Film director and choreographer Adam Shankman was born on November 27, 1964 in Los Angeles, California. Raised in a “traditional Jewish upbringing”, he entered Juilliard School in New York, but eventually dropped out to dance in musical theater. He went on to dance in music videos for artists such as Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul, before breaking into choreography, debuting on a music video for MC Shan in 1989. While he got the job by bluffing about choreographing routines for Abdul and Jackson, he nonetheless went on to choreograph for movies.
Shankman continued doing choreography, but eventually made his foray to directing, starting with the Sundance Film Festival short Cosmo’s Tale. He then helped his sister on a script for that would become The Wedding Planner; it was his first feature film as a director. He went on to direct many other films, such as A Walk to Remember, The Pacifier and Cheaper by the Dozen 2; he initially had the reputation of being the director who was called to “fix” films doomed to fail, and make them more successful.
He did manage to do that to some of his films, but the best was yet to come for Shankman. In 2007, he was tasked to direct Hairspray, the musical film featuring Nikki Blonsky and Zac Efron. It became a hit, both critically and commercially. He went on to direct the films Bedtime Stories and Vampire Movie, and is attached to direct Hairspray’s sequel, in 2010. He also worked as a choreographer for Hairspray, as well as in the Step Up film series.
Shankman, who is openly gay, has also worked on television, his early work including routines for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He is best know, however, as a choreographer and guest judge for So You Think You Can Dance, which he joined from the third season; he is known for coining the term “lyrical hip hop”, which he used to describe the routines done by Tabitha and Napoleon.
- Midnight Cabaret (1990)
- Rockula (1990)
- The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag (1992)
- Monster Mash: The Movie (1995)
- Scream 2 (1997)
- Stuck on You (1997)
- Cheaper by the Dozen (2005)
- Step Up (2006)
- Hairspray (2007)
- So You Think You Can Dance (judge, 2007-present)