Bedtime Stories: Interview with Adam Shankman

You are not supposed to work with kids or animals. Yet you do both in Bedtime Stories. How did you cope?

The thing about working with kids and animals is an actor's fear because they don't want to be upstaged by the cuteness. The kids are always going to steal the scene. In this one we encouraged that. Anytime we weren't funny enough we would go to the guinea pig. The animals were so incredibly well trained that they were a dream. Those elephants were unbelievable. One of the elephants would rap his trunk around the littler boy and carry him around. The kids were a little uppity at first because it was hard for them to keep a straight face while working with Adam because he would make them laugh so much. But by about Week 3 they were totally bored with him! (jokes)

There are Brits, Aussies and Kiwis on screen. Did that make for Commonwealth Vs USA rivalry?

There were no rivalries, it was amazing. I think this is the most international cast that Adam has worked with. We were very blessed in having people like Richard Griffiths and Guy Pearce and Jonathan Pryce. I don't think it started out like a goal; it was just how it happened.

How would you describe the Adam Sandler factor?

I think it is every guy who bucks the system, who goes against it. Adam is a humble guy and that translates on to the screen. I think that is a lot of what it is. I know that is why I fell in love with him originally. In the process of making a movie you have o watch it hundreds of times and it can get to be torture at a certain point. But what was very sweet was that every time we watched the movie and the Disney logo appeared and Adam would go…I am just happy with that.

Was there any pressure from Disney regarding the tone of the film?

I think we made a more sophisticated Disney movie but with a little bit of edge in there. But it comes off the charisma of a sophisticated cast.

How important is DVD today?

Now it seems like two-thirds of any film’s audience is on DVD. One of the things hat struck me is that when I go back and look at DVDs of my work they look so much more beautiful than they did on the movie screen. I know that this one is absolutely going to look better on DVD. There is nothing better than the experience of going into the theatre but there is no denying the importance of DVD and its far-reaching effect.

Are you a DVD collector?

Yeah! Every time I do a movie I go out and buy 100 DVDs to put in my trailer so that I always have something to watch when we are in down time.

How did persuade Guy Pearce to do a movie in which he is constantly made fun of?

It was really important for me to surround Adam with as many sophisticated people as I could. I had met Guy through a friend. He was a huge fan of Hairspray and we got on famously. I knew this character had to be slick and smarmy and I thought why not cast Guy Pearce. I thought he would never do it but we should offer it to him. So I sent him the script and he called and said he could do it. I couldn’t believe it was happening. I think it was because he had done a lot of really intense things back to back. He did it and I said I just needed the villain to be the Cruella De Vil of the piece and he knew what movie he was in.

Why cast Lucy Lawless?

When she auditioned she came in wearing this crazy red wig. She was hysterical. One day near the end of the movie when we were shooting the blowing up of the school, she was bored. All of a suddenly I looked up during the filming of a crowd scene and there was Lucy in a hat and sunglasses, walking around with the extras. She always added such fun stuff. There is a lot of stuff with Lucy and Guy that was cut out of the movie but I hope it will be on the DVD. It was so funny! They had this crazy relationship in the movie.

And you persuaded Courtney Cox to do a cameo?

That was something that I don’t she would have done for anyone other than Adam because they are very close. I used to be the on-set choreographer for Friends so I knew the cast of that show pretty well and Courtney and Coco, her daughter, are huge fans of Hairspray. So I think that she just wanted to be with us.

Your movies have made more than half a billion dollars! So how does it feel to be the golden boy of American film comedy?

I don’t know what to make of it, it doesn’t make any sense to me. I don’t remember it all happening. My movies do really well in hard times and I sort of feel bad about that but if I help make escapist fare during distressing times then that is not so awful. I am delighted that I get to work…period. I certainly do not take this for granted. This was a movie I made for my nephew and niece and I feel really good about that. What attracted me to Bedtime Stories was the notion of being able to make five movies within one movie. Not everyone gets to make a space movie, a western, a gladiator movie, a medieval costume movie inside one comedy…which is what I hope kids find delightful about it. The movie does not seem preachy but the message in Bedtime Stories is about talking with your kids, communicate and open up with imagination. We are living in a time when thinking needs to change, that is the only way the world is going to evolve.

What are your plans?

Next I have been hired by Disney to do an original musical that was written by the guys who did the music for Hairspray.

This looks like being the year of 3-D. Why is it so cool now?

Yeah but I still don’t get it but it everyone else gets it then I’m cool with it. I am still struggling with shooting digitally like I did with Bedtime Stories.