“What Men Want” Director Adam Shankman on Helping Taraji P. Henson Find Her Inner Comedy Queen

It's kind of one of his many specialties.

Adam Shankman is a jack of all trades—a dancer turned choreographer turned actor turned producer turned director. And in his latest film, What Men Want, he helped Oscar-nominated Taraji P. Henson, known for playing the dramatic Cookie Lyon on Fox’s Empire, turn into a big-screen comedy queen.

“It’s kind of one of my things, I guess,” Shankman tells NewNowNext about working with actresses new to the comedy world. “Taraji is a phenomenal actress, but she hadn’t done a big comedy before. Neither had Queen Latifah before Bringing Down the House, or Jennifer Lopez in The Wedding Planner. Again, all ridiculously talented actresses, but they were mostly known for their dramatic roles in movies. I love being able to help bring out another side of a performer.”

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Shankman, who’s openly gay, is the genius behind so many classics gays love, so NewNowNext asked him to reflect on some of his favorite moments from creating them.

On Bringing Down the House with Queen Latifah…

“We almost forgot to shoot the big fight scene with Missi Pyle. We had to rush and put it together, and they were so damn funny!”

On Hairspray also with Queen Latifah…

“I remember being in the studio with Queen Latifah as she recorded that song at two in the morning by candlelight and just sobbing.”

On The Wedding Planner starring Jennifer Lopez…

“The opening scene with Jennifer has her on site at a wedding managing everything. She’s dealing with the bride, walking to make sure things are good in the church, going upstairs, greeting guests. We had to shoot it multiple times. I remember each take was the exact same amount of time. It made me realize she has a musical mind. We both have a dance background, so we connected over that. I just thought it was so cool how each take was the exact same time, that she was that in rhythm.”

On A Walk to Remember starring Mandy Moore…

“Mandy was only 17 at the time, so we had to be very careful with her schedule and time. When we were shooting the state line scene, we were running late and literally running to the set. She only had 10 minutes to shoot this scene, and she nailed it. I also just love ’Only Hope’ from the soundtrack.”

What Men Want is now playing.

Lamar Dawson is a pop culture junkie and pop diva addict living in Manhattan. Follow him on everything @dirrtykingofpop.