BALTIMORE (July 19, 2006) — “Good Morning, Baltimore” — Canada is calling.”Hairspray” will be shot entirely in Toronto. Producer Craig Zadan said Baltimore simply doesn’t have the vast soundstages needed to mount such an elaborate production.
“When you do a big movie musical, you need huge soundstages because the sets are very big,” Zadan said Wednesday. “You also need a lot of ceiling space because you do a lot of sweeping crane shots, so you’ve got huge camera equipment.”
Cost also was a factor. Despite lobbying by the Maryland Film Office, “Hairspray” won’t even send its second unit to town to shoot exteriors of the city’s distinctive rowhouses. Instead, they will be recreated on Toronto soundstages and streets, and still photographs of Baltimore will be digitally inserted into the finished product.
Although the budget for the movie will exceed $50 million, Zadan said it wasn’t feasible to uproot the production and move it to Baltimore even for a few days of shooting.
Similar to last year’s “The Producers,” “Hairspray” is a filmed version of a Broadway musical that was adapted from a movie — in this case, John Waters’ 1988 cult feature about the desegregation of a Baltimore TV dance show.
Waters, a consultant on the new movie who recently toured potential Baltimore locations with director Adam Shankman, was far from despondent over the news.
“It’s not the most shocking thing in the world,” Waters said Wednesday. “It’s a huge, big-budget musical with people dancing, and those generally are shot on sets that they build.”
The production needed two soundstages of more than 40,000 square feet, and such facilities simply don’t exist in Maryland, said Dennis Castleman, assistant secretary for film with the state Department of Business and Economic Development.
Castleman said the state likely would have had to offer about $9 million in incentives to offset the money saved by going to Canada. His office was authorized by the Legislature to allocate about $6.8 million in tax breaks and other incentives to moviemakers this year, but there’s a cap of $2 million per production.
“It comes down to money,” said Pat Moran, Waters’ longtime casting director. “If there were a soundstage here and the right incentives, it would be `Good Morning, Baltimore,’ (a song in the musical) not `Good Morning, Toronto.”’
Baltimore is no stranger to big-budget movies, but productions that come to town do most of their shooting on location. Sometimes, the city stands in for Washington, where permits to film can be difficult to obtain. “The Visiting,” a Washington-set sci-fi thriller starring Nicole Kidman that’s scheduled for release in 2007, shot for 10 weeks in Baltimore last year.
Zadan also confirmed Wednesday that, barring any last-minute snafus, Michelle Pfeiffer will join the “Hairspray” cast as the villainous Velma von Tussel.
“It’s as good as done,” Zadan said. “We’re very excited.”
The cast already includes John Travolta, Queen Latifah, Billy Crystal and Amanda Bynes. Newcomer Nicole Blonsky won the role of plump teenager Tracy Turnblad.
Zadan spoke by phone from Toronto, where the actors have already begun two months of rehearsals before shooting starts on Sept. 5. He insists that the movie will be a love letter to Baltimore — despite the Canadian postmark.”We want to honor Baltimore and honor John Waters, because without Baltimore and without John Waters, there wouldn’t be a `Hairspray,”’ he said. “Our first choice was to go to Baltimore and shoot everything there.”