Director Adam Shankman Exclusive Interview – BEDTIME STORIES

     December 24, 2008

Written by Heather Huntington

After the press conference for Bedtime Stories was done, we had a little one-on-one time with director Adam Shankman. Shankman, who made the leap from choreography to directing with family-friendly fare like Cheaper by the Dozen II and The Pacifier made himself a force to be reckoned with 2007’s blockbuster Hairspray. When we chatted with him, we made sure to press him on the status of Hairspray II. You’ll also notice that he alludes to some other unnamed big projects that were in the works and that we reported right after speaking with him. Those projects have since been officially named as Bob the Musical and Sinbad.

Collider: I think Adam Sandler must like you because he was much more somber at the Reign Over Me press conference than at today’s.

Adam Shankman: We adore each other and ultimately had such a great time together. I think a lot of people were like, ‘Oh God, how are you two going to work together?’ And I was like, ‘Why would that be a problem?’

That doesn’t make sense to me.

Adam Shankman: I know. Anyway.

You seem like you would probably get along with a lot of people.

Adam: I do get along with most people.

I was at a roundtable with you last year for Hairspray and you seemed like a lovely, happy person.

Adam: I do come off that way, don’t I? (laughs) I think of myself as… the only thing I don’t like is when outside forces have an agenda on your movie and you’re doing your best to try to do well and there are all these other… there are a lot of people involved.

Let’s talk about what made you decide to do Bedtime Stories. You do a lot of family movies.

Adam: This may end my streak of family for now because what had happened was, after Hairspray, I have a deal at Disney and Disney has always been an incredibly ardent supporter of me. Including this, with directing and producing I’ve made five movies for them in as many years. I had said to everybody in my world, ‘We should do a movie with Disney. Let’s identify a project that they have that they want to make that seems interesting.’ This one came to the surface. It wasn’t so much the family stuff that enticed me as it was going into the other worlds and the creative thing of diving into the aesthetic of that. I don’t think anybody would have issue with me doing a lot of big CG now.

That was one of my questions. Thank you for that segue. This is quite different from your previous work. What are the challenges of the special effects?

Adam: None of them are challenges other than time and money. What I’ve really come to realize is things will match up to a certain person’s aesthetic in its execution. This is an aesthetic that I bring to it based on what the story needs were and who my principal character was and that this was part of kids’ imagination so I wanted it to be fairly iconic. I didn’t want to try to Frank Miller it. I didn’t feel a need to make it—this is going to sound terrible—I didn’t need to make it as if I was reinventing the wheel. I just wanted to make it look great and fantastic.

Reinventing the wheel is a different project.

Adam: That’s exactly a different movie. You don’t make a Disney family movie with Adam Sandler. Adam Sandler inside a Disney family movie is enough reinventing the wheel for me.

You showed that some of his old SNL stuff actually works for this family medium.

Adam: I’m really thrilled with that. When we were casting the movie… Every parent was thrilled to say they were going to recommend this movie to all their friends. That’s just not something you get with an Adam Sandler movie in general.

Were you worried about that at all?

Adam: A little.

And Russell Brand as well?

Adam: My knowledge of Russell was very limited when he first came as a casting suggestion. When I met with him, I was like, ‘Oh. Wow. You look like…that, huh?’ The character seemed to have been written more for a Nick Frost kind of a character, and I loved the idea of going in this crazy, crazy direction. It felt great to me.

It was very interesting casting. What they’re both known for is they’re known for distinctly un-G-rated stuff and the question then is will they work in this G-rated medium.

Adam: I think he just totally works.

How was working with him? It seemed like everyone was really positive about their experience on the movie.

Adam: Yeah. We all walked away loving each other and feeling like we knew what the movie that we made was. I’ve done the family thing before, so I was always confident. I think that every once in a while [Russell] was like, ‘Wait, what is this that we’re doing? Why am I doing this again?’ And I’d be like, ‘Believe me, it will pay off.’ There was a bit of that.

So you’re taking a hiatus from the family thing?

Adam: I’m going to take a little hiatus from kids and animals.

But that hiatus will involve Hairspray II?

Adam: That certainly will not happen this year. There’s only an outline and we’re out to writers.

So that will happen in a bit?

Adam: Yeah. I mean, there’s not a note of music that’s been written.

How involved will you be in the music, since you do stuff like that.

Adam: Heavily. Heavily.

That’s exciting since you came to Hairspray as a creature in and of itself, and you’ll get to shape Hairspray II.

Adam: Yeah. Listen, it’s all very exciting. The idea that there’s an appetite for this is very flattering.

And John Waters is coming up with the story.

Adam: Yeah. John Waters is definitely the one who created the original outline and there is come craaazy stuff in there, but it’s awesome.

So what will you do before then?

Adam: I have for directing either one or two movies is going to be made. One is a musical, another musical, and the other one is a high seas action adventure. With some creative elements, but very much in the vein of Pirates of the Caribbean.

And it will take place off the coast of Africa.

Adam: It will take place, frankly, it’s either in Indonesia or India. It’s either China or India.

The setting of the movie or where you’ll shoot?

Adam: Kind of both.

That sounds very exotic and exciting.

Adam: It is very exotic and exciting. And huge. And I look forward to within a week I’ll be able to put a name to it.

But that’s not with Steve Martin.

Adam: No. Neither one has Steve Martin. It’s funny, Topper keeps coming up.

It’s on IMDB.

Adam: It’s not really happening right now. It’s kind of in lame duck land. I have those other two, and then I’m producing this movie based on a Nicholas Sparks book that is yet to come out actually, that we’re starting to shoot in June with Miley Cyrus. And then we’re shooting Step Up 3-D.

That’s the one that’s being written for Miley.

Adam: Yup.

So, you’re just huge.

Adam: (laughs) I don’t know how huge I am. I’m busy. We’re doing an Anne Hathaway movie called The Fiance that Burr Steers who did 17 Again and Igby Goes Down is directing. So we’re doing that. That’s probably shooting in the spring in New York. We’re busy.

Your through-line is big movies, but you involve yourself in different genres.

Adam: Yeah. It’s not like we’re making horror, you know? If I think about the kids of stuff that I would love to be able to move towards in the future after I do one of these other ones that I’m directing, I’d certainly love to make a suspense. I’d love to make a really complicated character drama, something small.

With a dance number.

Adam: Exactly.

But it seems like your personal happiness gets infused in the things you do.

Adam: Well, that’s true, but it’s because I haven’t had any material with which to infuse my personal unhappiness (laughs). There’s no room for my dark side.

You’re storing up the angst for when you need it?

Adam: Believe me, it runs rampant. It’s doing just fine all by itself.

So what is it that calls to you in these pieces? What called to you in Bedtime Stories?

Adam: In the past, I took movies like I took dance jobs. If somebody wanted me, if I could see the trailer in my head, I would do it because I was so flattered that anybody would ask me to do anything. When Hairspray came along, I really fought tooth and nail for that. That was very important to me and big. And when this came along, it was mostly because I wanted to do something where I was paying back Disney for lending me out for a couple of years. It was fun, also, doing the CG work and it was fun working with Adam. So now, onto other kinds of pastures, that’s all. It’s just a chapter of my life that the page is just getting turned. New chapter.

So the package appeals to you.

Adam: In this particular moment it had to do with a few things. Not wanting to act high and mighty after the success of Hairspray and going, ‘Now I’m going to do my dark Oscar picture.’ I wanted to show everybody I’m still me, I’m going to stick to my little commercial roots right now, then I’ll slowly move into the other stuff. I also feel like after Hairspray I graduated into the school where I kind of know what I’m doing.

Were there any particular challenges you didn’t anticipate?

Adam: Yes. When [Adam] broke his leg.

No one knew. That hadn’t gotten out in the press.

Adam: It was really crazy. That was a bad phone call.

And you worked around it well.

Adam: I couldn’t have done it if I wasn’t a choreographer. I had to teach Adam how to rock in or sit into or stand up out of shots and then I’d move into a new place on the set and rock him in or whatever so it always had the appearance that he was walking around.

Was he in the cast the entire time?

Adam: Not the first month.

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