IAR Press Conference Coverage: 'Footloose'

Friday, 14 October 2011 15:04 Written by  iamrogue
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IAR Press Conference Coverage: 'Footloose'

Thanks to a crowd-pleasing premise and an insanely catchy soundtrack 1984's Footloose was a commercial hit that propelled star Kevin Bacon to stardom.  Bacon played Ren McCormack, a dance-loving high school student from Chicago who moves to a small town, which he discovers has outlawed dancing for anyone under eighteen years old, and of course,  the spirited teenager leads a dance-filled campaign to win the right to boogie down for his classmates.  More than just being a hit, Footloose is inextricably associated with the era in which it was made, typifying much of what we think of as popular 1980's cinema.

As such, remaking Footloose is a surprisingly tall order.  A new version of Ren's dance rebellion has been in the works for years, cycling through directors and leading men including Zac Efron and Chace Crawford.  Finally, though, Footloose found a helmer in Craig Brewer, the director behind Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan.  By all accounts, he was the right man for the job, as the film, hitting theaters today, has actually received a far stronger critical response than its predecessor.

Getting particularly strong notices so far are Kenny Wormald, who faced the daunting task of starring as Ren McCormack, and Julianne Hough, who plays the female lead, Ariel Moore.  The two young actors joined Andie MacDowell, who plays a supporting role as Ariel's mother, Vi Moore, for the Footloose roundtable-style press conference in Los Angeles.  IAR's Managing Editor Jami Philbrick was on hand to hear all three actors discuss the remake, the original film, and the indispensability of dancing.

On the surface, neither Wormald nor Hough seem the most obvious choices to inherit the roles initially played by Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer Wormald has long been a professional dancer, appearing briefly in Clerks II and You Got Served, while Hough, similarly, is a two-time champion on the hit ABC series Dancing With the Stars.  While both are obviously capable of cutting a rug on a professional level, they were untested as actors carrying a major motion picture.

"The thing that helped me the most in that sense," Wormald said, "Is when (Brewer) called me and said you booked this film because of your acting, not because of your dancing. I was like, 'You sure about that? Thank you!' That instilled a ton of confidence in me and it's like what you were saying, it's that moment where you just like feel solidified, you're ready to go."

Hough's situation was somewhat different, as she was attached to the project before Brewer came aboard as writer-director.  She explained, "I kinda had to audition for Craig again because I was attached earlier, but he had the option of recasting and he kind of wanted to because he didn't really know who I was, I was some dancer chick you know? So when I went in I was like, 'You know what, I don't care, I want you to see what I can do.' So I went in there and I read for him and he hired me on the spot. We read the script together and we picked a few points out and we read with some random people I'd never seen before and I haven't seen since and yeah, he hired me there. He's like, 'Alright I wanna do this with you.' I'm like, 'Okay, wow!'"

The decision to cast these two untested actors impressed MacDowell, who pointed out how the choices were indicative of an approach that paid off handsomely.  "Look at the choices they made, they made great choices," she said.  "They chose dancers, dancers that actually can really act. I think the dancing is a lot better in this movie. Kenny just blows my mind. He's just...that's when he's gonna steal everybody's heart. He's really great in the court scene. If you know him, he's a genuine person. That is who he is. He is a good person. Both of them are great people. I just can't wait to see what's gonna happen with their careers."

The unlikely choice of stars is reflective of the unlikely choice of director, but MacDowell said that Craig Brewer was truly invaluable on set, particularly regarding his lead actors.  "I just remember he has a lot of energy, he's very attentive, more attentive than other directors, I love watching him work. I'm more of a supporter for all in this so it gave me an opportunity to sit back and watch everything that was happening. And it was really interesting to see how he handled people," she said.  "He was as good to the background people as he was to his stars, well of course he gave his stars more attention because they needed it, but he still treated everybody the same and he has enormous amounts of energy. He was like a conductor in the whole room. He was aware of everything that happened in the room and just brilliant with these young actors and how he nurtured them and made them feel good about themselves and got them to give these incredible performances."

That's not to say there aren't big differences between the sort of dancing with which they were familiar and the process of making a feature film, even one as focused on cutting loose as this one.  "Well on the show it's like seven days a week, like eight hours to twelve hours a day that we were doing," Hough explained, referring to her tenure on Dancing With the Stars.  "And it's only that that we're focused on. Whereas the movie, we have rehearsals and it's grueling, but then we're focusing on the acting and whether it's a comedic part or if it's a dramatic part and then there's a whole other level to it. Then once we actually do shoot the actual dance scene, it takes all day like twelve to fifteen hours a day."  She concluded, "And live, it's a minute and a half and you're done."

Both Wormald and Hough are tremendously fond of the 1984 film, with Wormald saying, "Absolutely was a huge fan of the original. Growing up (as) dancers, you're crazy if you don't love it kind of."

Hough related very much to the character of Ariel Moore, in particular her relationship with her overbearing father, a reverend played by Dennis Quaid.  She explained, "I relate to her a lot. The conversation that she has with Dennis the very end of the movie where she says she doesn't want him to be disappointed in her anymore, I remember having that conversation with my dad so I definitely relate to her. A lot of how she wanted attention and I grew up in a heavily religious community and I had five kids running around and I was the baby and you have to do something to get attention so I definitely acted out. I was a good kid though like at the time it seemed really bad, but I look back now and damn I was really good."

When asked their favorite part of the original film, both Wormald and Hough almost simultaneously replied, "The angry dance."  If you're not aware, the sequence they referenced is one in which Bacon does an impassioned and sometimes fairly acrobatic solo dance in an abandoned industrial space, furiously leaping, thrusting, and flipping along to 'Never' by Australian band Moving Pictures.

Shooting the new version of the almost iconic sequence at the very end of principal photography was grueling but fun for Wormald, who said, "The angry dance was insane. I mean shooting that was a blast, but then also I've been on sets for years as a dancer and I knew a ton of the dancers that got hired because they were from L.A. so being on set with my friends was essentially you know, it's not work."

Comparing the original Angry Dance to Brewer's version, Wormald explained, "Well the main thing that's different is not only the song, but the...in the original it's perfect. He doesn't mess up, he doesn't fall, he doesn't do any of that. In mine he wanted that, he wanted more of a struggle you know like it's really a guy's can relate to falling and getting right back up wipe yourself off type of mentality. I love that about it and that with the song choice I think made it cool and similar enough to the original and the certain kicks and a couple moves out of the same, but having those differences I think made it great."

That sequence is indicative of how Brewer incorporated recognizable flourishes from the first Footloose.  Audiences have been surprised by the degree of reverence shown to the original, as the new movie includes not just instances of story synchronicity, but frequent use of familiar musical cues and costumes.  "Yeah, I think when people see it who know the original they go, "Oh."  Like it's those moments that if you left out you'd be lacking something," Wormald explained.  "So Craig was smart with his decisions with that, but yea those were the moments where we were like, "Oh my god, we're shooting Footloose."  Because it felt like we were making our own movie, didn't feel like we were mimicking anyone else's stuff, but when you jump in the bug and you jump in that maroon jacket and she throws on the red boots, those moments are so just you can't not have them."

"You can't miss them," Hough added.

MacDowell summed up the thinking behind this new version of the film and the perspective that makes it special, saying, "I think it's really perfect timing. I think we need a movie like this right now. They brought it up to date, they were very respectful of the original by having the producers on set and really going to a lot of trouble to make it authentic to the original, but yet making it contemporary. The dance part really is important because the dances changed so much and society has changed."

To watch our exclusive interview with Footloose actors Miles Teller and Ziah Colon, please click here.

To watch our exclusive interview with Footloose director Craig Brewer, please click here.

Footloose is in theaters nationwide as of today, October 14th.

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