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Look out for more coverage of
Hairspray in our magazines

THE MOVIE: Hairspray logo

John Travolta • Michelle Pfeiffer • Queen Latifa • Nikki Blonsky • Christopher Walken • James Marsden • Brittany Snow • Zac Efron • Amanda Bynes • Elijah Kelley
DIRECTOR: Adam Shankman

Poster artwork THE CONCEPT:
Screen adaptation of the Broadway musical about racial intolerance in the early ‘60s in Baltimore. Tracy Turnblad (Blonsky), a plus-sized teenager, has one dream, to dance on The Corny Collins Show. It’s a dream that is discouraged by her over-protective mother, Edna (Travolta, yes, Travolta!), but it’s the beginning of a new era, and the people who were once ostracized are about to have their day.

U.S. RELEASE: July 20 2007, Nationwide • Rated: PG


Director Adam Shankman“I had very stringent requirements in finding an actress to play Tracy which were, a) in the tradition of the other two movies, I needed it to be a complete unknown, and b) she had to be under 19, which freaked everyone out because that closed the window so much. When I saw Nikki’s audition I thought, “Oh my God, she loves her body.’ She was out there shaking it and singing and I was thinking, ‘She doesn’t think of herself as heavy.’ That was the moment when I said, ‘It’s her.’ And also in the tradition of Hairspray, Edna’s always a man and I was not going to fix that unbroken toy.”

John Travolta“It was tough dancing in high heels. They kept bringing me these skinny high-heeled shoes. I said, ‘When I was growing up I saw girls in the chorus and they had thicker heels on.’ Finally they brought out a shoe, and I said, ‘Okay, that’s the shoe; now make it in many colors!’”

Nikki Blonsky“I saw Hairspray on Broadway when I was 15 and I fell in love with it. Tracy just jumped off of the stage and into my heart. When I was 16 I auditioned for the Broadway show and they told me I was too young, I was just devastated. A year later I checked their website for another open call for Broadway and it said there was an open call for the movie. I made a video tape, sent it to New Line and they forwarded it to the casting director.”

“Nikki’s a phenomenon; I knew it from her screen test. I showed the tape to people and said, ‘Look at this girl; she’s like Barbra Streisand being born.’ She came from high school shows; this is not what you expect, this level of sophistication, knowledge and confidence. I was bowled over by it, and I said, ‘Okay, we’re home free now.’”

JAMES MARSDEN (Corny Collins):
James Marsden“Hugh Jackman was thrilled when he heard that I was doing this because we would sit in the makeup trailer during X-Men and we would sing the theme song from Elmo and harmonize on Bear in the Big Blue House – we both have children! He was always like, “Mate, you’ve got to do a musical, you’ve got the chops.’ Hugh is just the nicest man in the world.”

Michelle Pfeiffer“I was afraid of doing a character like this, which is chewing up the scenery. I think I probably failed, as Adam would say, ‘Is that a piece of the chair leg in between your teeth!’ He was funny. It’s finding the balance. It is not reality, but you also have to stay rooted in some kind of reality, and I was constantly walking that tightrope.”

AMANDA BYNES (Penny) on her interracial relationship in the movie:
Amanda Bynes“That’s so not even an issue that’s real in our minds anymore. I grew up on a show called All That which was a mix of black and white people, and we were just people. I had a crush on, and had a kiss with, an African-American kid when I was 11 and, to me, I didn’t see it as anything other than the boy I liked.”

ELIJAH KELLEY (Seaweed, Penny’s boyfriend):
Elijah Kelley“Amanda grew up in California and I grew up in Georgia, which was kind of a different experience; Georgia being one of the last to jump on the bandwagon of the integration frontier. I was in awe of some of the stuff my grandparents told me. This film is definitely an awakening to our generation to move forward and further from what it was. Somebody said their 12-year-old kid saw the movie and got really sad and said, ‘Are you serious? That’s what really happened? That’s not cool.’”

QUEEN LATIFAH (Motormouth Maybelle):
Queen Latifah“Singing the song I Know Where I’ve Been was definitely emotional to me. It is something I will not allow myself to forget. I will not forget that somebody marched so I could do this. That someone got bit by a dog and hosed by fire hoses so that all of us could talk, or dance or make music together.”

“This film is so relevant, what with the Michael Richards and Isaiah Washington [incidents]. This is ripped from the headlines. [This country] is still afraid of anyone who is different. Tracy is a minority because of her weight, anyone who is different from Velma [Pfeiffer’s character] is a minority in this movie. It’s too pertinent really for comfort, but we’re doing it with a song and dance and a laugh.”

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

Visit the official Hairspray site
Images above © New Line Cinema
Feature © 2007 Visual Imagination.
Not for reproduction.

Film Review, #685, July 2007 cover

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