New Line Cinema has made pay-or-play deals with John Travolta and Queen Latifah to star in the Adam Shankman-directed musical Hairspray, which will begin production in Baltimore and Toronto in September. Variety says Craig Zadan and Neil Meron are producing.
Travolta will play downtrodden housewife Edna Turnblad and Latifah takes on the role of Motormouth Maybelle, a civil rights activist and dance show host in the 1962-set musical.
The film is set for a summer 2007 release.
A nationwide search is on to find a fresh face for the lead, Tracy Turnblad, a chubby teen played by Ricki Lake in John Waters' original film and by Marissa Jaret Winokur in the Tony-winning stage musical.
Open calls have already been held in New York, Atlanta and Chicago, with other cities planned, including Baltimore.
Travolta's deal ended a tug of war for his fall slot between New Line and Fox/New Regency, which had been trying to secure him to play J.R. Ewing in Dallas. Travolta is still eager to play that role, but the film will have to be pushed back if that is to happen.
Shankman, who is also choreographing, will begin rehearsals in the summer. Leslie Dixon wrote the script and Marc Shaiman wrote the music and co-wrote the lyrics with Scott Wittman.
Shaiman and Wittman, who won Tony Awards for score for the Broadway musical, will write several additional songs for the movie, and the singing and dancing for Travolta's character will be greatly expanded beyond what was done onstage.
Latifah reunites with her Bringing Down the House helmer Shankman, as well as Zadan and Meron, who executive produced Chicago. Once again, she's got a role that will display her vocal prowess, the producers said.