Release Date: October 14, 2011
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Director: Craig Brewer
Screenwriter: Dean Pitchford, Craig Brewer
Starring: Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough
MPAA Rating: PG-13
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
REVIVING A CLASSIC: A DIRECTOR’S PASSION
Craig Brewer is known for his distinct aesthetic and vision as seen in his critically-acclaimed films "Hustle & Flow" and "Black Snake Moan.” With a reputation of being a filmmaker who infuses his work with realism, grit and passion, Brewer isn’t afraid to shed light on cultural nuances that are deemed taboo by some. Though not a seemingly obvious choice for a mainstream ‘80s classic, Brewer loved the idea of revisiting a film that had a significant impact on his own life.
“When I was 13, “Footloose” had a profound effect on me and completely rocked my dome,” explains Brewer. “The film had teen rebellion couched in community and a religious storyline that didn’t hit you over the head. I felt that it was truly a story that could be told today and still be relevant, entertaining and essentially still “Footloose,” says Brewer.
Craig Zadan, who was also a producer of the original movie, recognized the significance of the film in current times and also believed that it was something that would still resonate with audiences. “There’s a generation now that would find a whole new meaning in this story,” says Zadan. “The film touches on so many issues that people are dealing with today and, in tandem with the musical elements and the classic nature of the story, it feels very contemporary.”
Brewer and Zadan’s shared sensibility about the film’s timelessness made for a perfect match. “There are many people who could have done a rehash of “Footloose,” but it wouldn’t have been unique, original or fresh. There are many directors out there, but very few filmmakers and Craig Brewer is a true filmmaker.”
Brewer’s vision included telling more of Bomont’s back story, which was a town shaken to the core after losing five of their brightest teens, including Reverend Shaw’s own son. “When Craig and I sat down and talked about the movie, we both knew we wanted to shed some light on the point of view of the parents, since we are both parents of young children,” recalls producer Brad Weston. “We didn’t want it to be just a teen rebellion movie because it’s dealing with loss and the lengths that these parents went to, to try and protect their children.”
To bring audiences inside the emotional state of mind of the community, Craig Brewer begins the film with the tragic car accident. “The decision to start with the car crash gives the audience a sense of the pain that led to the extreme restrictions,” states Zadan. “It’s easier to see, in a compassionate way, that this community was filled with grief-ridden parents trying to protect their children and not just a bunch of conservative religious fanatics.”
FINDING THE SHOES THAT FIT:
THE CAST OF FOOTLOOSE
The original “Footloose” catapulted the career of Kevin Bacon who, at the time, was little known to audiences. “When casting beyond established actors, audiences get to identify with a character without the baggage and burden that stardom brings to it,” says Brewer.
Brewer first heard about Kenny Wormald from musical superstar Justin Timberlake, who appeared in Brewer’s last film, “Black Snake Moan.” A friend and former back-up dancer for Timberlake, Wormald has had great success in the dance world and was waiting for the right opportunity to make the transition into acting. The role of Ren MacCormack had the unique opportunity to utilize his great talent as a dancer and provide an ideal introduction as an actor.
The magnitude of this opportunity was not lost on Wormald. The moment he learned that he landed the much coveted role is something he’ll remember for a lifetime. “I was golfing with my friends when I got the call and I screamed, tossed my golf clubs and went ballistic. I knew right then I had an amazing opportunity to not only dance, but to work with an amazing company of actors.”
“Finding a terrific actor who was also an amazing dancer was one of those miracle things, and Kenny has given us an incredibly new and exciting interpretation of Ren,” says Brewer.
Being aware of the inevitable comparisons with the original Ren, Wormald knew he had to approach the character differently and truly make it his own. “I wanted to put my own twist on the character. I am definitely honored and humbled by this opportunity, but I wanted to make my own mark as well.”
Brewer recognized something about Wormald during the casting process that would truly make the character his own. “I noticed that there was something a little off and finally realized that Kenny was trying to hide his Boston accent. I said to him, ‘You know what? I really want you to be yourself,’ so we scratched out that Ren was from Chicago and made it Boston. From that moment, we really started seeing his character come to life.”
Triple threat actor/singer/dancer Julianne Hough, a two-time Dancing with the Stars champion was fully committed to the role of the rebellious preacher’s daughter Ariel from the start. After Brewer came on board, he met with Hough to explore whether or not she fit into his vision of the movie and flew to Nashville to meet with her.
“I wanted to find out why she wanted to play Ariel. I thought she had wanted to do it because she is a dancer but, after meeting her and hearing about her life, I saw that she really understood Ariel. Julianne is mature well beyond her years and I was incredibly impressed by her.”
Recalls Hough, “I had to fight for the role, but there was absolutely no way I was not doing this movie.”
Although the role offered the opportunity to utilize her known talent as a dancer, Hough felt she truly understood Ariel’s challenges and why she acted out the way she did. “For me, growing up in a religious family with lots of brothers and sisters, I definitely had to fight for attention in many of the same ways that Ariel does and could completely relate. In Craig’s film, audiences will see more of Ariel’s vulnerable side and why she acts out instead of just portraying her as someone you don’t want your son hanging out with.”
Producer Craig Zadan was excited to give audiences the opportunity to discover Hough as an actress while satisfying their desire to see her dance. “We really lucked out to get a new actress who’s really talented and can deliver those heavy scenes in the same package as a famous dancer. When you put together her abilities as an actor with her incredible talent in dance, it’s truly overwhelming.”
Brewer was truly impressed with Hough’s ability to handle the depth and complexities of the emotionally charged scenes. “There are some scenes where she really has to bare her soul. Ariel is a complicated character and is rebelling because of her pain, so while she has to be the sexy wild child, audiences need to see a crack in her facade. Julianne worked every scene and really swung for the fences.”
Bringing out the complexities of the strained relationship between Ariel and her father was another big priority for Brewer. “To me, the conflict between Ariel and her father is one of the greatest narratives in eighties movie history,” he explains. “I can remember the audible gasp in the theater when Ariel blurted out in church to Reverend Shaw that she wasn’t a virgin. It was like a thunderclap in the theater. That storyline was one of the reasons I really wanted to make “Footloose”.”
For the role of Reverend Shaw, the community preacher leading the charge on Bomont’s long list of restrictions and ordinances, the filmmakers knew they needed to find an actor who could find the delicate balance between loving and concerned father and overbearing town leader. They found their Shaw in prolific actor Dennis Quaid and were elated by his willingness and passion for the role.
“Dennis is someone I’ve always wanted to work with,” says Brewer. “When we first met, we talked a lot about faith and shared the same respect for religion because of how we were raised. He really had an understanding of the role and storyline from the perspective of a man of faith and as a parent.”
“When we were casting, we didn’t want the traditional stereotypical fire and brimstone preacher,” recalls producer Neil Meron. “We wanted someone that was a human being, someone that you’d understand from both sides and Dennis had the capability to do that.”
Quaid signed on after getting a sense of Brewer’s take on the film and how it could relate to an entirely new generation. “The reason that I am here is Craig Brewer. He’s a really great director. I like working with directors who can write as well because they understand the music of the spoken word.”
Growing up in the Baptist church with a grandfather who was a preacher, Quaid felt as though he wanted to tap into the role with accuracy and with great respect. “I grew up in the culture and my life was preparation, so I understood it. I’ve never played a preacher before and it was important to me that the performance and the sermons be authentic.”
While working with a legendary actor might intimidate most newcomers, Hough dug deep and bared her soul with the support of her co-star. “To have Dennis call me the real deal and ask if I needed additional takes was amazing. The boost of confidence he gave me and the advice he offered, there is nothing like it. I am so grateful for that and will never forget it.”
“I have a two year old daughter and it’s really kind of a preview of some of the discussions I’m going to be having later on in life. Julianne is very authentic, fantastic and she brings it, that’s for sure,” says Quaid.
When it came to how to approach the character of Vi, the preacher’s wife and mother to Ariel, Brewer wanted to redefine and update his idea of a contemporary preacher’s wife. “In the original, the role of the preacher’s wife seemed more of a tight reserved Puritanical position that Dianne Wiest did beautifully, but I feel like it’s different these days,” explains Brewer. “Preachers’ wives now seem less separate from the congregation and this Vi is much more steeped in community and her own family.”
Filmmakers found their perfect Vi in Andie MacDowell who is celebrated for her understated and powerful performances. “Andie is from the south and truly understands where Vi is coming from and is absolutely radiant,” says producer Neil Meron.
“It’s an honor for me to be a part of this movie and I think people will really appreciate the message of the film,” says MacDowell. “It’s an example of what can grow from fear and illustrates how easily people can shut down, become closed minded and then try to control how people think and act.”
“Andie really understood how important it was to play this character more contemporary and real,” says Brewer.
Playing the role of Vi also reunited MacDowell and Dennis Quaid again as husband and wife who previously played a married couple in the film Dinner with Friends. “I love Dennis. He’s such a really sweet person. I know him, so we’re comfortable with each other.”
And, as the protective and compassionate mother to Ariel, Andie also had great things to say about her young co-star Julianne Hough. “I love seeing new young stars and both Julianne and Kenny are just destined for big things.”
The role of Willard, the country boy who befriends Ren, went to newcomer Miles Teller who recently wowed critics with his performance in “Rabbit Hole” opposite Nicole Kidman. Teller originally read for the role of Ren, but filmmakers saw him as the perfect Willard. “The moment that Miles auditioned for Ren, he had the role of Willard,” laughs Brewer.
Coincidentally, Teller had his own history with the role having played Willard in a high school theater presentation of “Footloose,” which was his first foray into acting. “Who knew that years later I’d be playing Willard in a film? I’m revising the role, but am definitely quite a bit taller,” jokes Teller.
When first reading for the role opposite Kenny Wormald, the filmmakers recognized a natural chemistry between the two that would transfer to the big screen. “I had not even called action yet and those two already appeared like they were best friends,” recalls Brewer. “They were joking with each other and giving each other a hard time, but once the scene began, magic really happened.”
“Kenny and I definitely struck a bond when we first met and we were able to riff off each other,” remembers Teller. “We hung out a lot off set and I think it plays well with our friendship on camera.”
With Teller, filmmakers saw an opportunity to introduce a new actor to audiences in a similar way they did with Chris Penn in the original film. Acknowledging that Penn’s shoes (or cowboy boots) would be hard to fill, they saw that Teller had the ability to put his own stamp on the character and truly make it his own. “We wanted to find an actor who could do something completely different than what Chris Penn did, but also be as original. I think Miles is a revelation and his performance is touching and sweet as well as being comical and hilarious,” says producer Craig Zadan.
A LOVE STORY TO FOOTLOOSE
About the Location, Production & Costume Design
To honor those die-hard fans of the original film, Craig Brewer peppered the script and visuals in the film with nods to the original. The first thing on Brewer’s list was the iconic canary yellow VW Bug. “The Bug is a sign post to the fans to let them know that while the film is an update, it’s still the “Footloose” that they know and love,” he says.
When it came to creating the look of each of the characters, Costume Designer Laura Jean Shannon’s objective was to find the perfect balance in creating a current look for each character without veering too far away from their original’s signifying looks. “Our challenge was two-fold for this project,” explains Shannon. “We did want to have moments that were nostalgic for the audience, but we also wanted to create our own movie as well. This is very much a love letter to the original and kept that in mind while we were making it.”
Many discussions were had on Ren’s “look” in the film and taking into consideration his urban roots, but Brewer didn’t want to stray from the essence of who Ren is, which is someone who isn’t one to follow trends.
“When I was coming up with the concepts for Ren MacCormack, I wanted to incorporate Kenny’s swagger and the way that he carries himself,” says Shannon. “I thought of James Dean in “Rebel without a Cause”.” I wanted him to be very accessible, but have that rock star vibe.”
An example of how Ren McCormick used his style to make a social statement was his choice of the much-ridiculed skinny tie on his first day at Bomont High. “Ren knew what he was doing when he wore the tie on the first day of school,” argues Brewer. “He knew he was going to be ridiculed for it, but I think there’s a part of him that wanted that.”
The most prominent and memorable throwback to the original for Ariel’s look is the iconic red leather boots. “When I saw the original as a teenager, my friends and I all desperately wanted a pair of red leather cowboy boots, so there’s no way we weren’t going to have them,” says Shannon.
The other piece that remained virtually unaltered in this version is Ariel’s signature prom dress. The peach chiffon dress was a dramatically softer look for the rebellious girl that perfectly complimented the arc of her character. “Ariel has a huge arc in the film and it was important to me to reflect that in the clothes,” explains Shannon.
EVEYBODY CUT, EVERYBODY CUT:
The Choreography of Footloose
Considered one of the first movies to incorporate equal parts dance and music in a non-traditional way, while maintaining a strong stand-alone dramatic storyline, it was hugely important to the filmmakers that this film be as powerful and organic. Original producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron had worked with choreographer Jamal Sims on the film adaptation of “Hairspray” and knew he would be a perfect choice to update the dance elements of “Footloose” for a new generation.
Sims, whose extensive credits include the “Step Up” franchise, Madonna’s Sticky and Sweet tour, the 82 nd Annual Academy Award® and several appearances on So You Think You Can Dance, jumped at the opportunity to work on a project that made an impact on himself as a dancer. “The original “Footloose” was the first time I’d seen that kind of raw street dancing on the big screen and it made me want to dance,” recalls Sims. “I absolutely had to work on this movie.”
“When Jamal and I first met, our common concern was how to have amazing choreography without it looking overly choreographed,” says Brewer.
A significant obstacle was upping the quality of the dancing and choreography to satisfy the sophisticated appetites of audiences without straying from the freestyle and organic nature of how the dancing services the story. “We had to always be aware of dialing it up and down because audiences are much more dance savvy and expect more because they’ve seen so much amazing dancing on television and in films,” says Sims.
Due to the facts that both leads are professional dancers, the filmmakers had the advantage of not needing an extensive rehearsal schedule. A few weeks prior to shooting, Sims worked with the leads and the background dancers separately and then brought the two groups together the weekend before shooting to work out the blocking and to make final changes. To give the actors the opportunity to focus on their dramatic performances before diving into the dance, the shooting schedule was structured so that all the dance numbers were at the end of the schedule. By the time the actors finally got to the dance sequences, after putting their all into the dramatic scenes and storyline, there was a great sense of elation and excitement.
“When we finally got to the dance number it was like ‘Whoo! We can finally dance and have fun!’ We felt like we were literally the kids of Bomont, we hadn’t danced for so long and were so grateful to do something light and fun and get it out,” recalls Hough.
In the film, Ren gets his first taste of the local culture when he is taken to the drive-in theater where the kids of Bomont gather to hang out. The drive-in is a safe haven where the kids play music and cut loose, away from adult supervision and local law enforcement. To reflect the spontaneous and rebellious nature of the gathering, the movement is less about structure and synchronicity and more about subculture and freestyle.
For Wormald, whose dance style leans more toward street dancing, the drive-in gave him the opportunity to be in his comfort zone and freestyle without the confines of hitting every beat. “We didn’t overwork the drive-in and wanted it to feel organic. If the cops or any adults came by we could break it up quickly, so it was just a free moving and fun hip-hop type of thing,” explains Wormald.
For Julianne Hough, whose ballroom and Latin dancing borders on being a national treasure, the drive-in dance sequence was out of her comfort zone and proved to be the most challenging. “When we first started working on the drive-in choreography with all the booty-shaking and popping, I couldn’t stop laughing. I wasn’t sure I could do it without looking totally uncomfortable, but Jamal was fantastic and helped make it incredibly fun for me.”
In the film, Ren, Ariel, Willard and Rusty also venture to Bomont’s county line to a Cowboys bar to blow off a little steam and do some ‘research’ for their fight to lift the dance ban. “While the drive-in was more of Kenny’s number, I felt like the Cowboys was mine and was my chance to shake my booty the way I know how to do it. I didn’t have to tone down the whipping of my hair, or ‘hairography’ as Craig Brewer calls it, and Cowboys gave me the chance to let it all go and have fun like a teenager.”
Although the dance style is country line dancing, which is not traditionally known for its heat index, Brewer’s objective was to amp it up and put a new spin on it. “Our version of country line dancing is pretty hot and energetic. It ain’t your Grandpa’s line dancing, that’s for sure,” laughs Brewer.
Reeling from the pressure and blowback from the community, Ren drives to a warehouse to purge his frustration and be alone. Just a man and his music. Brewer set out to capture the raw emotion of the moment and get inside the power of expression and movement. “For Jamal, Kenny and I, we look at the angry dance as the pinnacle of our existence. We knew we needed to nail it and it’s the perfect storm of all of our abilities.”
One of the most recognized and celebrated dance pieces ever filmed, the “Angry Dance” (as it is commonly known) was an enormous priority for Brewer and a major impetus to do the film. “Every filmmaker has a reason why they are doing a movie. I have a few for “Footloose,” but if I were to pick just one, it would absolutely be the angry dance,” says Brewer.
Drawing inspiration from the locale of the story and Brewer’s own southern roots, the piece is more rock and blues leaning with a grittier and more emotionally raw feel to it. “Our angry dance is dangerous and there’s a sense of peril to it,” says Brewer. “Ren cuts himself and is covered in dust. This kind of dance isn’t about being pretty, it’s raw and it hurts.”
For the filmmakers and cast, shooting the dance finale piece was a pinch yourself type of moment. “I put on the red jacket, the song came on and, in that moment, I fully realized that we were really making “Footloose.” The reality of what we were doing really sunk in,” recalls Wormald.
The magnitude of dancing to the Kenny Loggins music doing original choreography wasn’t lost on Hough either. “We were at the rehearsal for the final dance and, at one point, both Kenny and I were standing on stools watching all the dancers prior to be slotted in, and it completely overwhelmed me. I got teary-eyed and I looked over at Kenny and saw tears in his eyes too. The magnitude of what we were doing hit us together and it was truly exhilarating.”
THE MUSIC OF FOOTLOOSE
Brewer wanted the music and choreography in this film to reflect the diverse tastes of today’s youth as a result of their unlimited access of music through technology and social media. “Youth culture today is so different from when I was growing up,” says Brewer. “While I might have had 20 albums, kids now have thousands of songs on their ipods that span the genres. I’m more excited about this generation because, just like spirit of the original ‘Footloose,’ our music and genres of dance is all over the map.”
With a rejuvenated film comes exciting new music from incredibly talented artists. The most significant contribution to the “Footloose” soundtrack will be an updated version of the Kenny Loggins classic. Singing the title song is reining CMA Male Vocalist of the Year and host of The Voice, Blake Shelton. And, while the original version of “Let’s Hear it for the Boys” by Denise Williams is playing on the radio in a scene in the film, it leads into a new take of the popular tune by Jana Kramer. Big N’ Rich also lend their vocals to the upbeat “Fake I.D.” and are joined by other amazing acts including Zac Brown of the Zac Brown Band, Cee Lo Green and The Smashing Pumpkins.
Studio photos, notes and videos © 2011 Paramount Pictures