Variety reports that Travolta will play Edna Turnblad, the role created on Broadway by Tony winner Harvey Fierstein, in the New Line Cinema film, which will be directed by Adam Shankman. Queen Latifah, who was directed by Shankman in “Bringing Down the House,” will play Motormouth Maybelle.
The lead role of Tracy Turnblad, the part created on Broadway by Marissa Jaret Winokur, has yet to be cast. A nationwide search for an actress suitable to play the bubbly teenager is currently underway.
Featuring a screenplay by Leslie Dixon, “Hairspray” — with a score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman — should hit movie theatres in summer 2007. Shaiman and Wittman, Variety says, will write additional songs for the movie, expanding both the vocal and dancing requirements for Travolta's character.
About the movie's casting, New Line's Michael Lynne told the industry paper, "This is our dream cast for the film, and bringing Travolta back into a musical after 30 years is so gratifying. They were our genuine first choices for the film. It is a challenge, trying to reinvent a stage show that was a reinvention of a film. The right cast is a big part of that."
Co-producer Craig Zadan added, "[Queen Latifah is] one of the few actresses who can play a dynamic character like this and sing a big show-stopping ballad. And Neil [Meron] and I have been talking to John for more than a year, before he came to the conclusion that 'Hairspray' met his criteria for his return in an unexpected event vehicle." John Travolta scored one of the biggest successes of his career portraying Danny Zuko in the 1978 film version of the long-running Broadway musical Grease. He also appeared in the Broadway production of that fifties musical as well as the original musical Over Here!. Travolta was Oscar-nominated for his roles in "Saturday Night Fever" and "Pulp Fiction."
Queen Latifah was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance as Matron "Mama" Morton in the film of Kander and Ebb's "Chicago." The former hip-hop star has also appeared on screen in "Last Holiday," "Beauty Shop," "Scary Movie 3," "Bringing Down the House," "Brown Sugar," "Living with the Dead," "Living Out Loud" and "Hoodlum."
Hairspray, based on the 1988 John Waters film of the same name, currently plays the Neil Simon Theatre. The show won 2003 Tony Awards for Best Score (Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman), Best Book (Thomas Meehan and Mark O'Donnell), Best Actress in a Musical (Marissa Jaret Winokur), Best Actor (Harvey Fierstein), Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Dick Latessa), Best Costume Design (William Ivey Long), Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical.