The film began development in 2004, and Dixon reworked Meehan and O'Donnell's first draft of the screenplay to tone down the musical's campiness. In 2005, Shankman agreed to direct the film. Composer/lyricist Marc Shaiman and lyricist Scott Wittman reworked their songs from the Broadway musical for the film's soundtrack, and also wrote four new songs for the film. Principal photography commenced in September 2006 and ended in December of that year; filming took place on locations in Toronto, Ontario and Hamilton, Ontario in Canada and on soundstages at Toronto's Showline Studios. Recording sessions for the film's songs and soundtrack took place in Los Angeles, California in the United States.
Tracy Turnblad is a heavyset high school student living in Baltimore, Maryland in 1962. Along with her classmate Penny Pingleton, Tracy frequently watches The Corny Collins Show, a local teen dance television show.
The teenagers featured on the show attend Tracy and Penny's school, among them Amber von Tussle and her boyfriend Link Larkin, the lead male dancer. Amber’s mother, Velma, manages WYZT and makes sure Amber is prominently featured. Collins and the dancers on the show are white, and Velma only allows African-American kids on the show once a month on "Negro Day", hosted by R&B disc jockey Motormouth Maybelle.
One day, one of the dancers on the show takes a leave of absence and auditions for a replacement are held. Tracy attends, but Velma turns her down for her overweight physique and for supporting integration. Tracy is sent to detention for skipping school and discovers the "Negro Day" kids practicing in the detention room. Tracy befriends Seaweed, the students' best dancer and Motormouth Maybelle's son, who teaches Tracy several dance moves. As Tracy leaves detention, she inadvertently bumps into Link and dreams of a life with him. At a record hop, Tracy’s moves attract the attention of Collins and he chooses her to join the show.
Tracy becomes one of Corny's most popular dancers, threatening Amber's chances of winning the show's yearly "Miss Teenage Hairspray" pageant and her relationship with Link, as he grows fonder of Tracy. Mr. Pinky suggests that Tracy be the spokesgirl for his Hefty Hideaway boutique. Tracy persuades her agoraphobic mother, Edna, to accompany her to the boutique as her agent.
Tracy introduces Seaweed to Penny, and the two are smitten. Later, when Tracy and Link are in detention, Seaweed invites the girls and Link to follow him and his sister Little Inez (Taylor Parks) to a party at Maybelle's store. Edna finds Tracy there and tries taking her home, but Maybelle convinces her to stay and tells her to take pride in herself. At the party, Maybelle informs everyone that Velma has canceled "Negro Day" and Tracy suggests that they march for integration. Edna returns to her husband Wilbur's shop, but Velma gets there first and tries to seduce him. After accusing Wilbur of infidelity, Edna forbids Tracy to be on the show. She changes her mind after she and Wilbur reconcile.
The next morning, Tracy sneaks out of the house to join the protest, which is halted by a police roadblock. The protesters engage in a brawl, while Tracy runs to the Pingletons' home and hides in a fallout shelter. However, Penny's mother, Prudence, reports Tracy to the police before tying her daughter to her bed. Having been bailed out by Wilbur, Seaweed and his friends help Tracy and Penny escape. Link visits Tracy’s house to look for her and realizes he loves her. Seaweed and Penny also acknowledge their love during the escape.
With the pageant underway, Velma places police officers around WYZT to prevent Tracy from entering. She also changes the pageant tallies so Amber is guaranteed to win. Penny arrives at the pageant with Edna, while Wilbur, Seaweed, and the Negro Day kids help Tracy infiltrate the studio. Link breaks away from Amber to dance with Tracy; later, he pulls Seaweed's sister, Little Inez, to the stage to dance in the pageant.
Amber's attempt to re-claim her championship crown fails. Little Inez wins the pageant after a late surge of support, successfully integrating The Corny Collins Show. Velma tells Amber about her rigging scheme in front of a camera planted by Edna, resulting in her firing. The Corny Collins Show set turns into a celebration as Tracy and Link kiss.Main characters
Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Edna Turnblad, an optimistic, overweight teenage girl who loves dancing; Tracy's racial acceptance leads her to become an active supporter for the integration of The Corny Collins Show. Hairspray was Blonsky's debut as a professional actress.
John Travolta as Edna Turnblad, Tracy's mother and laundry business owner, who is agoraphobic and ashamed of her obesity. Travolta's casting as Edna continued the tradition of having a man in drag portray the character, going back to the original 1988 film, which featured drag queen Divine as Edna and at Hairspray's Broadway version, which featured Harvey Fierstein as Edna. Executives at New Line Cinema originally expected the part to be filled by an actor accustomed to playing comic roles, tossing around names such as Robin Williams, Steve Martin, and Tom Hanks. However, Travolta was aggressively sought after by producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron for this role because he had starred as Danny Zuko in Grease, the second most successful movie musical to date, beaten only by Mamma Mia!.
Michelle Pfeiffer as Velma Von Tussle, the manager of station WYZT and a racist and sizeist. Velma is interested in keeping her daughter Amber in the spotlight and The Corny Collins Show segregated. Hairspray was the first film featuring Pfeiffer to be released in five years. Stardust, also featuring Pfeiffer, was shot before Hairspray, but released three weeks afterwards. The peculiarity of Pfeiffer and Travolta appearing onscreen together (Travolta starred in Grease, Pfeiffer in Grease 2) was not lost on the production staff; Travolta requested that Pfeiffer play the part of the villainess.
Christopher Walken as Wilbur Turnblad, Tracy's father, the easygoing proprietor of the "Hardy-Har Hut" joke shop below the Turnblad family's apartment. John Travolta had asked that Walken be considered for the part, and he eventually beat out Billy Crystal and Jim Broadbent for the role of Wilbur.
Amanda Bynes as Penny Lou Pingleton, Tracy's best friend, a sheltered girl who falls in love with Seaweed, despite the efforts of her racist, devoutly religious and stern mother, Prudy Pingleton. A young actress famous for appearances on Nickelodeon TV shows and in feature films, Bynes was one of the few movie stars cast among the teen roles.
Queen Latifah as Maybelle "Motormouth" Stubbs, a Baltimore rhythm and blues radio DJ who hosts "Negro Day" on The Corny Collins Show. Maybelle also runs a record shop on North Avenue. Queen Latifah appeared in the successful Zadan/Meron film musical Chicago, and worked under Adam Shankman's direction in Bringing Down the House. She beat out soul legend Aretha Franklin for the role of Maybelle.
James Marsden as Corny Collins, the host of The Corny Collins Show; his politically progressive attitudes lead him to fight his show's imposed segregation. Corny Collins is based upon Baltimore TV personality, Buddy Deane, who hosted an eponymous local teen dance show in the late 1950s and early 1960s. James Marsden beat out both Joey McIntyre and X-Men co-star Hugh Jackman for the part.
Brittany Snow as Amber Von Tussle, Velma's bratty daughter and the lead female dancer on The Corny Collins Show. Amber becomes Tracy's enemy when Tracy threatens both Amber's chances of winning the "Miss Teenage Hairspray" crown and Amber's relationship with her boyfriend, Link. Snow previously worked with Shankman in The Pacifier. Hayden Panettiere was also considered for the part of Amber, but was decided against in part because of her then-upcoming work with the NBC television series Heroes.
Zac Efron as Link Larkin, Amber's boyfriend and the lead male dancer on The Corny Collins Show. Link is a singer who becomes more attracted to Tracy. The character is based in part upon Elvis Presley. Efron, a popular teen actor who played Troy Bolton in the Disney Channel TV film High School Musical, was initially thought by Shankman to be "too Disney". Shankman's sister, executive producer Jennifer Gibgot, convinced her brother to cast Efron, believing that the teen star would draw a substantial teen crowd.
Elijah Kelley as Seaweed J. Stubbs, Maybelle's son, a skilled dancer who teaches Tracy some dance moves and falls in love with her friend, Penny. Kelley, a relative newcomer to film, overcame other auditioners and several popular R&B stars for the part of Seaweed.
Allison Janney as Prudence "Prudy" Pingleton, Penny's mother, a Christian fundamentalist whose strict parenting keeps Penny from experiencing social life. Her husband is serving a prison sentence for an unspecified crime. Prudy is horrified when her daughter is on TV, and decides to keep her from leaving the house anymore.
Paul Dooley as Harriman F. Spritzer, the owner of the "Ultra Clutch" company and the main sponsor of The Corny Collins Show. Although he prefers to keep The Corny Collins Show segregated, he will follow public opinion if it increases sales.
Jayne Eastwood as Miss Wimsey, Tracy’s geography teacher; gives Tracy the detention note that first leads her to Seaweed.
Jerry Stiller as Mr. Pinky, the owner of a dress shop called Mr. Pinky's Hefty Hideaway, who hires Tracy as his spokesgirl. In the original film, Stiller played Wilbur Turnblad.
Taylor Parks as Little Inez Stubbs, Maybelle's teenage daughter, Seaweed's younger sister, and a skilled dancer. Inez is based in part upon Ruby Bridges, the first black child to attend a formerly all-white school in the state of Louisiana.
George King as Mr. Flak, Amber, Link, and Tracy's history teacher. He gives Tracy detention when Amber frames Tracy of drawing a picture of him with breasts. He gives Link detention as well for coming to Tracy's defense.
In addition to the principal actors, the film contained several cameo appearances by individuals involved in the history of Hairspray:Ricki Lake (Tracy Turnblad in the original film) as William Morris Talent Agent #1, (Audio) performs "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now".
Adam Shankman (choreographer/director of the film) as William Morris Talent Agent #2 (Audio) sings "Tied Up in the Knots of Sin" with Shaiman which is heard when Prudy turns the record player on while she ties up Penny.
Marc Shaiman (co-lyricist/writer of the film) as William Morris Talent Agent #3 (Audio) sings "Tied Up in the Knots of Sin" with Shankman which is heard when Prudy turns the record player on while she ties up Penny.
Scott Wittman (co-lyricist and music writer of the film) as William Morris Talent Agent #4.
John Waters (writer and director of the original film) as the "flasher who lives next door" during "Good Morning Baltimore"
Jamal Sims (Associate choreographer) as one of the Detention Kids
Anne Fletcher (Associate choreographer) as the school nurse
Zach Woodlee (Associate choreographer) as Smoking teacher
Marissa Jaret Winokur (Original Broadway cast's Tracy) performs "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now"
Harvey Fierstein (Original Broadway cast's Edna) as brief singing cameo in the end credits "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now"
Corey Reynolds (Original Broadway cast's Seaweed) as singer of "Trouble on the Line". The song is heard shortly after "Big, Blonde and Beautiful" until Maybelle announces the cancellation of Negro Day.
Arthur Adams (One of the Broadway cast's Seaweed) performs "Boink-Boink" which is heard during "Big, Blonde and Beautiful".
Chester Gregory (One of the Broadway cast's Seaweed) performs "Breakout", which is heard during Tracy's introduction to Seaweed in detention.
Aimee Allen performs "Cooties"
- "Good Morning Baltimore" – Tracy (Nikki Blonsky)
- "The Nicest Kids in Town" – Corny and Council Members (James Marsden)
- "It Takes Two" – Link (Zac Efron)
- "(The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs" – Velma and Council Members (Michelle Pfeiffer)
- "I Can Hear the Bells" – Tracy (Nikki Blonsky)
- "Ladies' Choice" – Link (Zac Efron)
- "The Nicest Kids in Town (Reprise)" – Corny, Council Members, Penny, Edna, Wilbur (James Marsden)
- "The New Girl in Town" – Amber, Tammy, Shelley, and The Dynamites (Brittany Snow)
- "Welcome to the 60's" – Tracy, Edna, The Dynamites, and Hefty Hideaway Employees (Nikki Blonsky & John Travolta)
- "Run and Tell That" – Seaweed, Little Inez, and Detention Kids (Elijah Kelley ft. Taylor Parks)
- "Big, Blonde and Beautiful" – Motormouth (Queen Latifah)
- "Big, Blonde and Beautiful (Reprise)" – Velma and Edna (Michelle Pfeiffer & John Travolta)
- "(You're) Timeless to Me" – Wilbur and Edna (Christopher Walken & John Travolta)
- "I Know Where I've Been" – Motormouth (Queen Latifah)
- "Without Love" – Link, Tracy, Seaweed, Penny, and Detention Kids (Zac Efron, Nikki Blonsky, Elijah Kelley, Amanda Bynes)
- "(It's) Hairspray" – Corny and Council Members (James Marsden)
- "You Can't Stop the Beat" – Company (Nikki Blonsky, Zac Efron, Amanda Bynes, Elijah Kelley, John Travolta and Queen Latifah)
- "Come So Far (Got So Far to Go)" (end credits) – (Queen Latifah, Zac Efron, Nikki Blonsky, and Elijah Kelley)
- "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now" (end credits) – Ricki Lake, Marissa Jaret Winokur, and Nikki Blonsky with Harvey Fierstein
- "Cooties" (end credits) – Aimee Allen
Music producer/composer/co-lyricist Marc Shaiman and co-lyricist Scott Wittman were required to alter their Broadway Hairspray song score in various ways in order to work on film, from changing portions of the lyrics in some songs (e.g., "(The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs", "Big, Blonde, and Beautiful", and "You Can't Stop the Beat") to more or less completely removing other songs from the film altogether.
"Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now", a popular number from the stage musical, features Tracy, Penny, and Amber arguing with their respective mothers. Neither Shankman nor Dixon could come up with a solution for filming "Mama" that did not require a three-way split screen — something they wanted to avoid — and both felt the number did not adequately advance the plot. As a result, "Mama" was reluctantly dropped from the film during pre-production, although it is used by Shaiman as an instrumental number when the Corny Collins kids dance the "Stricken Chicken". A special version of "Mama" was recorded for the film's end credits in May 2007, during the final score recording process, which featured vocals from each of the three women most famous for portraying Tracy Turnblad: Ricki Lake from the 1988 film, Marissa Jaret Winokur from the original Broadway cast, and Nikki Blonsky from the 2007 film. Harvey Fierstein, who portrayed Edna as part of the original Broadway cast, has a brief cameo moment in the end credits version of "Mama" as well.
"It Takes Two", a solo for Link, was moved from its place in the stage musical (on Tracy's first day on The Corny Collins Show) to an earlier Corny Collins scene, although only the coda of the song is used in the final release print, and the song's background music can be heard immediately after the reprise of "The Nicest Kids in Town". "Cooties", a solo for Amber in the stage musical, is present in this film as an instrumental during the Miss Teenage Hairspray dance-off. As with "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now", a version of "Cooties", performed in a contemporary pop rendition by Aimee Allen, is present during the end credits.
The performance of a vintage dance called The Madison, present in both the 1988 film and the stage musical, was replaced for this version by a newly composed song, "Ladies' Choice". Portions of the Madison dance steps were integrated into the choreography for the musical number "You Can't Stop the Beat", and the song to which the dance is performed on Broadway can be heard during Motormouth Maybelle's platter party in the film, re-titled "Boink-Boink". "The Big Dollhouse", "Velma's Revenge" (a reprise of "Miss Baltimore Crabs"), and the reprise of "Good Morning Baltimore" were the only numbers from the musical not used in the film in any way.
Shaiman and Wittman composed two new songs for the 2007 film: "Ladies' Choice", a solo for Link, and "Come So Far (Got So Far to Go)", a song performed during the end credits by Queen Latifah, Blonsky, Efron, and Kelley. Another "new" song in the 2007 film, "The New Girl in Town", had originally been composed for the Broadway musical, but was deemed unnecessary and discarded from the musical. Director Shankman decided to use the song to both underscore a rise-to-fame montage for Tracy and to showcase Maybelle's "Negro Day", which is never actually seen in either of the earlier incarnations of Hairspray.
One additional Shaiman/Wittman song, a ballad entitled "I Can Wait", was composed for the film as a solo for Tracy, meant to replace the stage musical's reprise of "Good Morning Baltimore". "I Can Wait" was shot for the film (Tracy performs the number while locked in Prudy's basement), but was eventually deleted from the final release print. The audio recording of "I Can Wait" was made available as a special bonus track for customers who pre-ordered the Hairspray soundtrack on iTunes, and the scene itself was included as a special feature on the film's DVD release.
Post-production took place in Los Angeles. Composer/co-lyricist Shaiman continued work on the film's music, employing the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra to record instrumentation for both the songs and the incidental score.
Following the success of the Broadway musical of the same name, which won eight Tony Awards in 2003, New Line Cinema, who owned the rights to the 1988 John Waters film upon which the stage musical is based, became interested in adapting the stage show as a musical film. Development work began in late 2004, while a similarly film-to-Broadway-to-film project, Mel Brooks' The Producers, was in production.
Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the executive producers of the Academy Award-winning film adaptation of the Broadway musical Chicago, were hired as the producers for Hairspray, and began discussing possibly casting John Travolta and Billy Crystal (or Jim Broadbent) as Edna and Wilbur Turnblad, respectively. Thomas Meehan and Mark O'Donnell, authors of the book for the stage musical, wrote the first draft of the film's screenplay, but were replaced by Leslie Dixon, screenwriter for family comedies such as Mrs. Doubtfire and Freaky Friday. After a year's deliberation on who should direct the film, Zadan and Meron finally decided to hire Adam Shankman to both direct and choreograph Hairspray. Upon learning he had been hired, Shankman arranged a meeting with John Waters, who advised him "don't do what I did, don't do what the play did. You've gotta do your own thing." Despite this, Shankman still noted "all roads of Hairspray lead back to John Waters."
Tony Gardner (designer) and his company Alterian, Inc. were hired to design and create the look of Edna Turnblad on John Travolta. Costume designer Rita Ryack wanted to put Edna into several revealing outfits, so Travolta ended up being encapsulated in prosthetics. He wore silicone prosthetics on his head and neck, and foam latex arms and legs that connected to a spandex and foam body suit.
Dixon was primarily hired to tone down much of the campiness inherent in the stage musical. The 2007 film's script is based primarily on the stage musical rather than the 1988 film, so several changes already made to the plot for the stage version remain in this version. These include dropping several characters from the 1988 version (such as Arvin Hodgepile (the role Mr. Spritzer fills), Velma's husband Franklin, Corny's assistant Tammy, the beatniks, et al.), removing the Tilted Acres amusement park from the story, and placing Velma in charge of the station where The Corny Collins Show is filmed.
One notable difference between the stage musical, the original film, and the 2007 film version of Hairspray is that Tracy does not go to jail in the 2007 version (thus eliminating the musical's song "The Big Dollhouse"). In both previous incarnations of Hairspray, Tracy is arrested and taken to jail along with the other protesters. Edna is presented in this version as an insecure introvert, in contrast to the relatively bolder incarnations present in the 1988 film and the stage musical. Among many other elements changed or added to this version are the removal of Motormouth Maybelle's habit of speaking in rhyming jive talk, and doubling the number of teens in Corny Collins' Council (from ten on Broadway to twenty in the 2007 film).
Dixon restructured portions of Hairspray's book to allow several of the songs to blend more naturally into the plot, in particular "(You're) Timeless to Me" and "I Know Where I've Been". "(You're) Timeless to Me" becomes the anchor of a newly invented subplot involving Velma's attempt to break up Edna and Wilbur’s marriage and keep Tracy off The Corny Collins Show as a result. The song now serves as Wilbur's apology to Edna, in addition to its original purpose in the stage musical as a tongue-in-cheek declaration of Wilbur and Edna's love for each other. Meanwhile, "I Know Where I've Been", instead of being sung by Maybelle to the kids after being let out of jail, now underscores Maybelle's march on WYZT (which takes place in the stage musical at the end of "Big, Blonde, and Beautiful").
The song "Big, Blonde, and Beautiful" was inspired by a line that Tracy delivered in the original film ("Now all of Baltimore will know: I'm big, blonde and beautiful!"), but in the stage version and in this film, Motormouth Maybelle performs the song. A reprise of the song was added to the 2007 film, which is sung by Edna and Velma.
Hairspray was produced on a budget of $75 million. An open casting call was announced to cast unknowns in Atlanta, New York City, and Chicago. After auditioning over eleven hundred candidates, Nikki Blonsky, an eighteen-year-old high school senior from Great Neck, New York who had no previous professional acting experience, was chosen for the lead role of Tracy. Relative unknowns Elijah Kelley and Taylor Parks were chosen through similar audition contests to portray siblings Seaweed and Little Inez Stubbs, respectively. John Travolta was finally cast as Edna, with Christopher Walken ultimately assuming the role of Wilbur. Several other stars, including Queen Latifah, James Marsden, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Allison Janney were chosen for the other supporting adult roles of Motormouth Maybelle, Corny Collins, Velma Von Tussle, and Prudy Pingleton, respectively. Teen stars Amanda Bynes, and Zac Efron were cast as Tracy's friends Penny and Link, and Brittany Snow was cast as her rival, Amber Von Tussle. Jerry Stiller, who played Wilbur Turnblad in the original film, appears as plus-sized women's clothes retailer Mr. Pinky in this version.
Since Hairspray's plot focuses heavily on dance, choreography became a heavy focus for Shankman, who hired four assistant choreographers, Jamal Sims, Anne Fletcher, and Zach Woodlee, and put both his acting cast and over a hundred and fifty dancers through two months of rehearsals. The cast recorded the vocal tracks for their songs as coached by Elaine Overholt in the weeks just before principal photography began in September.
Principal photography took place in Toronto, and Hamilton, Ontario, Canada from September 5-December 8, 2006. Hairspray is explicitly set in Baltimore, Maryland and the original 1988 film had been shot on location there, but the 2007 film was shot primarily in Toronto because the city was better equipped with the sound stages necessary to film a musical. The opening shots of the descent from the clouds and the newspaper being dropped onto the stoop are the only times that the actual city of Baltimore is shown in the film.
The majority of the film was shot at Toronto's Showline Studios. Most of the street scenes were shot at the intersection of Dundas Street West and Roncesvalles Avenue. A PCC streetcar with Toronto Transit Commission livery is seen in the opening sequence. Some of the signs for the 1960s-era stores remain up along the street. Toronto's Lord Lansdowne Public School was used for all of the high school exteriors and some of the interiors, while the old Queen Victoria School in Hamilton was also used for interiors. Scenes at Queen Victoria were shot from November 22 to December 2, and the school was scheduled to be demolished after film production was completed.
Thinner than most of the other men who have portrayed Edna, Travolta appeared onscreen in a large fat suit, and required four hours of makeup in order to appear before the cameras. His character's nimble dancing style belies her girth; Shankman based Edna's dancing style on the hippo ballerinas in the Dance of the Hours sequence in Walt Disney's 1940 animated feature, Fantasia. Although early versions of the suit created "a dumpy, Alfred Hitchcock version of Edna," Travolta fought for the ability to give his character curves and a thick Baltimore accent. Designed by Tony Gardner, the fat suit was created using lightweight synthetic materials, consisting of layered pads and silicone, which was used from the chest upwards. The suit provided the additional benefit of covering Travolta's beard, eliminating the problem of his facial hair growing through his makeup midday.
Shankman included "a lot of winks" to films that influenced his work on Hairspray:The film's opening shot — a bird's eye view of Baltimore that eventually descends from the clouds to ground level — is a combination of the opening shots of West Side Story and The Sound of Music.
Before we see a full shot of Tracy, we see individual shots of her upraised right and left arms. This is reminiscent of our first views of Sadie Thompson (Joan Crawford) in the 1932 film Rain.
Several scenes involving Tracy, such as her ride atop the garbage truck during the "Good Morning Baltimore" number and her new hairstyle during "Welcome to the '60s", are directly inspired by the Barbra Streisand musical film version of Funny Girl.
During "Without Love", Link sings to a photograph of Tracy, which comes to life and sings harmony with him. This is directly inspired from the MGM musical The Broadway Melody of 1938, in which a young Judy Garland swoons over a photo of actor Clark Gable as she sings "You Made Me Love You".
The dress that Penny wears during "You Can't Stop the Beat" is made from her bedroom curtains, which can be seen during "Without Love". This is homage to The Sound of Music, where Maria uses old curtains to make play clothes for the von Trapp children.
Hairspray debuted in 3,121 theaters in North America on July 20, 2007, the widest debut of any modern movie musical. The film earned $27.5 million in its opening weekend at #3, behind I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. This made Hairspray the record-holder for the biggest opening weekend for a movie based on a Broadway musical. This record was later broken by the release of Mamma Mia!, which grossed $27.8 million on its opening weekend. Hairspray has since gone on to become the fourth highest grossing musical in U.S. cinema history, surpassing The Rocky Horror Picture Show ($145 million) and Dreamgirls ($103 million), released seven months prior. Ending its domestic run on October 25, 2007, Hairspray has a total domestic gross of $118.9 million and $202.5 million worldwide. Its biggest overseas markets include the United Kingdom ($25.8 million), Australia ($14.4 million), Japan ($8 million), Italy ($4.6 million), France ($3.9 million) and Spain ($3.8 million). This made Hairspray the third musical film in history to cross $200 million internationally, behind 1978's hit Grease ($395 million) and 2002's Chicago ($307 million). It is the seventh highest-grossing PG-rated film of 2007, and has grossed more than other higher-budgeted summer releases like Ocean's Thirteen ($117 million) and Evan Almighty ($100 million).
Two weeks after its original release, new "sing-along" prints of Hairspray were shipped to theaters. These prints featured the lyrics to each song printed onscreen as subtitles, encouraging audiences to interact with the film. On January 4, 2008, Hairspray was re-released in New York City and Los Angeles for one week because John Travolta was present for Q&A and autographs.
Hairspray has garnered acclaim from film critics such as Roger Ebert, The New York Times, and The Boston Globe, as well as a smaller number of reviews comparing it unfavorably to the Waters original. The film is one of the top picks on Metacritic, with an average of 81. It scored a 91% "Certified Fresh" approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, also indicating excellent reviews, making it one of 2007's best-reviewed films. Peter Rainer of The Christian Science Monitor named it the 4th best film of 2007. Lou Lumenick of the New York Post named it the ninth best film of 2007.
Ebert gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4, saying that there was "a lot of craft and slyness lurking beneath the circa-1960s goofiness," also stating that "The point, however, is not the plot but the energy. Without somebody like Nikki Blonsky at the heart of the movie, it might fall flat, but everybody works at her level of happiness..." Ebert also noted that this film is "a little more innocent than Waters would have made it..." Krishna Shenoi, of the Shenoi Chronicle, called the movie "Shankman's masterpiece," saying that it moved away from his previous works into a different direction, making a light comedy that deals with serious issues maturely. Shenoi also said that the film was everything he wanted Grease to be. Lou Lumenick of The New York Post hailed Hairspray as "The best and most entertaining movie adaptation of a stage musical so far this century — and yes, I’m including the Oscar-winning Chicago," calling it "one of the best-cast movies in recent memory..." New York Daily News critic Jack Matthews called the film "A great big sloppy kiss of entertainment for audiences weary of explosions, CGI effects and sequels, sequels, sequels." The Baltimore Sun review offered Michael Sragow's opinion that "in its entirety, Hairspray has the funny tilt that only a director-choreographer like Shankman can give to a movie," pointing out that Shankman skillfully "puts a new-millennial zing behind exact re-creations of delirious period dances like the Mashed Potato." Dana Stevens from Slate called Hairspray "intermittently tasty, if a little too frantically eager to please." Stevens noted that "Despite its wholesomeness, this version stays remarkably true to the spirit of the original, with one size-60 exception: John Travolta as Edna Turnblad," saying "How you feel about Hairspray will depend entirely on your reaction to this performance..."
The New Yorker's David Denby felt the new version of Hairspray was "perfectly pleasant," but compared unfavorably to the Broadway musical, since "[director Adam Shankman and screenwriter Leslie Dixon] have removed the traces of camp humor and Broadway blue that gave the stage show its happily knowing flavor." Denby criticized the dance numbers, calling them "unimaginatively shot," and he considered "the idea of substituting John Travolta for Harvey Fierstein as Tracy’s hefty mother... a blandly earnest betrayal." Stephanie Zacharek of Salon.com found Hairspray "reasonably entertaining. But do we really need to be entertained reasonably? Waters' original was a crazy sprawl that made perfect sense; this Hairspray toils needlessly to make sense of that craziness, and something gets lost in the translation." Zacharek was also displeased with the way Latifah's performance of "I Know Where I've Been" was incorporated into the movie, saying "The filmmakers may believe they're adding an extra layer of seriousness to the material... [but] the inclusion of this big production number only suggests that the filmmakers fear the audience won't get the movie's message unless it's spelled out for them."
Despite its critical and commercial success, Hairspray nonetheless garnered some criticism upon its release by individuals in the gay community. Much of this criticism surrounded Travolta's portrayal of Edna Turnblad, a role played in the original film by celebrated drag performer Divine, and in the stage adaptation by Harvey Fierstein. Kevin Naff, a managing editor for Washington, D.C./Baltimore area gay newspaper the Washington Blade called for a boycott of the new Hairspray film, alleging that Scientology, in which Travolta believes, was patently homophobic, and allegedly supported workshops designed to "cure" homosexuals. Adam Shankman protested Naff's proposed boycott, stating that Travolta was not homophobic, as he (Shankman), Waters, Shaiman, Wittman, and several other members of the creative staff were homosexual, and Travolta got along well with the entire crew. "John's personal beliefs did not walk onto my set," said Shankman. "I never heard the word 'Scientology.'"
Hairspray was released in standard DVD and HD Blu-ray Disc formats in Region 1 on November 20, 2007. The Blu-ray disc is encoded with 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio. The standard DVD was released in two versions: a one-disc release and a two-disc "Shake and Shimmy" edition.
Bonus features on the two-disc release include two audio commentaries, a feature-length production documentary, featurettes on the earlier versions of Hairspray, dance instruction featurettes, deleted scenes including Tracy's deleted song "I Can Wait", a slightly extended ending, and an alternate version of the "Big, Blonde and Beautiful" reprise, and behind-the-scenes looks at the production of each of the film's dance numbers. The Blu-ray release, a two-disc release, includes all of the features from the two-disc DVD, and includes a picture-in-picture behind-the-scenes feature, which runs concurrently with the film. An HD DVD version of the film was originally slated for release in 2008, but was canceled due to New Line Cinema's announcement that it would go Blu-ray exclusive with immediate effect, thus dropping HD DVD support.
Following is a list of awards that Hairspray or its cast have won or for which they have been nominated.
Due to Hairspray's financial success, New Line Cinema had asked John Waters to write a sequel to the film. Waters reunited with director/choreographer Adam Shankman for the project, and songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman were set to compose the film's musical numbers.
The story would have looked at Tracy's entering the late 1960s era of music and the British Invasion, and used the Hippie movement and Vietnam War as backdrops. While no official casting was announced, New Line said that they hoped to "snag much of the original Hairspray cast." John Travolta, however, publicly announced that he would not return because he is "not a big sequel guy".
The sequel was set for a mid-July 2010 release by Warner Bros., which owns New Line Cinema. However in June 2010, Shankman told British press that Hairspray 2: White Lipstick was no longer in development. Shankman has also said that there will be no sequel.