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Adam Shankman

Adam Shankman, January 2008
Born Adam Michael Shankman
November 27, 1964 (1964-11-27) (age 45)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor, director, dancer, television judge, choreographer
Years active 1983–present

Adam Michael Shankman (born November 27, 1964) is an American film director, producer, dancer, actor and choreographer. He has been a judge on the television program So You Think You Can Dance since Season 3. He began his professional career in musical theatre, and was a dancer in music videos for Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson. Shankman also choreographed one of the Spice Girls' tours. He has directed several feature-length films, including A Walk to Remember, Bringing Down the House, and Hairspray.


Early life

Shankman was born in Los Angeles, California to an upper middle class family.[1][2] He had a "traditional Jewish upbringing" in Brentwood.[3] He attended The Juilliard School, but dropped out to dance in musical theater.[4]


Juilliard didn't really acknowledge theater dancing as dancing. To them, it was some sort of clownlike bastardization of the arts.
Advocate magazine,[4] 2003

Shankman was a dancer in Janet Jackson's “Escapade” video,[4] as well as in a MC Skat Kat video with Paula Abdul. Shankman broke into professional choreography in a 1989 music video for rapper MC Shan with director Julien Temple. When the hired choreographer fell through, Shankman lied and said that he had done choregraphy for Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul. He was hired on the spot without his story being verified.[4] Shankman began choreographing movies that included actors such as Marlon Brando, Sarah Jessica Parker, Antonio Banderas, and the cast of Boogie Nights.[4] He is Brendan Fraser's exclusive choreographer.[4]

In 1996, Shankman was represented by the newly formed Sauce Entertainment, a production company for music videos and commercial production.[4][5] In 1998, he was a choreographer for the program "Win Ben Stein's Money".[6]

Shankman's first directing gig was for a short film called Cosmo's Tale, which appeared at the Sundance Film Festival.[4] He then helped his sister, Jennifer Gibgot, on a script, which led to a meeting with the studio producing The Wedding Planner. He was hired for the job ten minutes into the meeting.[4] In May 2003, Shankman filed a $5 million lawsuit against Jennifer Lopez, asserting that he came up with the idea for her adaptation of the opera Carmen.[7]

Prior to directing Hairspray, Shankman was known in Hollywood primarily as a fixer of lowbrow films—a director who could take charge of lackluster productions that were expected to flop and turn them into box-office hits. His trademarks in his films often features a singing/dancing sequence and a character getting sent to do community service. "I've done so many things I'm not super-proud of," he admitted in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. Having finally received a plum directing role in Hairspray, he added, "Now that I'm finally really proud of something, if [critics] say this one isn't good either, it will be kind of...taxing."[8] In August 2008, Box office Mojo reported that Hairspray had become the fourth-largest grossing American movie musical within the previous 30 years.[9]

Shankman, in affiliation with ABC, worked on a TV pilot called Harmony about a musical town.[10] "A new series about the female mayor of a small town has jumped from the back burner to the front, thanks to [Governor] Sarah Palin. The proposed show, tentatively titled "Cadillac Ranch," comes with a big-name director attached - Adam Shankman..."[11]

He has just been announced to be directing the film adaptation of the musical "Rock of Ages" from New Line Cinema. The film will begin production in Summer of 2010.[12]

On October 20, 2009 it was announced he will be one of the two producers of the 82nd Academy Awards on March 7, 2010.[13][14]


So You Think You Can Dance

The great thing about this show is that we've really explored a totally new thing which is lyrical hip hop and [Tabitha and Napoleon] nail it. This show has shown that hip hop is just a completely legitimate beautiful genre in and of its own and you can tell such beautiful and heart breaking stories.
—Shankman, June 25, 2008 episode of SYTYCD[15]

Shankman has been a judge and choreographer on the FOX reality show So You Think You Can Dance since Season 3. He used the term "lyrical hip-hop" to describe the dance style associated with the choreography duo of Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo. The term is popularly credited to him as reported in the May/June 2009 issue of Dance Spirit magazine.[16]

On September 16, 2009, it was announced that Adam will be a permanent judge on So You Think You Can Dance.[17]

Personal life

Shankman is openly gay.[18][19] He officiated the wedding of Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar, a good friend of his with whom he worked while choreographing Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He got the Buffy job based on Sarah's recommendation to the show's creator, Joss Whedon.[20]



  1. ^ "Adam Shankman Biography". Film Reference. Retrieved 2007-07-20.  
  2. ^ "Buzz Interview: Hairspray's Nikki Blonsky and Adam Shankman". Sugar Publishing BuzzSugar. Retrieved 2007-07-20.  
  3. ^ Michael Fox. "‘Hairspray’ director, starlet are kindred (Jewish) spirits". j.. Retrieved 2007-07-20.  
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i White, Dave (March 4, 2003), "Master of the house". Advocate (884):56-57
  5. ^ Atwood, Brett (June 29, 1996), "MTV L.A. offices: Movin' on out; C&D for Pennywise vid". Billboard. 108 (26):91
  6. ^ Stein, Benjamin J. (May 1998), "A golden age for thugs". American Spectator. 31 (5):58
  7. ^ Schwartz, Missy; Brown, S. Tia; Tucker, Ken (May 30, 2003), "Monitor". Entertainment Weekly. (712):22
  8. ^ Ibid.
  9. ^ Box Office Mojo
  10. ^ Rice, Lynette (November 2, 2007), "TV Execs: 'Please Don't Stop the Music!'". Entertainment Weekly. (982):16
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "The Top 16 Perform". So You Think You Can Dance. 25 June 2008. No. 10, season 4.
  16. ^ Levinson, Lauren. (May/June 2009), "Lyrical Hip Hop'". Dance Spirit. 13 (5):48-50 (accessed 2009-04-25)
  17. ^ Adam Bryant (16 September 2009). "Adam Shankman Made Permanent Judge on So You Think You Can Dance". Retrieved 2009-09-16.  
  18. ^ "Gay directors bring home the bacon". The Advocate.  
  19. ^ Sheigh Crabtree. "A wholehearted effort to keep 'Hairspray's' sheen". Los Angeles Times.,1,4369254.story. Retrieved 2007-07-20.  
  20. ^ Cunneff, Tom; McCarten, Hugh; Laudadio, Marisa (February 11, 2002), "insider". People. 57 (5):47
  21. ^
  22. ^ "New Miley Cyrus Disney Feature Film "The Last Song" Auditions and Casting Calls". Movie Industry Today. 04-11-2009. Retrieved 2009-06-21.  
  23. ^ "The Last Song Goes Into Production". 06-16-2009. Retrieved 2009-06-19.  

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