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As you probably know first-hand, or have heard the stories, the 80’s were a good time. The economy was booming, Halston ruled the runways, Warhol the art world, Donna Summer the airwaves, and Studio 54 was the hottest place on the entire planet. But then, in 1984, Paramount Pictures released a little film with an unknown star about a small town in Texas that prohibited young people from dancing. And boom! Kevin Bacon’s career was launched, the box office exploded, and a legend was born - Footloose.

Fast forward 27 years and Footloose is about to return, facing an audience with more on their minds than just dancing. Can Director Craig Brewer and his new cast of freshman actors pull off a box office miracle for a second time?

Graig Brewer and Kenny Wormald
The answer lies in the good looks and talents of newcomer Kenny Wormald, who has snagged the starring role of Ren, a teen-aged newcomer to the fictional town of Bomont, Georgia. He moves in with his Uncle Wes, played by the always entertaining Ray McKinnon, a kind-hearted auto mechanic, and duly enrolls in the local High School. Like any new kid in any small town, he attracts a lot of attention, from the bullies, the losers, and of course, the girls. And because of a fatal car wreck after a prom that killed five teens years before, he learns that there is a strict curfew, and no dancing allowed in Bomont.

Andie, Kenny, Dennis QuaidWe caught up with Wormald in Nashville, TN recently, as well as Director Craig Brewer, Julianne Hough who plays Ren’s love interest Ariel (originally played by Lori Singer), and Miles Teller, who  is best known for his role in Rabbit Hole (starring Nicole Kidman), and who plays Willard, Ren’s new best friend.

“Originally, Kenny Ortega was going to direct this,” Wormald said, “and they were going to go into a musical direction with singing and dancing and looking into the camera and that whole thing. And I was jealous of those guys. I didn’t know it was a musical, I just thought it was
Footloose and I was like ‘Damn, I think I could do Ren justice.’”

“I thought, ‘Do I have to fight those kids? What do I have to do to get them out of there?’” he said, laughing.

“Luckily it all worked out. When Craig took over he wanted the experience to be more like the original, where you are just meeting this kid for the first time as an audience, just like as Kevin Bacon was kind of an unknown guy at the time. Once I heard that, I was pumped because I knew that I had a chance, and then I started auditioning and going through the process.”

Also, Wormald had more than just a pretty face and some acting skill going for him. Wormald can dance, really, really dance. He was a dancer who spent several years on tour with none other than Justin Timberlake!

I moved to LA, and by the time I was 22 I was touring with him. I had done some other jobs in between, a few dance movies and music videos (Center Stage: Turn It Up) but that was the big moment for me.”

“I didn’t start with that,” he explained.  “I used to study his videos living back home, and I would rewind them and learn them over and over again, and so when I was 18  I realized I could maybe do this as a career. I moved to LA right away and started taking classes from his choreographer, and by the time I was 22 I was touring with him.  I was blown away. I was still a little star-struck by Justin because I had grown up an N’Sync fan.”

I asked Director Brewer about his first impressions of Wormald. “I couldn’t see him as Ren, at least not at first, but only because he was unknown. During the audition process, I knew he would do a good job, and I knew he was bringing something different than Kevin, but there’s still a question mark. You don’t completely know if it’s going to work.”

He continued, “I remember this moment when I was saying to myself ‘I think this is a really brave performance, as opposed to just doing something that was meant to be in the shadow of what Kevin Bacon did in the beginning. There was this scene where he was talking about his mother who passed away. There was a softness and assuredness that actually transcended the original performance because it was a different portrayal, but it seemed honest, it seemed really real to me. It didn’t feel like I was watching a person putting on an act in front of me or putting on a false attitude.”

“I felt Kenny experienced some tragedy in his life that wasn’t really displayed by way of tears. He had this hardness to him of a person that’s been through a really horrible experience, and it somehow hardened him a little bit.”

“I remember thinking ‘I think this guy is bringing something new and something a little more refreshing to the role and it was from that moment that I was like ‘I think we may even… we didn’t just do the job, I think we went further, we transcended the role.’”

As everyone knows, the music and dancing contributed a great deal to the film’s success. We wondered if Brewer’s knack for nailing a score helped him get the job.

Footloose group“No, not really,” he replied. “Because the studio, I think, wasn’t thinking in terms of music. I think I wasn’t thinking in terms of music either, really. They were thinking in terms of ‘is this story going to work?’ I think they felt very confident that whatever I would do musically, they would like. I felt confident about it. I felt very comfortable picking the music.”

So how did he get to make the movie, I wondered. “Umm, I’m going to guess that it’s two things,” he responded thoughtfully. “It’s the script and then my pitch.  And what I mean by that is that sometimes I’ll come in and I’ll pitch an idea, and I get hired to write my script. But even when I write the script, I want to direct it. I have to come in show the studion my vision of the movie, and do it in a way where there’s not a lot of mystery in their minds.”

“I heard the advice early on to leave nothing up to their imagination. If you’re going to be doing a movie about scuba diving assassins than find pictures of scuba diving assassins. Do whatever you can, no matter how crazy it is. Do whatever you can to make them see the vision, so when they see it in front of them they can feel better about putting money towards it.”
Julianne Hough
At age 23, Julianne Hough is riding high as one of Hollywood’s newest “it” girls. Like her handsome co-star, she’s not only pretty, but also a seasoned professional in the difficult realms of not only acting, but also singing and dancing. She explains how she’s really focused on the story.

original Footloose"I remember watching the original, I thought that I really didn’t like Ariel, even toward the end. but I think that there’s more understanding in our version. You get to feel for Ariel more."

Brewer concurs, "She was cold. I think that was also by design. I think what’s particularly interesting to watch now with our version is, you see this girl and she’s 14 and she’s sitting in the City Council chamber and she just looks hurt. Every time I watch Julianne do that scene, I get the same thing out of it every time. I think she’s looking for her father to say ‘everybody calm down’ this is not… grief is not the time or place to be making these kinds of decisions. But her father ultimately disappoints her."

Brewer continues, "Then it cuts to three years later and she’s shacking up with race car drivers. I think ‘man, what happened, freshman, sophomore, and junior year, to this girl before this moment?"

Hough says, "And what I love, too, is after the train scene with Ren, that’s when she just kind of flips and she just decides right then and there. He’s seen her now, and she can show herself, and he’s her hero!"

Kenny adds, "I love the line 'I’ve dealt with this in my own way.'”

For your information, Julianne is also a close friends with Taylor Swift. At Nashville's prestigious Country Radio Seminar earlier this year, Swift called Hough onstage to sing with her during her set. Needless to say, the audience of country music radio jocks and other recording industry pros went wild during the two friends' performance."

Hough explains, "We’ve hung out a few times, but it’s been pretty crazy the last year or so, just because of both of our schedules. But yeah, it was really fun to get on stage and sing, especially to her kind of crowd. My audience tends to be a little older because of "Dancing with the Stars" [Hough has been starring on that show for the past 3 years] and hers is very young. So it was cool and fresh to have that experience, and now we’re kind of feeling that in this movie, too. Because there’s a young audience, they’re screaming…

It's also been reported that Hough has been cast in both Diablo Cody’s upcoming directorial debut and Russell Brand's upcoming feature. I asked Hough if that was true.

"It’s exciting. I know for a fact Footloose was the reason why I got Rock of Ages and they're both separate projects. They both came in and watched the movie and that’s how I got my jobs.

I think this Diablo Cody one is really cool, really different than anything I’ve done in the past.  I think people will see this. What’s interesting about what Craig just said about Ren’s character, that he's been hurt himself and he doesn’t really cry about it, I think that’s what this next one’s going to be for me. It’s really like, painful."

I don't know if any of you agree, but Footloose seems timeless to me. I asked Craig Brewer if he thought this particuar incarnation will pass the test of time?

"I don’t know," he replied. "But I don’t think it needs to. If it does, that’s fantastic. Entertainment is changing day-to-day and I don’t think any one of us set out to replace the original. That’s going to be the classic. It was the original. It was the one that set the whole ball rolling for this whole pop-teen musical… music inspired movie. But I had a friend say the other day, he believes Footloose should just be retold over and over again with various teenagers. Like, you should have done it back with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. And every 30 years, I think you may have a new one."

I asked Kenny, if he thought he was going to be a movie star?

"I always wanted to be the guy, whatever movie it was, Home Alone or Hook, I always wanted to be the guy. If it was a film about a cop, I wanted to be a cop, or if it was a film about a guy flying an airplane then I’d want to fly an airplane. I’ve always been so inspired by films, but I don’t know if there was ever a moment when I was like “yes, I’m going to be a movie star.”

"It’s still weird to say that, but I technically am the star of a movie. We’ll see. I’m just so honored to act in this film particularly, directed by that guy, and just a great, great launch pad for me so hopefully we’ll be talking about many more to come."

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 127 - September 2018
Turnpage Blk


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