Since making his debut in 2001, American film director Adam Shankman has emerged as one of the most commercially flourishing filmmakers of his generation thanks to such box office hits as “A Walk to Remember” (2002), “Bringing Down the House” (2003) and “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” (2006). He, however, is perhaps best known for directing the successful big screen remake of the musical “Hairspray” (2007), which was nominated for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes. Shankman also produced the successful “Step Up” (2006) and its 2008 sequel, “Step Up 2: The Streets,” and “Premonition” (2007).
Starting out as dancer and actor in New York, the Los Angeles native went on to gain success as a music video choreographer and worked with artists like Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder. He moved on to choreograph a number of movies, including “Addams Family Values” (1993), “The Flintstones” (1994, received a Bob Fosse Award nomination), “Miami Rhapsody” (1995), “Anastasia” (1997), “Scream 2” (1997, also acted in) and “Inspector Gadget” (1999). He also choreographed the movies “Catch Me If You Can” (2002) and “Stuck on You” (2003). Shankman's upcoming film credits include “17 Again” (2009, producer), “The Fiancé” (2010, producer), “Topper” (2010, producer and director) and “Hairspray 2” (2010, director).
Gay Shankman is open about his sexual orientation. He officiated the wedding of Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar, whom he knew from choreographing “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
Childhood and Family:
Adam Michael Shankman was born in Los Angeles, California, on November 27, 1964, to an upper middle class family. He was raised in a traditional Jewish household in Brentwood. After graduating from Palisades High School in L.A., Adam relocated to New York and enrolled at the prestigious Juilliard School. He moved back to Los Angeles after a five-year stint as a dancer and actor in and around New York.
Bringing Down the House
Adam Shankman became interested in the world of theater at a very young age. After high school, he took the dance program at New York's Juilliard School and spent the next five years working as an actor and dancer in New York and regional theater. His early acting jobs included small roles in the made-for-television films “The Wind in the Willows” (1983) and “The Red Shoes” (1983), adapted from the 1948 Oscar winning movie of the same name.
After moving back to Hollywood, Shankman found himself dancing in music videos for such artists as Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson. His career as a dancer received a significant boost when he was hired to appear in the 1989 Academy Awards ceremony. A prolific partnership with celebrated music video director Julian Temple soon ensued, with Shankman serving as choreographer. Noted celebrities he has worked with include Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, Barry White, Aaron Neville, The B-52's, and Chic.
During the 1990s, Shankman choreographed a variety of feature films like “Addams Family Values” (1993), “Miami Rhapsody” (1995), “Casper” (1995), “George of the Jungle” (1997), “Boogie Nights” (1997), “Anastasia” (1997), “Antz” (1998), “She's All That” (1999), “Forces of Nature” (1999) and “Inspector Gadget” (1999). He was nominated for a Bob Fosse Award for his work in the 1994 comedy “The Flintstones,” starring John Goodman. Shankman also appeared in the movies “Rockula “(1990), “Midnight Cabaret” (1990), “The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag” (1992), “Monster Mash: The Movie” (1995) and “Scream 2” (1997), which he also choreographed.
Shankman made his debut behind the camera as a director with the short film “Cosmo's Tale” in 1998. Within three years, he had made the jump to features with the 2001 comedy “The Wedding Planner,” for which he cast Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey. The film earned a Teen Choice nomination for Film - Choice Comedy. His sophomore effort, “A Walk to Remember” (2002), a teen romance starring Mandy Moore and Shane West, won a nomination for Best Live Action Family Film at the 2002 Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards. Apart from directing, Shankman also made a small appearance as a medical assistant in the latter movie.
The following year, Shankman cast veteran performers like Steve Martin, Queen Latifah and Eugene Levy for his comedy feature “Bringing Down the House,” which was distributed by Walt Disney. The project topped the box office for three consecutive weeks and collected several nominations, including a BET Comedy nomination for Outstanding Box Office Movie, a Golden Trailer nomination for Best Comedy and a Teen Choice nomination for Choice Movie – Comedy. Also that year, Shankman had a small role in the Farrelly Brothers comedy “Stuck on You,” starring Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear, and helmed the made-for-TV film “Splitsville.” He then directed “Mystery Girl” in 2004, a UPN TV pilot which was not picked up.
Back to the cinematic industry, Shankman helmed “The Pacifier” (2005) for Walt Disney Studios. The comedy/action film, which he also executive produced, starred Vin Diesel. It won an ASCAP Award for Top Box Office Films and received a Teen Choice nomination for Choice Movie: Comedy. The same year, he also executive produced and directed Steve Martin, Eugene Levy, Bonnie Hunt, Tom Welling, Piper Perabo, Carmen Electra and Hilary Duff in the comedy “Cheaper by the Dozen 2,” the installment to the 2003 smash hit “Cheaper by the Dozen,” which was directed by Shawn Levy.
Shankman next directed the pilot episode of the comedy series “Worst Week of My Life” (2006), based on the 2004 British sitcom of the same name. The show, however, was soon canceled. He fared better as the producer of “Step Up” (2006), where he was also a choreographer and had a small part as a nightclub dancer. Directed by co-choreographer Anne Fletcher, the musical enjoyed critical praise and grossed over $100 million at the box office. It was followed with producing the Sandra Bullock/Julian McMahon vehicle “Premonition” (2007), which he produced through his Offspring Entertainment banner for TriStar Pictures.
The accomplished director experienced success with “Hairspray” (2007), a big screen version of the stage musical adaptation of the 1988 John Waters movie of the same name. Starring then-unknown Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad, opposite heavyweights like John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer and Queen Latifah, the film was an immediate hit in the U.S. It netted a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, and to date, has grossed over 100 million dollars. Apart from directing, Shankman also had a small role as a talent agent and worked as an executive producer and choreographer.
2008 saw Shankman direct and produce the four-minute musical “Prop 8: The Musical” and the comedy feature “Bedtime Stories,” starring Adam Sandler, Keri Russell and Guy Pearce. Under Offspring Entertainment, he also produced the sequel “Step Up 2: The Streets,” for director Jon Chu.
Shankman is the producer of the now completed comedy “17 Again” (2009), starring Zac Efron as the 17-year-old Mike O' Donnell, and the pre-production comedy/romance “The Fiance” (2010), starring Anne Hathaway. Both movies are directed by Burr Steers. As a director, Shankman is working with Steve Martin on the comedy film “Topper,” set for 2010 release. He will also direct “Hairspray 2,” which is due to be released in July 2010.