BY David Keeps
February 09 2010 10:00 AM ET
Today, this go-to studio director has stepped forward as a staunch supporter of marriage equality, using his skills to direct the short Prop. 8: The Musical. “I am an ordained minister,” he says, noting that he married Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar, a friend he met when he choreographed the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. “And I am being told I can’t get married myself?” As a child of divorce, Shankman, who is single, isn’t sure he’d get married himself but won’t accept the idea that he can’t do so if he chooses: “My inalienable constitutional equal rights are not debatable.”
At the moment, the director admits he does not allow himself much time for a personal life. “I have made some not great choices based on working out some old wounds, and trust has become a big issue for me,” he says. “I don’t have the stress of being in a bad relationship, but I do spend a lot of time alone in a crowded room. My life is full, but that fundamental component is missing. I would love to meet somebody who is confident enough to step into my world. But the reality is that work has never failed me or been bad to me.”
Shankman sprints to his walk-in closet, a bedroom-size space stacked from floor to ceiling with some 150 pairs of size 10 designer shoes and sneakers. “Have we established that I have a shoe problem?” he jokes. He claims that he can go from gym clothes to showered and shaved and in a suit and tie with cuff links in 10 minutes. It’s exactly that efficiency that allows him to produce, direct, and still spend a significant amount of time and energy raising money for philanthropic organizations, among them the Point Foundation, a scholarship program for LGBT students. “I can’t look at my track record and say ‘You’re a big failure,’ ” he says. “So I have to do something meaningful with [my success].”
His plans include more personal filmmaking. Shankman briefly sketches out the idea for an art film he’d someday like to make. It would feature several different characters inspired by his New York years in parallel stories that culminate at the last night of the legendary gay disco the Saint.
But first his plate is full with the biggest televised night in show business. “I will always identify as a dancer, showman, and entertainer,” Shankman says, adding that coproducing and choreographing the Oscars is “a slipper-comfortable fit.”
Still, he finds it ironic that although he has been tapped to help reinvigorate the Oscars—a task he has thrown himself into by reaching out to his teenage fans via Twitter and casting alumni from So You Think You Can Dance—he has yet to be invited to join the Academy. “The last time I was at the Academy Awards was 20 years ago,” he says, laughing. “I was a Lycra-clad gymnastic pirate dancing to ‘Under the Sea.’ ”