BY David Keeps
February 09 2010 10:00 AM ET
* This article ran in the March, 2010 issue of The Advocate.
Rolling up his ready-for-the-red-carpet Gucci tuxedo trousers, 2010 Oscars coproducer Adam Shankman dips his toes into the turquoise water of his swimming pool and lets out a blue howl. “Motherbitch!” he hollers. “Who turned the frickin’ heat off?”
It’s a comically outrageous outburst from the 45-year-old gay TV and film choreographer-director, and a violation of one of the cardinal rules he learned as a teenage dancer: Never let the discomfort in your feet show in your face. The self-described “luckiest chorus boy alive” composes himself, then stares down the photographer’s lens with the ease of an old-school Hollywood star.
Though as a young man he aspired to be a dancer, not a director, Shankman is getting accustomed to life both in front of and behind the camera. He spent the 1990s teaching movie stars to dance in films as varied as Boogie Nights and The Flintstones and the 2000s directing a string of hits including The Wedding Planner and Hairspray, and he has more recently become a television personality with his appearances as a judge on So You Think You Can Dance. Now a permanent judge on the show, he delivers a shot of fabulous realness to the Fox talent competition. On occasion he has been moved to on-camera tears by contestants’ performances, but more often he is snappy and self-deprecating, treating his sexuality as an otherwise unremarkable matter of fact.
“I make so many jokes about being gay, without it being lurid,” he says of his appearances on the show. “It’s not part of any agenda; it’s just who I am. Some of my aesthetic is based on it, but being gay is no more my entire identity than being an American is.”
Shankman’s success on so many fronts could be cited as evidence that being out is no longer a liability in Hollywood. Since 2001 his seven directorial efforts have racked up worldwide ticket sales in excess of $1 billion, and Offspring Entertainment, the production company formed by Shankman and his sister Jennifer Gibgot, has a deal with Disney. On the heels of its 2009 Zac Efron hit, 17 Again, the company has three films on tap this year: a Drew Barrymore romance, Going the Distance; Miley Cyrus’s first drama, The Last Song (written by novelist Nicholas Sparks); and Step Up 3-D, the third installment of the wildly popular dance flick franchise. Shankman is currently linked to over a dozen forthcoming projects, including the film version of the Broadway hit Rock of Ages and a remake of the musical Bye Bye Birdie.
Shankman is one of the most commercial producer-directors most in the industry. Comedies such as The Pacifier and Bedtime Stories have found a broad family audience, and the soapy A Walk to Remember, in which Mandy Moore put marriage before sex, was endorsed by church groups. He is revitalizing the movie musical in a happier, campier way than his contemporary Rob Marshall, director of the more adult Chicago and Nine. Shankman is also firmly enmeshed with the next generation of movie stars and audiences, working with pop icons like Efron and Cyrus and earning street credibility from b-boys and ballerinas as a choreographer and dance show judge.
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