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Footloose (2011) – Miles Teller and Ziah Colon on good and bad dancing

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Footloose - Miles Teller and Ziah Colon
Willard (Miles Teller) and Rusty (Ziah Colon) © 2011 Paramount Pictures

After thirty-seven years, Footloose is back, written, directed and re-imagined by Craig Brewer.

Ren MacCormack (Kenny Wormald) is new in town. After the death of his mother, he has moved to Bomont to live with his relatives. But he soon discovers this place is very different from Boston. Because of a tragic car accident, which occurred years before, killing a group of teenagers leaving a party, loud music and dancing have been forbidden in the town. It’s a situation that Ren plans to transform with the help of his new school friends, Ariel (Julianne Hough), Willard (Miles Teller), who can’t dance, and Willard’s girlfriend, Rusty (Ziah Colon).

Miles Teller, who had already played the role of Willard in high school, was a shoo-in for the part. And after searching for a long time, just a few days before production started, Ziah Colon was cast as Rusty.

Did you do a chemistry test together as you had to have rapport in this?

Footloose - Julianne Hough and Ziah Colon
Ariel (Julianne Hough) and Rusty (Ziah Colon) © 2011 Paramount Pictures

Ziah: Not with each other. He did with a lot of other [potential] Rusty’s, but not with me. I was the last character to be cast, I was cast on a Saturday and we started working on a Wednesday, so that’s when I met everyone.

Did you look at the original movie to see what was done before that you either would want to emulate or avoid?

Miles: I’ve actually never seen the original film. I’ve seen clips of it because it’s on TV all the time. But I did the play in high school. The first play I ever did was Footloose and I played Willard. I loved the guy, so for me that is where I inherited the story from.

Ziah: I had seen it. I had an older sister who exposed me to all things eighties. I was too little to understand the moral of the story, but it was fun and it was dancing and it was Kevin Bacon. It was just really neat, and then they played it on TV all the time, so it was a story that I was aware of and knew very well.

When I auditioned, I auditioned with the sides from the original Footloose, I hadn’t read Craig Brewer version, so I was prepared for that because I knew the story.

Do you feel Craig’s version is totally different?

Footloose - Miles Teller
Willard (Miles Teller) © 2011 Paramount Pictures

Miles: No, he adapted it from Dean Pitchford [the original screenwriter], so Dean Pitchford’s was the skeleton and Craig added his Memphis flair to it.

We first saw your work in Rabbit Hole, which was a very memorable character, but he’s the total opposite or Willard. Casting directors are notorious for not having great imaginations. Did you have to fight for this?

Miles: Yeah, absolutely, it was hard to convince people that I was funny. And now I’m going to do all these comedies with characters like Willard, and I’m going to want to do a drama, and they’re going to be like, ‘[The guy that played] Willard? He can’t do drama!’ I would always rather surprise people than disappoint them.

Was it difficult to pretend that you couldn’t dance when you actually can?

Footloose - Miles Teller and Kenny Wormald
Willard (Miles Teller) and Ren (Kenny Wormald) © 2011 Paramount Pictures

Miles: It’s like peeling an onion where you want to reveal layers. When I was doing the different scenes where I couldn’t dance, there were some that I had to practice because I was trying to think off-rhythm but that didn’t really work for me. So instead I was like, ‘What is the body chemistry like of a bad dancer?’

I just imagined being very awkward and self-conscious, so that’s how I got into it.

For every one of those sequences you see I’d do a really crappy version, then an intermediate version and then an advanced version just for continuity sake. The dance finale was actually towards the end of the movie.

Was it fun to finally breakout and do the final dance?

Footloose - Miles Teller and Kenny Wormald
Willard (Miles Teller) and Ren (Kenny Wormald) © 2011 Paramount Pictures

Miles: Yeah, I love dancing in general, although it was fun dancing badly too, because you know that guy who can’t dance at all.

Aren’t you a dancer?

Ziah: No, I’m not a dancer, I just have rhythm. So I went in there and worked with the choreographer and worked really hard on it at home and prayed that I didn’t mess up.

Can you talk about shooting that final number?

Ziah: It was a blast. We had so much fun, that last dance was just magical. It had that movie magic to it. Miles got to break out all his dance moves that he had been rehearsing through the film.

Miles: I had been saving them, my secret ammo. I don’t know if it made the movie, but I’m talking to Kenny the whole the time, it was fun. Some of the moves I really couldn’t do, skill-wise, so they used whatever ones worked.

Footloose - Miles Teller and Ziah Colon
Willard (Miles Teller) and Rusty (Ziah Colon) © 2011 Paramount Pictures

What do you both have coming up?

Miles: I just wrapped 21 and Over, which was written by the guys who wrote The Hangover, and it’s their directorial debut. And I’m looking at two or three things for early next year.

Ziah: I’m looking at a couple of options, so [I don’t have anything] just yet, I’m taking my time to pick which one to do.

Do you feel like this is a crossroad and you need to be careful what you choose to do now?

Miles: Honestly, I feel like that with every project that I’ve worked on. I’ve been lucky enough where the projects I’ve been offered have been projects I’ve been very passionate about. But it tough to be an actor our age, you can’t be choosy.

You really do just need to take what they throw at you because right now I’m paying my rent off acting. But I’ve been lucky where I’ve been able to combine passion and pleasure. Hopefully that trend continues.