Twenty-seven years after the premiere of the classic teen movie Footloose, which starred Kevin Bacon, writer/director Craig Brewer is bringing an updated version to the screen.
Newcomer Kenny Wormald stars as Ren MacCormack, who, following his mother’s death, has been transplanted from Boston to the small southern town of Bomont to live with relatives. He soon discovers that loud music and dancing have been prohibited by the local councilman after a tragic car accident, years before, of a group of teenagers coming home from a late night party.
Ren immediately challenges the ban, and gains the attention of the local minister’s (Dennis Quaid) troubled daughter, Ariel, Julianne Hough (Dancing with the Stars, Burlesque).
I spoke with Kenny and Julianne about bringing Footloose to a new generation.
Did you do a chemistry read together, because it’s so important that the two of you had a great rapport onscreen?
Julianne: We did.
Kenny: My final audition was at Paramount and it was between two guys at the time and it was a head-to-head battle, and that’s when I finally met Julianne and read with her and had to dance with her a bit.
So you were cast first?
Julianne: I was cast a long time ago. I was cast when it was going to be the musical stage version and then when that all fell apart I almost backed out of [the film]. But then Craig Brewer signed on and made the real Footloose, and I auditioned again for him, because I wanted him to be on my side. I didn’t want it to be like, ‘Oh the studio forced this person on him.’ I wanted him to feel like he chose me.
Didn’t Justin Timberlake help you get this role?
Kenny: Yeah, I toured with Justin for awhile and I got to learn a lot from him as a human being, and as someone who has dealt with fame for years and years to treat people with respect.
When I auditioned for this, they saw that I had Justin on the resume, and Craig Brewer had worked with him before, so he reached out to him and said, ‘Who is this Kenny kid?’ And he gave his two cents, and said, ‘He’s a great dancer, he’s a good kid, give him a chance.’ So that helped a little bit to push me in the direction of getting it, which was great.
Did you look at the original movie before starting this?
Kenny: We both knew the film very well. As kids growing up dancing, your whole life you see these kinds of movies over and over again because they’re such strong memories, inspiring dance films. If I can affect one kid or two kids to want to dance, or do what they want to do, I think that’s incredible. That film definitely did that for me.
Julianne: Yeah. But we really didn’t watch it going into this though, we wanted to feel fresh.
Kenny: We didn’t want to hear them in our head as we were delivering lines. Two to three months prior to shooting we made it a point not to dissect it.
On the other hand, were there moments in the dances that you said, ‘Let’s do a little tip of the hat to the original?’
Kenny: Yeah, the little triangle coming forward right at the end is ripped right out of the original. So certain moments like that you definitely wanted to make sure if you’re going to take it shot-for-shot you’re doing it the right way.
Fortunately, Craig Brewer is an incredible guy and was in love with Footloose, and he literally knows every shot of the original film, and having Craig Zadan, who produced the original, on set with us every day also helped all that.
How was it shooting the musical numbers, because on film they’re usually broken up? Were you able to go through them in their entirety?
Julianne: Yeah, most of them we did.
Kenny: The finale definitely. They shot it with a few different cameras at the same time, so you could just do it top to bottom, which was great. It was good for us to get into the vibe of it. You might be dead by the end of the night, but [that was alright] as long as we captured what we were there for.
What was your most fulfilling moment on this movie?
Julianne: For me, the acting portions, the dramatic scenes were, because everybody’s discovered me as a dancer and I wanted to really show this side of me. So doing the scene [where I confront] Dennis Quaid in the church was a long and a very emotional day but, it was very fulfilling towards the end. I rewarded myself with lots of pizza.
Kenny: I had a few of them, but doing the big speech at the end was quite a hurdle for me. Even in the original Kevin Bacon was very nervous leading up to that scene, as I was too.
Craig Brewer decided to rewrite that speech the day of me doing it. So it kept me on my toes and it kept me ready for the challenge, so I’d have to say that was the most fulfilling, once we’d wrapped. I felt like, ‘I’m okay, I’m alive, I made it.’ It’s a huge point in the movie, so it was vital to get that part right.
Do you feel like you’re at a crossroads in your life where you have to pick between dancing and acting now?
Julianne: Yeah, I think I’m definitely at a point where if I’m going to continue on in the film world, I don’t want to just do musicals, or just do films with dancing in them. I want to do straight dramas, comedies and action films. This next movie I’m going to do doesn’t have any singing or dancing in it. It’s called Lamb of God and it’s Diablo Cody’s directorial debut.
What do you have coming up?
Kenny: I just got attached to a film called Someone in the Dark which is a cool, sexy thriller, also no dancing, which I’m excited about, to keep challenging myself and hopefully be in this business for a long time.