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Travolta cast as mother in musical 'Hairspray'

Written by: Staff

LOS ANGELES, Mar 4 (Reuters) He was the teenage prince of disco in ''Saturday Night Fever,'' the dreamy leader of a high school gang in ''Grease'' and a mob hit man in ''Pulp Fiction.'' Now John Travolta will be playing a mom.

The 52-year-old actor has been cast as Edna Turnblad, the mother of an aspiring teenage dancer, in an upcoming feature film adaptation of the Broadway hit musical ''Hairspray,'' which was based on the 1988 cult movie of the same name, distributor New Line Cinema said yesterday.

In the original movie by director John Waters, the part of Edna was played by the late transvestite performer Divine. Stage and screen actor Harvey Fierstein won a Tony Award for the role on Broadway.

New Line also announced that singer-actress Queen Latifah, who earned an Oscar nomination for her performance in the 2002 movie musical ''Chicago,'' would play the character Motormouth Maybelle in the new ''Hairspray'' film.

Production on the film is set to begin this fall for a potential summer 2007 release, according to New Line, a unit of Time Warner Inc.

The project reunites Latifah, 35, with the producers behind ''Chicago,'' Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, as well as with director Adam Shankman, who worked with her on ''Bringing Down the House.'' The story of ''Hairspray'' centers on ''pleasantly plump'' teenager Tracy Turnblad as she pursues her dream of landing a spot on a local TV show in Baltimore during the early 1960s, and uses her newfound fame to press for racial integration.

Ricki Lake starred as Tracy in the original film, which also featured Sonny Bono, Deborah Harry and Jerry Stiller.

Travolta sprang to fame as hunky high school wiseguy Vinnie Barbarino in the 1970s hit television comedy ''Welcome Back, Kotter.'' He leaped to the big screen in the 1977 blockbuster hit ''Saturday Night Fever,'' earning an Oscar nomination for his role as the working-class disco-dancing hero Tony Manero, and starred the following year as Olivia Newton-John's heartthrob, Danny Zuko, in the 1950s musical ''Grease.'' Travolta earned a second Oscar nomination for his role as a hit man in 1994's ''Pulp Fiction.'' REUTERS CS KN0909

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