Q&A: ‘Footloose’ director talks about recreating a classic

Alex Williams

“Footloose” is director Craig Brewer’s fourth feature film, a remake of the 1984 Kevin Bacon classic. The film continues Brewer’s tradition of southern-set films, a collection that also includes “Hustle & Flow” and “Black Snake Moan,” two of the most distinctly deep-fried southern films to come out of the last decade. Star Kenny Wormald, taking the reins from Bacon as new kid in town Ren McCormack, has very little on-screen experience but performs admirably in a role that could have easily been a flavorless rehash. “Footloose” opens in theaters everywhere Thursday. Check back tomorrow for a review.

The Daily Texan participated in a roundtable interview with Brewer and Wormald last month after a screening at the Alamo Drafthouse.

The Daily Texan: How did being raised in the South affect your perspective in making this film?
Craig Brewer: All of my family comes from the South, but I had the opportunity to live elsewhere. For me, I would always go back to the South during the summers, so I kind of felt like Ren McCormack. I was always very aware that there was both a stereotypical south and a real south. What was kind of funny to me was the real southern relatives that I had didn’t mind stereotypes and sometimes would slip into it themselves … I feel that the more movies I make that take place in the South, I kind of break down some of those things.

DT: What drew you to the project and was it difficult to put your own personal spin on a pre-existing property?
CB: It was very daunting, and I turned it down a couple of times. In the original, the accident took place much later in the narrative, but having it right at the beginning changed the way not only audiences would feel about the movie but really changed the way I personally was perceiving it. What it did for me was play more to my concerns as a parent as opposed to just a guy. I consider myself pretty liberal, but when safety or harm or fear of death starts being introduced to my children, I change into a different person, and I guess I started to understand Reverend Moore a little bit better.

DT: Tell me about casting.
CB: I felt very confident to move forward with it. Also in casting, I think that there were a lot of different ideas before I came onto the project on how to cast the movie. I really believed that if teenagers were going to have the same experience I had in 1984, then they needed a fresh new cast they could claim as their own. That’s what I did.
Kenny Wormald: I remember when it was the musical version before Craig was on board. I was jealous. I grew up dancing, I had seen “Footloose” 100 times, and I thought “Dammit, I think I should be Ren McCormack.” Once everything shifted and Craig came onboard and it was a clean slate, he got to start casting. I went in for the audition process and went through the steps of that and finally ended up at Paramount doing a screen test and it went my way.

DT: What can the new generation get from this story?
CB: I guess when I look back on “Footloose,” because I’ve watched it almost every other year of my life, I saw things in the original “Footloose” I don’t think are in the VH1 remember-the-’80s reel. I remember there being some serious drama in it. I’ll never forget being in the audience and seeing Ariel yell at her father “I’m not even a virgin” in a church. As a young teen, I got to see this guy stand up for his individuality and stand up for what he believes in, and it was in a world that was both brutal and unfair and also joyous, with friends and allies. Let’s clean the slate. Let’s assume there’s no “Footloose” anymore. What movies do teenagers have, other than superhero movies or fantasy movies where they can explore those things? How better of a narrative than “Footloose” to give them that sense of self-worth that I got when I was 13?

DT: What was your biggest challenge in remaking the film?
CB: This moment with me talking to you all. I knew there was going to be two phases that would be challenging: One was making it, and that would be the first challenge, and that has all the mini-challenges involved in it — Did we cast the right people, did we do the right music, did I write the right scenes, do we have the right costumes? There’s all these mini-challenges inside the big challenges of “Did we pull the movie off?” I think we pulled the movie off. I’ve never been more confident of the fact that, without any arrogance, you are looking at the only two guys who could have and should have done the remake of “Footloose.”

It is a challenge. It’s a challenge knowing I had new actors that were going to have to take this kind of hate. I knew their heart was in the right place. I knew they had a love for the original and they wanted to do right by it and we were going to have to weather this time, and eventually, the movie was going to have to have its day.

Printed on Thursday, October 13, 2011 as: 'Footloose' director contemplates casting choices, film perspectives