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Adam Shankman

Directors in the Oscar race

Until “Hairspray,” Adam Shankman was known mostly as a choreographer and director of light comedies like “Bringing Down the House.” But the New Line musical, which combines the unabashed exuberance of Golden Age tuners with an underlying social consciousness that never feels preachy, has underscored Shankman’s multifaceted gifts. “If I had gone with some of the broadness of the stage play, I don’t think it would have translated,” says the director. “I tried to give it a deeper emotional reality that you can see in closeup.”

As for the film’s stance on racial equality, Shankman takes a larger view: “For me it’s not just a black-and-white issue, it’s emblematic of people rejecting and fearing anybody different culturally. The first person who’s rejected in the movie is Tracy, based on her weight. … To me prejudice just doesn’t make any sense because it’s coming from a place of fear, and fear becomes intolerance, and intolerance becomes hatred. And hatred begets everything wrong. That’s something we’re all living with on a much bigger scale than racism in the world.”

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