- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 5, 2006

New ‘Hairspray’ stars

John Travolta and Queen Latifah have signed on to star in New Line Cinema’s upcoming feature film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical “Hairspray,” it was announced by Toby Emmerich, New Line’s president of Production.

Mr. Travolta will play Edna Turnblad and Queen Latifah will play Motormouth Maybelle in the film, which is being directed by Adam Shankman and produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, for their Zadan/Meron Productions. A nationwide casting search is currently under way to find a newcomer to play the lead role of Tracy Turnblad in the film, with production on “Hairspray” scheduled to begin this fall for a potential summer 2007 release.

“John and Queen Latifah will bring new sensibilities to the characters of Edna Turnblad and Motormouth Maybelle, and introduce this innovative musical comedy to new audiences,” said New Line co-chairman Michael Lynne.

“Hairspray” was based on the 1988 John Waters comedy about star-struck teenagers on a local Baltimore dance show. The new version of the film will be based on New Line’s hit Broadway adaptation of the film, which debuted in 2002 and went on to win eight Tony Awards including best musical, best score, best book and best director.

Mr. Travolta burst into the dance musical world 30 years ago with “Saturday Night Fever” and packed a one-two punch the following year with the release of “Grease,” the most successful movie musical of all time. Mr. Travolta was nominated for Oscars for “Fever” and “Pulp Fiction.”

Miss Latifah received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for her work in “Chicago.”

Powerful influence

Jon Voight says the ring he kept from his role playing Pope John Paul II helps him be a better person.

“I feel him. I think, ‘Wait a minute, Jon, if you are wearing this ring you’d better think a little better,’” Mr. Voight said Friday at a press conference in Warsaw the day the movie “Pope John Paul II” opened in movie theaters across Poland, the late pope’s homeland.

The flat, gold-colored ring with a figure of St. Peter on it, given to him after starring in the movie, “makes me better,” Mr. Voight said, adding that he’ll probably wear it for the rest of his life.

Conductor cancels

James Levine, music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, was again unable to conduct the BSO on Saturday as he recovered from a fall after a performance earlier in the week.

It’s the third concert Mr. Levine has missed in the three days since he fell and injured his shoulder during the ovations following Wednesday’s performance.

Doctors have told Mr. Levine he didn’t break any bones.

Symphony Managing Director Mark Volpe said Mr. Levine is “continuing to experience considerable soreness and discomfort in his shoulder” and would rest for the remainder of the weekend.

BSO Assistant ConductorJens Georg Bachmann conducted Saturday’s performance.

Blair’s Trotsky past

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who wrenched his party from the left to the center of the political spectrum, said he had been inspired to enter politics by a book about socialist icon Leon Trotsky.

At a World Book Day event at London’s Commonwealth Club last week, Mr. Blair said Isaac Deutscher’s biography of the Russian communist leader was the book that meant the most to him.

Mr. Deutscher’s three-volume work — “The Prophet Armed,” “The Prophet Unarmed” and “The Prophet Outcast” — paints a sympathetic portrait of Trotsky, who helped Vladimir Lenin lead the 1917 Russian revolution but was later driven out by Josef Stalin. He was murdered by an agent of Stalin in Mexico in 1940.

“I might as well make a confession now,” Mr. Blair said. “There were people who got me very involved in politics. But then there was also a book.”

Mr. Blair said the work “made a very deep impression on me and gave me a love of political biography for the rest of my life.”

Compiled by Kevin Chaffee from Web and wire reports.

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