Hairspray is a 2007 musical film produced by Zadan/Meron Productions and distributed by New Line Cinema. It was released in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom on July 20, 2007. The film is an adaptation of the 2002 Broadway musical of the same name, and a remake of John Waters' 1988 comedy film of the same name. Set in 1962 Baltimore, Maryland, the film follows a "pleasantly plump" teenager named Tracy Turnblad as she simultaneously pursues stardom as a dancer on a local TV show and rallies against racial segregation.
Adapted from both Waters's 1988 script and Thomas Meehan and Mark O'Donnell's book for the stage musical by screenwriter Leslie Dixon, the 2007 film version of Hairspray is directed and choreographed by Adam Shankman. Hairspray stars John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Amanda Bynes, James Marsden, Queen Latifah, Brittany Snow, Zac Efron, Elijah Kelley, Allison Janney and introduces Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad. Hairspray features songs from the Broadway musical written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, as well as four new Shaiman/Wittman compositions not present in the original Broadway version.
Opening to positive reviews, Hairspray met with financial success, breaking the record for biggest sales at opening weekend for a movie musical, which the film held until July 2008 when it was surpassed by Mamma Mia!. Hairspray went on to become the fourth highest grossing musical film in U.S. cinema history, behind the film adaptations of Grease, Chicago, and Mamma Mia!. Available in a variety of formats, Hairspray's Region 1 home video release took place on November 20, 2007. The USA Network has purchased the broadcast rights to Hairspray and is scheduled to debut the film on cable television in February 2010.
Adam Shankman and John Waters are currently working on a sequel to the film.
The teenagers featured on the show attend Tracy and Penny's school, in particular the arrogant rich girl Amber Von Tussle (Brittany Snow) and her boyfriend Link Larkin (Zac Efron), with whom Tracy is madly in love. Amber's mother Velma (Michelle Pfeiffer) manages station WYZT, and goes out of her way to make sure that Amber is prominently featured and that The Corny Collins Show remains a segregated program. Corny Collins (James Marsden) and all of his "Council Members" are white; black kids are only allowed on The Corny Collins Show on "Negro Day", held the last Tuesday of each month and hosted by local rhythm and blues radio DJ "Motormouth” Maybelle (Queen Latifah).
Neither Tracy's reclusive laundress mother Edna (John Travolta) nor Penny's strict Catholic mother Prudy (Allison Janney) approve of their daughters basing their lives around a TV show, particularly one where teens dance to "race music". Tracy's father, Wilbur (Christopher Walken), a joke-shop proprietor, is far more lenient. On one day's show, Corny Collins announces that one of his "Council Members" is going on a leave of absence, and that auditions for a replacement will be held the next morning during school hours. When Tracy attends, Velma rejects Tracy at the audition for being overweight and supportive of integration. Tracy is sent to detention for skipping school, learning that the African-American students practice their dance in the school's detention hall. Tracy befriends the detention hall's best dancer, Motormouth Maybelle's son, Seaweed (Elijah Kelley), who teaches Tracy several R&B dance moves. These moves secure Tracy a position in The Corny Collins Show.
Tracy quickly becomes one of Corny's most popular "Council Members" and a threat to Velma's wish to have Amber win the show's yearly "Miss Teenage Hairspray" pageant. Tracy also becomes a threat to Amber's courtship of Link, as the boy becomes increasingly fond of Tracy and less so of Amber. Tracy's popularity earns her a sponsorship offer from clothes salesman Mr. Pinky (Jerry Stiller), who wants Tracy to be the spokesgirl for his "Hefty Hideaway" boutique. Tracy convinces Edna to accompany her to the "Hefty Hideaway" and act as her negotiating agent, and in the process brings her mother's days as an agoraphobe to an end.
At school, Tracy introduces Seaweed to Penny, whereupon the two are instantly smitten with each other. One afternoon after Amber deliberately has Tracy sent to detention, Link causes the teacher to send him after her. There, Seaweed invites the girls and Link to follow him and his sister Little Inez (Taylor Parks) to a platter party at Motormouth Maybelle's record shop. At the party, Maybelle informs everyone that Velma has canceled "Negro Day". Tracy, in reply, suggests that Maybelle and the others stage a protest march, which they plan for the next afternoon, a day before the "Miss Teenage Hairspray" pageant. Link, scheduled to sing at the pageant and fearing for his budding career, does not attend the demonstration, disappointing Tracy.
The next morning, Tracy sneaks out of the house to join the protest march, which comes to a halt at a police roadblock set up by Velma. The entire company of protesters is arrested, although Tracy manages to escape. She flees to the Pingletons' house, where Penny lets her hide in a basement fallout shelter. Prudy discovers Tracy and calls the police while tying Penny to her bed upstairs with a jump rope. Seaweed and his friends, having been bailed out by Wilbur, arrive and help Tracy and Penny escape. The kids then concoct a plan to crash the "Miss Teenage Hairspray" pageant. Meanwhile, Link visits Tracy's house to look for her, and realizes that he is as much in love with her as she is with him. Seaweed and Penny also acknowledge their love during the escape from her house.
With the pageant underway, Velma, leaving nothing to chance, places policemen around and inside station WYZT to prevent Tracy from entering. In addition, Velma switches the tallies from the pageant's phone lines so that Amber is guaranteed to win. Penny arrives at the pageant with an incognito Edna, while Wilbur, Seaweed, and Seaweed's friends help Tracy infiltrate the studio in time to participate in the "Miss Teenage Hairspray" dance contest. Link breaks away from Amber to dance with Tracy; later, he pulls Inez, who has just arrived at WYZT with Maybelle, to the stage to dance in the pageant.
Against all expectations, Inez receives the most votes and wins the pageant, officially integrating The Corny Collins Show. A perturbed Velma loudly declares her frustration, informing her daughter of the tally-switching scheme. Unbeknownst to Velma, Edna has turned a camera on her, and Velma's outburst is broadcast live on the air, causing her to be expelled from the program. Meanwhile, The Corny Collins Show set explodes into a celebration as Link and Tracy cement their love with a kiss.
Craig Zadan and Neil Meron's Academy Award-winning film adaptation of the Broadway musical Chicago, were hired as the producers for Hairspray, and began discussing possibly casting John Travolta and Billy Crystal (or Jim Broadbent) as Edna and Wilbur Turnblad, respectively. Thomas Meehan and Mark O'Donnell, authors of the book for the stage musical, wrote the first draft of the film's screenplay, but were replaced by Leslie Dixon, screenwriter for family comedies such as Mrs. Doubtfire and Freaky Friday. After a year's deliberation on who should direct the film, Zadan and Meron finally decided to hire Adam Shankman to both direct and choreograph Hairspray. Upon learning he had been hired, Shankman arranged a meeting with John Waters, who advised him "don't do what I did, don't do what the play did. You've gotta do your own thing." Despite this, Shankman still noted "all roads of Hairspray lead back to John Waters."
One notable difference between the stage musical, the original movie, and the 2007 film version of Hairspray is that Tracy does not go to jail in the 2007 version. In both previous incarnations of Hairspray, Tracy is arrested and taken to jail along with the other protesters. Edna is presented in this version as an insecure introvert, in contrast to the relatively bolder incarnations present in the 1988 film and the stage musical. Among many other elements changed or added to this version are the removal of Motormouth Maybelle's habit of constantly speaking in rhyming jive talk, and doubling the number of teens in Corny Collins' Council (from ten on Broadway to twenty in the 2007 film).
Dixon restructured portions of Hairspray's book to allow several of the songs to blend more naturally into the plot, in particular "(You're) Timeless to Me" and "I Know Where I've Been". "(You're) Timeless to Me" becomes the anchor of a newly invented subplot involving Velma's attempt to break up Tracy's parents' marriage and keep the girl off The Corny Collins Show as a result. The song now serves as Wilbur's apology to Edna, in addition to its original purpose in the stage musical as a tongue-in-cheek declaration of Wilbur and Edna's love for each other. Meanwhile, "I Know Where I've Been", instead of being sung by Maybelle alone after being let out of jail, now underscores Maybelle's march on WYZT (which takes place in the stage musical only briefly during "Big, Blonde, and Beautiful").
The song "Big, Blonde, and Beautiful" was inspired by a line that Tracy Turnblad delivered in the original film, but in the stage version and this film, the song is performed by Motormouth Maybelle. A reprise of the song was added to the 2007 film, which is sung by Edna and Velma.
Since Hairspray's plot focuses heavily on dance, choreography became a heavy focus for Shankman, who hired four assistant choreographers and put both his acting cast and over a hundred and fifty dancers through two months of rehearsals. The cast recorded the vocal tracks for their songs as coached by Elaine Overholt in the weeks just before principal photography began in September.
Principal photography on Hairspray took place in Toronto, and Hamilton, Ontario, Canada from September 5 to December 8, 2006. Hairspray is explicitly set in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, and the original 1988 film had been shot on location there, but the 2007 film was shot primarily in Toronto because the city was better equipped with the sound stages necessary to film a musical. The opening shots of the descent from the clouds and the newspaper being dropped onto the stoop are the only times that the actual city of Baltimore is shown in the film.
The majority of the film was shot at Toronto's Showline Studios. Most of the street scenes were shot at the intersection of Dundas Street West and Roncesvalles Avenue. Some of the signs for the 1960s-era stores remain up along the street. Toronto's Lord Lansdowne Public School was used for all of the high school exteriors and some of the interiors, while the old Queen Victoria School in Hamilton was also used for interiors. Scenes at Queen Victoria were shot from November 22 to December 2, and the school was scheduled to be demolished after film production was completed.
Thinner than most of the other men who have portrayed Edna, John Travolta appeared onscreen in a large fat suit, and required four hours of makeup in order to appear before the cameras. His character's nimble dancing style belies her girth; Shankman based Edna's dancing style on the hippo ballerinas in the Dance of the Hours sequence in Walt Disney's 1940 animated feature Fantasia. Although early versions of the suit created "a dumpy, Alfred Hitchcock version of Edna," Travolta fought for the ability to give his character curves and a thick Baltimore accent. Designed by Tony Gardner, the fat suit was created using lightweight synthetic materials, consisting of layered pads and silicone, which was used from the chest upwards. The suit provided the additional benefit of covering Travolta's beard, eliminating the problem of his facial hair growing through his makeup midday.
"Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now", a popular number from the stage musical, features Tracy, Penny, and Amber arguing with their respective mothers. Neither Adam Shankman nor Leslie Dixon could come up with a solution for filming "Mama" that did not require a three-way split screen — something they wanted to avoid — and both felt the number did not adequately advance the plot. As a result, "Mama" was reluctantly dropped from the film during pre-production, although it is used by Shaiman as an instrumental number when the Corny Collins kids dance the "Stricken Chicken". A special version of "Mama" was recorded for the film's end credits in May 2007, during the final score recording process, which featured vocals from each of the three women most famous for portraying Tracy Turnblad: Ricki Lake from the 1988 film, Marissa Jaret Winokur from the original Broadway cast, and Nikki Blonsky from the 2007 film. Harvey Fierstein, who portrayed Edna as part of the original Broadway cast, has a brief cameo moment in the end credits version of "Mama" as well.
"It Takes Two", a solo for Link, was moved from its place in the stage musical (on Tracy's first day on The Corny Collins Show) to an earlier Corny Collins scene, although only the coda of the song is used in the final release print. "Cooties", a solo for Amber in the stage musical, is present in this film as an instrumental during the Miss Teenage Hairspray dance-off. As with "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now", a version of "Cooties", performed in a contemporary pop rendition by Aimee Allen, is present during the end credits.
The performance of a vintage dance called The Madison, present in both the 1988 film and the stage musical, was replaced for this version by a newly composed song, "Ladies' Choice". Portions of the Madison dance steps were integrated into the choreography for the musical number "You Can't Stop the Beat", and the song the dance is performed to on Broadway can be heard faintly during Motormouth Maybelle's platter party in the film, re-titled "Boink-Boink". "The Big Dollhouse" was the only song from the musical not used in the film in any way.
Shaiman and Wittman composed two new songs for the 2007 film: "Ladies' Choice", a solo for Link, and "Come So Far (Got So Far to Go)", a song performed during the end credits by Queen Latifah, Nikki Blonsky, Zac Efron, and Elijah Kelley. Another "new" song in the 2007 film, "The New Girl in Town", had originally been composed for the Broadway musical, but was deemed unnecessary and discarded from the musical. Director Adam Shankman decided to use the song to both underscore a rise-to-fame montage for Tracy and to showcase Maybelle's "Negro Day", which is never actually seen in either of the earlier incarnations of Hairspray.
One additional Shaiman/Wittman song, a ballad entitled "I Can Wait", was composed for the film as a solo for Tracy, meant to replace the stage musical's reprise of "Good Morning Baltimore". "I Can Wait" was shot for the film (Tracy performs the number while locked in Prudy's basement), but was eventually deleted from the final release print. The audio recording of "I Can Wait" was made available as a special bonus track for customers who pre-ordered the Hairspray soundtrack on iTunes, and the scene itself was included as a special feature on the film's DVD release.
Post-production took place in Los Angeles. Composer/co-lyricist Marc Shaiman continued work on the film's music, employing the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra to record instrumentation for both the songs and the incidental score.
Two weeks after its original release, new "sing-along" prints of Hairspray were shipped to theaters. These prints featured the lyrics to each song printed onscreen as subtitles, encouraging audiences to interact with the film.
Ebert gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4, saying that there was "a lot of craft and slyness lurking beneath the circa-1960s goofiness," also stating that "The point, however, is not the plot but the energy. Without somebody like Nikki Blonsky at the heart of the movie, it might fall flat, but everybody works at her level of happiness..." Ebert also noted that this film is "a little more innocent than Waters would have made it..." Krishna Shenoi, of the Shenoi Chronicle, called the movie "Shankman's masterpiece," saying that it moved away from his previous works into a different direction, making a light comedy that deals with serious issues maturely. Shenoi also said that the film was everything he wanted Grease (film) to be. Lou Lumenick of The New York Post hailed Hairspray as "The best and most entertaining movie adaptation of a stage musical so far this century — and yes, I’m including the Oscar-winning Chicago," calling it "one of the best-cast movies in recent memory... New York Daily News critic Jack Matthews called the film "A great big sloppy kiss of entertainment for audiences weary of explosions, CGI effects and sequels, sequels, sequels. The Baltimore Sun review offered Michael Sragow's opinion that "in its entirety, Hairspray has the funny tilt that only a director-choreographer like Shankman can give to a movie," pointing out that Shankman skillfully "puts a new-millennial zing behind exact re-creations of delirious period dances like the Mashed Potato. Dana Stevens from Slate called Hairspray "intermittently tasty, if a little too frantically eager to please." Stevens noted that "Despite its wholesomeness, this version stays remarkably true to the spirit of the original, with one size-60 exception: John Travolta as Edna Turnblad," saying "How you feel about Hairspray will depend entirely on your reaction to this performance..."
The New Yorker’s David Denby felt the new version of Hairspray was "perfectly pleasant," but compared unfavorably to the Broadway musical, since "[director Adam Shankman and screenwriter Leslie Dixon] have removed the traces of camp humor and Broadway blue that gave the stage show its happily knowing flavor." Denby criticized the dance numbers, calling them "unimaginatively shot," and he considered "the idea of substituting John Travolta for Harvey Fierstein as Tracy’s hefty mother... a blandly earnest betrayal." Stephanie Zacharek of Salon.com found Hairspray "reasonably entertaining. But do we really need to be entertained reasonably? Waters's original was a crazy sprawl that made perfect sense; this Hairspray toils needlessly to make sense of that craziness, and something gets lost in the translation." Zacharek was also displeased with the way Latifah's performance of "I Know Where I've Been" was incorporated into the movie, saying "The filmmakers may believe they're adding an extra layer of seriousness to the material... [but] the inclusion of this big production number only suggests that the filmmakers fear the audience won't get the movie's message unless it's spelled out for them."
Bonus features on the two-disc release include two audio commentaries, a feature-length production documentary, featurettes on the earlier versions of Hairspray, dance instruction featurettes, deleted scenes including Tracy's deleted song "I Can Wait", and behind-the-scenes looks at the production of each of the film's dance numbers. The Blu-ray Disc release, a two-disc release, includes all of the features from the two-disc DVD, and includes a picture-in-picture behind-the-scenes feature, which runs concurrently with the film. An HD DVD version of the film was originally slated for release in 2008, but has since been cancelled due to New Line Cinema's announcement that it would go Blu-ray exclusive with immediate effect, thus dropping HD DVD support.
The USA Network has purchased the broadcast rights to Hairspray, and will debut the film on cable television in February 2010.