By Jessica Foreman
Writer and director Craig Brewer (“Hustle & Flow,” “Black Snake Moan”) delivers a new version of the classic 1984 film “Footloose” that he says will be “more relevant today than it was in ‘84” in regard to the modern teenager.
Brewer, a fan of the original film, undertook this project after passing up the opportunity to direct the remake twice before. After asking Paramount for the original script and talking with the 1984 “Footloose” director Dean Pitchford, Brewer decided to take on the sometimes frowned-upon venture of constructing a remake.
“[Pitchford] was really supportive of me,” Brewer said during a conference call on Tuesday. “As a writer, it was special for him to see a new interpretation of his ideas and to see it worked.”
Brewer said one issue he faced was balancing the interests of the fans of the original with his interests as director of a new film.
“I had to make peace with the fact that there would be a wall of hate coming my way,” Brewer said. “I wanted it to be respectful of the original, but I also wanted it to be slightly different, more contemporary and more relevant.”
In this remake, Julianne Hough of “Dancing with the Stars” fame, plays Ariel Moore, the film’s main love interest and the troubled daughter of Rev. Shaw Moore (played by Dennis Quaid in the new version) who stars in several dance numbers throughout the remake.
Hough said she could connect and relate to her character because of her background experiences in Utah, and her seemingly contrasting passion for dance.
“I grew up Mormon in Utah and we would have dances where if you were, like, closer than arms-length away from each other, they would come and move you away because they didn’t want it to be provocative,” said Hough in a separate conference call.
The 1984 version of “Footloose” is about a city boy who comes to a small town where rock music and dancing have been banned in the aftermath of a tragic accident. Ren McCormack (originally played by Kevin Bacon) wants to get rid of the outdated ordinance, in time for the high school senior prom. His rebellious nature and slick dance moves shake up the repressed townspeople.
Creative decisions made to modernize the movie included moving the accident that spurred the dancing ban laws to the forefront. As a parent, Brewer said he sympathized and would sign any petition if he thought it would protect his own kids.
“That’s not indicative of the eighties; that’s a timeless issue,” Brewer said
Perhaps less timeless is the 80s dance style from the 1984 version. Brewer said modernized varieties of dance are incorporated within the movie, including “dirty south,” “the gangsta walk,” which he described as a “bounce-type thing,” and “a sexy line dance.” Brewer said he is more focused on making the dances look natural instead of over produced.
“Even though we had some of the world’s best dancers in our movie, it wasn’t necessarily important to us that they look absolutely amazing all of the time,” Brewer said.
Hough said she enjoyed all of the dance scenes and the interaction between cast members. Hough said that all involved in shooting the film felt like it was their “own movie.”
“We felt like we were a bunch of kids at summer camp,” Hough said.
Ultimately, Brewer described his satisfaction with the version of “Footloose” that he produced, and has had positive reviews from those who have already seen the film.
“They’ve been doing screenings around town and all of these hardcore ‘Footloose’ fans who are skeptical about this film are seeing it and loving it, watching it and experiencing everything from the first [film] and so much more,” Hough said.
Brewer has experienced the same results.
“I can’t anticipate what the box office is going to do,” Brewer said. “I can tell you what’s been happening. People love it. People feel like they got to celebrate the original again. The music is incredible, the dances have an incredible amount of energy, and the movie needs to be experienced in a theater.”
With original director Pitchford’s blessing, successful previews and a fanatical love of the original “Footloose” heavy on heart, Brewer has confidence in his work.
“I look at ‘Footloose’ and I think who else could’ve made this but me,” said Brewer. “I nailed the ‘Footloose’ remake.”
Joshua Madden also contributed to this story.