HAIRSPRAY: Edna's Intro

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Edna Turnblad (John Travolta) makes her/his grand entrance in the feature film version of "HAIRSPRAY."


HAIRSPRAY: Edna's Finale

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John Travolta cuts loose as Edna Turnblad in the finale dance number from the feature film "HAIRSPRAY."


HAIRSPRAY: Edna Eating Pie

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HAIRSPRAY: Transforming Travolta Into Turnblad

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Behind the scenes documentation of Tony Gardner and the Alterian makeup effects team's design and transformation of John Travolta into the character of Edna Turnblad for the feature film "Hairspray."

Interviews with Director Adam Shankman, John Travolta and Tony Gardner.


HAIRSPRAY: Special Thanks

Alterian Inc. thanking all of the talented artists responsible for bringing Edna to life.


THE PLAIN DEALER | "Hairspray" effects man from North Olmsted transforms Travolta

North Olmsted native Tony Gardner creates John Travolta's fat suit for 'Hairspray'

Plain Dealer Reporter
If John Travolta were a plus-size, middle-age woman, what size bra would he wear?
The answer is lost to history. The man in a position to know -- "Hairspray" makeup-effects designer Tony Gardner -- didn't jot it down. "Once we were into triple letters, I kinda lost track," he said.
Gardner created the fat suit that transformed Travolta into Edna Turnblad, the overprotective, foodaholic mom of Tracy Turnblad in "Hairspray." The movie adaptation of the musical opened Friday.
Gardner is co-owner and lead designer for Alterian Inc., an Irwindale, Calif., company specializing in makeup and animatronic effects. Alterian worked on movies such as "Shallow Hal," "Three Kings" and "Adaptation." It is also behind the Geico cavemen commercials and upcoming television series.
But "Hairspray" is Gardner's biggest movie job so far. When Gardner, 42, was hired, the producers told him if Edna didn't work, they didn't have a film. "The pressure was on in the very, very beginning," said Gardner, who grew up in North Olmsted.
Travolta said he wanted to look like a curvy girl who grew up to be a mom. Gardner frequently e-mailed rough drafts of possible looks to the actor. "He's the one who has to wear it," Gardner said. "Everything he said was great."
The effects staff started work about three months before filming began. In early 2006, Gardner and his crew flew to Travolta's home near Orlando to do a life cast. Travolta stood on a tarp in his garage, which houses his extensive car collection, while effects specialists wrapped his body with plaster bandages to make a cast. He sat to have his head and shoulders covered with a masklike substance.
Later, fiberglass duplicates made from the plaster bandage mold and mask were formed into a full-standing duplicate body.
Gardner designed a body suit filled with a lightweight synthetic material, with pads overlaid like shingles to add heft. Silicone was used from the chest up; it had the added bonus of covering Travolta's beard. "I didn't want the guy growing through makeup in the middle of the day," Gardner said.
The first suit made Travolta look like "a dumpy, Alfred Hitchcock version of Edna," Gardner said. Validation came when Travolta, in character and makeup, greeted his fellow actors during a rehearsal in Toronto. No one recognized him. Then the actors broke into applause.
"It was what I needed as an artist and what John needed as a performer," Gardner said.