was ABC’s highest rated program on a Sunday in two years (since Storyline’s “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella”) reaching an audience of over forty million viewers.
Zadan and Meron executive produced “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” for “The Wonderful World of Disney.” The critically acclaimed television musical which starred Whitney Houston, Brandy, Whoopi Goldberg, Jason Alexander and Bernadette Peters, received the highest ratings for a television movie on ABC in over a decade, reaching over sixty million viewers. The production also garnered seven Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Special of the Year.
Their first television event was “Gypsy” in 1993, a three-hour CBS movie musical, starring Bette Midler. “Gypsy” was a ratings and critical triumph and was nominated for twelve Emmy Awards including Outstanding Made-For-TV Movie (the first such nomination for a film musical in the Academy’s history). The show was also nominated for three Golden Globe Awards including Best Telefilm. Midler won both the Golden Globe for Best Actress, and the National Board of Review Award for Best Performance of the Year on Television. The show was also nominated for the Producers Guild of America Award, the Directors Guild of America Award, and the ACE Award.
Previously, the pair executive produced “The Reagans,” which aired on Showtime and starred James Brolin as Ronald Reagan and Judy Davis as Nancy Reagan. The film was honored with seven Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Movie Made for Television, Outstanding Lead Actress for Davis, Outstanding Lead Actor for Brolin, and Outstanding Writing. The Broadcast Film Critics Association gave the movie a Critics’ Choice Award nomination for Best Picture Made for Television. Judy Davis and James Brolin were each honored by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association with Golden Globe nominations for Best Female and Best Male Performance in a Motion Picture or Mini-Series Made for Television.
Zadan and Meron also produced, with partners Barbra Streisand, Glenn Close and Cis Corman, “Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story.” This landmark NBC movie starred Close and Judy Davis. The film which received six Emmy nominations, won three: Best Actress for Close, Best Supporting Actress for Davis, and Best Screenplay for Alison Cross. Additionally, the show was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards for Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, and won the coveted National Education Association Award for the Advancement of Learning Through Broadcasting. The producers also won the prestigious Peabody Award for Outstanding Achievement in Broadcasting and were the recipients of the Lambda Liberty Award as well as the GLAAD Media Award. The show was also nominated for awards from The Producers Guild of America, The Writers Guild of America and The Screen Actors Guild.
For next season they have executive produced a new movie based on Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” starring Sean Combs, Phylicia Rashad, Audra McDonald and Sanaa Lathan for ABC and Sony Pictures Television. Next year they will also executive produce the first movie version of the classic musical “Peter Pan” for ABC.
For release this fall is The Bucket List, a feature film for Warner Bros. starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, directed by Rob Reiner. Their next feature will be The Mayor of Castro Street for Warner Bros., directed by Bryan Singer and written by Oscar-winner Chris McQuarrie. Previously for Warner Bros. they executive produced the feature comedy My Fellow Americans starring Jack Lemmon and James Garner.
Zadan’s first feature film production was Paramount Picture’s Footloose, starring Kevin Bacon and John Lithgow which received two Oscar® nominations, one Golden Globe nomination, and a Grammy nomination for Best Soundtrack Album.
MARC SHAIMAN (Composer, Lyricist, Executive Producer)
A recent recipient of the 2007 ASCAP Henry Mancini Career Achievement award, Marc Shaiman is one of entertainment’s most celebrated contemporary musical visionaries. Shaiman is a versatile talent – working as a composer, lyricist, arranger, performer and producer for film, television, theatre and recordings.
Shaiman wrote the music and co-wrote the lyrics for the smash hit “Hairspray,” which debuted on Broadway in 2002. Based on John Waters’ 1988 cult classic, “Hairspray” went on to win eight Tonys, including Best Musical and Best Original Score.
Shaiman is currently composing the original score for the new Rob Reiner film,The Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. The Bucket List follows the adventures of two terminally ill men who leave their hospital and head out on the open road with a list of “must-do’s” before they kick the proverbial bucket. The film is set for release in the fall of 2007 by Warner Bros.
His extensive film credits as a composer, lyricist and performer include Broadcast News, Beaches, When Harry Met Sally…, City Slickers, The Addams Family, Sister Act, Sleepless in Seattle, A Few Good Men, The American President, The First Wives Club, George of the Jungle, In & Out, Patch Adams, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, and Team America: World Police.
In addition to his busy film slate, this past year Shaiman appeared on Broadway alongside long time friend Martin Short in the original musical “Fame Becomes Me” (for which Shaiman was recently nominated for a Drama Desk Award) and is also composing and co-writing the lyrics for the upcoming musical “Catch Me If You Can,” based upon Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed film. The musical is workshopping this summer with Nathan Lane in a lead role.
The composer’s impressive and extensive body of work has earned him awards and nominations across the board. He has five Academy Award nominations for the songs “Blame Canada” from South Park and “A Wink And A Smile” from Sleepless In Seattle as well as the scores for Patch Adams, The First Wives Club and The American President. He received a Grammy Award for the Original Broadway Cast Album of “Hairspray” and has received two additional Grammy nominations for his arrangements of Harry Connick, Jr.’s recordings “When Harry Met Sally” and “We Are In Love.” Shaiman is the recipient of an Emmy Award for co-writing Billy Crystal’s Academy Award performances and was also nominated for an Emmy for his work on “Saturday Night Live.” He appeared on “SNL” as Skip St. Thomas, the pianist mastermind for The Sweeney Sisters. Shaiman cultivated some of his longest and closest relationships through his work on the late-night comedy show, most notably with longtime friends Billy Crystal and Martin Short.
Shaiman began his career as a musical director for theatre and cabaret. This led him to become the vocal arranger for Bette Midler, then her musical director, and co-producer of many of her recordings, including “The Wind Beneath My Wings” and “From A Distance.” With Midler, he co-wrote the material for her Emmy Award-winning performance on the penultimate “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.”
Will Ferrell, Jack Black and John C. Reilly recently performed Shaiman’s hilarious musical tribute “A Comedian at the Oscars” at the 2007 Academy Awards.
Shaiman resides in Los Angeles and New York City.
SCOTT WITTMAN (Lyricist, Executive Producer)
Scott Wittman received the Tony and Grammy Award for his work on “Hairspray.” On Broadway, in concert, for film and television and in many a boite, Scott Wittman has conceived, written and/or directed and collaborated with the following (are you sitting?): Kristin Chenoweth, Jayne County, Sandy Duncan, Christine Ebersole, Dame Edna, Annie Golden, Debbie Gravitte, the High-Heeled Women, Allison Janney, Madeline Kahn, Lainie Kazan, Laura Kenyon (as Lainie Kazan), Nathan Lane, Ute Lemper, Darlene Love, Patti LuPone, Lypsinka, Ann Magnuson, Andrea Martin, Lonette McKee, Mike Myers, Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, John Sex, Elaine Stritch, Bruce Vilanch, Rufus Wainwright, Raquel Welch, and Holly Woodlawn.
Wittman recently directed “Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me,” now on Broadway, and is currently co-writing “Catch Me If You Can” with Terrence McNally and Marc Shaiman to open on Broadway next season.
GARRETT GRANT (Executive Producer)
Garrett Grant’s film credits include two previous collaborations with director Adam Shankman – The Pacifier and Cheaper by the Dozen 2 – as well as nine films with longtime collaborators Bobby and Peter Farrelly: The Ringer, Stuck On You, Shallow Hal, Osmosis Jones, Say It Isn’t So, Me, Myself & Irene, There’s Something About Mary, Kingpin and Dumb and Dumber.
He also served as co-producer on Like Mike and as line producer for The Locusts. Additionally, he was the unit production manager on Freddy Got Fingered and Gun Shy and served as production supervisor for Beverly Hills Ninja.
Garrett began his film career as a location manager for such films as Killing Zoe and Albino Alligator, among others.
JENNIFER GIBGOT (Executive Producer)
Jennifer Gibgot most recently produced this summer’s sleeper hit, Step Up, as well as the upcoming Premonition. Her other recent credits as executive producer include Cheaper by the Dozen 2 and The Pacifier.
Gibgot began her career as a producer running Tapestry Films in 1995. Over the course of her eight years at Tapestry she set up numerous projects and produced successful films such as She’s All That and The Wedding Planner. Gibgot hired her brother Adam Shankman, already an established choreographer, to helm The Wedding Planner which ultimately launched his directing career.
In 2003 Shankman and Gibgot formed Offspring Entertainment and signed a first look deal at Disney. Currently the company is in pre-production on Step Up 2, which will be released by Touchstone Pictures, and Bedtime Stories, which will star Adam Sandler and is being directed by Adam Shankman and executive produced by Shankman and Gibgot for Disney. Other projects in development include a remake of All of Me starring Queen Latifah, 17, which Zac Efron is attached to star in,Topper, The Other Guy and Flight Risk.
BOJAN BAZELLI, ASC (Director of Photography)
Bojan Bazelli’s credits include Mr. & Mrs. Smith, The Ring, Kalifornia, Boxing Helena, Body Snatchers and King of New York, among many others.
DAVID GROPMAN (Production Designer)
David Gropman was nominated (with Beth Rubino) for an Academy Award® for his work on Lasse Hallstrom’s The Cider House Rules. His work was most recently seen last year in director Todd Field’s critically-acclaimed film, Little Children.
Gropman’s numerous other credits include Casanova, An Unfinished Life, The Human Stain, The Shipping News, Chocolat, A Civil Action, Marvin’s Room, One Fine Day, Waiting to Exhale, A Walk in the Clouds, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Of Mice and Men, Mr. & Mrs. Bridge and Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.
MICHAEL TRONICK, A.C.E. (Editor)
The feature film credits of Michael Tronick include Mr. & Mrs. Smith, S.W.A.T., The Scorpion King, Remember the Titans, Blue Streak, Meet Joe Black, Volcano, Eraser, True Romance, Scent of A Woman, Days of Thunder, Midnight Run, Less Than Zero and Beverly Hills Cop II.
Before his career as a film editor, Tronick was a feature film music editor with credits such as Predator, Outrageous Fortune, Nobody’s Fool, Ruthless People, A Chorus Line, Streets of Fire, Star 80, 48 Hrs., Reds, Xanadu and All That Jazz, among many others.
RITA RYACK (Costume Designer)
Rita Ryack, who received an Oscar® nomination for her work on director Ron Howard’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, has designed costumes for more than thirty movies and has enjoyed a long history of collaborations with such directors as Howard, Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro and Brett Ratner.
Ryack’s other credits include The Cat in the Hat, Rush Hour 2, A Beautiful Mind, Bringing Out the Dead, Wag the Dog, Casino, Apollo 13, A Bronx Tale, Ranson, Cape Fear, The Fan, Crossing Delancey and After Hours, among many others. She also designed the costumes for Michael Jackson’s “Bad” video, which was directed by Martin Scorsese.
For her designs for the hit stage musical, “My One and Only,” starring Tommy Tune and Twiggy, she received several award nominations, including the Tony. She also worked on many distinguished Off-Broadway productions, and in 1986, won the Obie for Sustained Excellence in Costume Design. In addition, the New York chapter of Women In Film &Television honored her with the first “Designing Hollywood”award in 2000. Other awards include a Golden Satellite Award from the International Press Academy, a Costumer Designers’ Guild Award and a “Timeless Style Award” presented by Premiere Magazine and Hamilton Watch.
Ryack studied at Brandeis University and the School of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.. She has a M.F.A. in costume design from the Yale School of Drama. She has also received awards for cartoon animation and illustration.