According to Variety, New Line has pushed the start date of the movie musical, Hairspray from this fall to spring 2006, and co-directors Jerry Mitchell and Jack O'Brien have left the production.

The studio has drawn up a short list of replacements, topped by Chicago helmer Rob Marshall, and shifted its projected "Hairspray" release from Christmas 2006 to summer 2007.

New Line confirmed the exits of Mitchell, who choreographed the stage musical, and O'Brien, who won a Tony for directing it. The duo had been set to co-direct since New Line announced its feature plans.

The six-month postponement was the reason for the exits, said the mini-major, creating a conflict with O'Brien play commitments, including a Tom Stoppard trilogy slated for Lincoln Center. Mitchell left with O'Brien.

New Line attributed the delay to concerns that it would have to shorten rehearsal time in order to wrap before winter in Toronto. Instead, "Hairspray" will shoot in spring. Second-unit work will be done in Baltimore, where John Waters set the original film.

Whatever the true motive, a Hairspray directed by Marshall or another established feature director is a more attractive prospect than it was with two first-timers. New Line and producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron will first approach Marshall, who'll be available to talk after completing a cut of Memoirs of a Geisha he'll show Columbia Pictures brass on Friday.

Aside from directing the Oscar-winning Chicago, Marshall developed the stage version of Hairspray as director and choreographer. When he stepped out to do Chicago, O'Brien and Mitchell replaced him.

The directing change may alter casting and choreography. Grease star John Travolta had been approached to play Edna Turnblad, but no real offers have been made nor will deals be set until "Mrs. Doubtfire" scribe Leslie Dixon completes her rewrite and a director is hired. Decision on choreographer will be made by the director. If Marshall signs, he'll do the choreography himself, as he did on Chicago.

The delay gives New Line production prexy Toby Emmerich a big picture for the studio's summer 2007 schedule. New Line developed a sudden hole when Rush Hour 3 didn't come together as planned and Brett Ratner departed to direct X-Men 3.