Even though Footloose is only writer/director Craig Brewer’s third movie, he knew he was the right man for the job. After all, he knew every camera angle and line of dialogue from the original made in 1984 starring Kevin Bacon.
Now he’s bringing his own unique version to the screen, retelling the story of Ren MacCormack (Kenny Wormald) who is forced to move to the small town of Bomont to live with his relatives after his mother dies. It’s a culture shock coming from Boston, but even worse he discovers that because of a tragic car accident years before, that took place following a late night party killing four teens, the town has prohibited loud music or dancing. Ren is determined to change the ban, and in trying captures the eye and heart of the minister’s troubled daughter, Ariel (Julianne Hough).
When you were making this movie, how easy was it for you and the cast not to think about the original?
It was easier for them because they had a script that they could look at and say, ‘Okay, this is our movie,’ and I think there were enough differences between our movie and the original that they could feel some bit of ownership.
For me, I felt like I had to ride this interesting line of knowing every frame and line of the original, because I call myself a ‘Footlooseologist.’ I know everything about Footloose. I wanted to be very respectful to Dean Pitchford’s script and I wanted to be respectful to what Herb Ross (the director) did with the original movie.
Yes, I wanted to change some things, such as showing the accident, humanizing the parents, at least in the idea of seeing why they went to the extremes that they did.
I didn’t necessarily want to demonize faith, which I think if you did the original verbatim it could fall into that category without it even meaning to. And I don’t think in a modern context we would want to explore that particular part of the narrative.
This is really about a decidedly American issue, which is when there’s a tragedy, when there’s the threat to our children being in harm’s way, we’ll pretty much overreact. We will come up with laws, stipulations and rules and they all make sense.
Then down the line things get a little bit skewed, and we’re like, ‘Those things that I thought were designed to help are now hurting [the people I love].’ And to me, without getting political with Footloose, I thought that that was in the central narrative of the original.
Knowing the film so well how hard was it to recast those characters that were ingrained in your memory?
Casting is daunting in terms of the two leads, and especially for the role of Ren MacCormack. But they say it’s 90 percent of the movie and I really felt like I had the right people.
When I came on I really wanted the freedom to cast an unknown. I came at that decision out of my movie watching experience of Footloose back when I was 13.
I didn’t know who Kevin Bacon was, I didn’t know who Sarah Jessica Parker or Chris Penn was, and the movie was more special to me because I discovered them in that movie, they were those characters.
I think that because Footloose, the title itself, was the biggest star of the remake, we were able to cast unknowns and hopefully give teenagers that same feeling.
You’ve cast real dancers in this, Kevin Bacon really couldn’t dance that well.
He wasn’t doing all that dancing. It’s so funny, when I was 13 I couldn’t tell you that at all. But now I see it, and I’m like, ‘Wow, was I blind?’ (he laughs) That’s what’s great about being 13. It’s the perfect time to fall in love with a movie.
When Kenny read for Ren, he’s this tough good looking kid from Boston who has grown up taking ballet, tap and jazz, who has had a couple of people call him some choice words, ‘ballet-boy’ being the most tame one. Kenny knew Ren MacCormack before he knew about the role of Ren MacCormack.
Can you talk about choosing the songs for this updated version?
Sure. I had to say, ‘What are the songs that if they’re not in there people will kill me?’ And I realized that Footloose had to be in there, Let’s Hear it For the Boy, Holding Out for a Hero, Almost Paradise, those were the songs that people think about.
I wanted to have this soundtrack that was a hodgepodge of everything. The soundtrack itself is primarily country and blues but if you watch the movie we’ve got everything in there. We’ve got rap, we’ve got hip hop, we’ve even got soul.
People forget in ’84 everybody at Paramount was terrified about the Footloose soundtrack, it was all over the map. But that was their saving grace, because it basically had a song in every market.
When the movie was finish, were you happy with the final result?
I really do feel proud. I remember when we had our first screening of the movie, I was relived. It was like, ‘Thank God this came through.’ It was the first time I was genuinely proud of myself.
It’s my third movie and I felt like I knew what I was doing.
I also felt like I needed to be a different type of director on this movie, because I knew there was going to be a considerable amount of hate coming my way, and I knew that there was going to be a considerable amount of hate coming towards two young actors who are not only holding the burden of the feature film on their shoulders.
Also what I call the Bacon-burden. They have the burden of an incredible movie that came before them, and a lot of people probably being rather snarky to them.
So I had to keep them focused on the work and also let them know that there was going to be a whole other hurdle with this after we made the movie, which is where we are right now. We’re explaining why we did it and what our intentions were.
I knew that their intentions were pure, my intentions were pure, we loved the original and we were the right people to do it. And I feel a bit of vindication from it, I do.