Toronto holds style of '88 'Hairspray'


John Waters shot his "Hairspray," about the characters he knew in his misspent Baltimore youth of the early 1960s, in that Maryland city. Now, as a reflection of the filmmaking realities of the 21st century, "Hairspray," the Adam Shankman-helmed adaptation of the Broadway musical based on Waters' original 1988 movie, sees Baltimore played by Toronto.

But that doesn't mean care wasn't given to bring Baltimore north of the border.

"I really made my production designer (David Gropman) study Baltimore and the neighborhoods and take pictures of every building," Shankman said. "John took me on the tour where it all really happened and where he made the movie, and I seared it into my mind."

Luckily, a lot of downtown Toronto has that midcentury working-class vibe reflecting the time period, even if it might be more gentrified. This is where designers really went to work.

"I was all about dressing," Shankman said.

Waters doesn't mind the new "Hairspray" not being shot in his hometown, seeing it as a necessary step in the re-creation of his movie.

Giving the tour to the filmmakers allowed them "to see it and then reinvent it in their minds for their fantasy," Waters said. "In a weird way, my movie was a very realistic movie about what happened. And then the Broadway version was the singing and dancing version, and then this movie is a Hollywood movie of all those things put together."

New Line's "Hairspray" opens wide Friday.