As director-choreographer of such film musicals as “Hairspray” and the upcoming “Rock of Ages,” one might not necessarily consider Adam Shankman emcee material, especially facing a room full of formidable women. But as today’s host of Variety’s Power of Women luncheon, presented by Lifetime as a celebration of philanthropic achievement, Shankman is familiar with the lay of the land.
At last year’s affair, he presented an honor to Katie Holmes — both work with the Dizzy Feet Foundation, which awards scholarships to dance students enrolled in accredited institutions and funds dance programs in low-income communities. He also hosted Elle’s Women in Hollywood affair in October after Alec Baldwin performed similar duties the year before, so Shankman is used to bringing on the funny — even when it’s a tough act to follow (the Variety/Lifetime event touted Jane Lynch and Lily Tomlin as hosts the first two years).
“At the Elle thing it’s like there’s booze and they wanted comedy and they wanted quick, you know what I mean?” says Shankman. “Lily was great (at last year’s Power of Women luncheon). So if I could remember what Lily did then I’ll be fine.”
You’ll have to forgive Shankman for not having instant recall. He’s been rather busy lately, directing episodes of “Glee” and “Modern Family”; acting as a judge on “So You Think You Can Dance?”; and wrapping “Rock of Ages,” starring Tom Cruise as metal rocker Stacee Jaxx and Catherine Zeta-Jones as a Tipper Gore-like moral crusader.
So, is Cruise convincing as a rock star?
“It’s terrifying,” says Shankman. “He’s brilliant! He completely transforms physically. I mean, there’s just no Tom Cruise there. His voice is incredible and he worked really, really hard at it.”
And if all this back-to-back activity wasn’t enough, Shankman is continually involved with charity work beyond Dizzy Feet, including the Trevor Project, a crisis intervention org for the LGBT community; the Point Foundation, which offers support to LGBT students who’ve been thrown out of their homes; and Lifeworks, a youth development and mentoring program at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, among several others.
How that gives Shankman time for his day job is almostincomprehensible. “If my whole life was just about making movies, I would cut my head off,” he says. “It’s too hard.”