Footloose returns to the big screen

The Wichitan

Photo courtesy

By Frank Lowece  

Remake “Footloose”? Sure, why not?

And why not remake “Pretty in Pink,” “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and other beloved 1980s teen movies while we’re at it?

No one has felt that question more acutely than Craig Zadan, a producer of both the 1984 original starring Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer and the remake, opening Friday, starring newcomer Kenny Wormald and “Dancing With the Stars” pro Julianne Hough.

The original — about a big-city teen who rallies his classmates to change an anti-dancing law championed by a minister (John Lithgow then, Dennis Quaid now) — met with mixed reviews.

But it became one of the decade’s signature movies, spawning a trio of hit songs, “Let’s Hear It for the Boy,” “Holding Out for a Hero” and the title track.

“When Paramount started talking to us about it, I thought, ‘Why should we do this?’ because I had done it already,” Zadan says.

The studio, which had lined up “High School Musical”-trilogy director Kenny Ortega and star Zac Efron, proceeded to develop a screenplay without him.

Then, since Zadan and his producing partner, Neil Meron, had produced Efron’s movie “Hairspray,” the star “called us and said, ‘I really want you to produce this.’ So we reconsidered.

And then Zac left (in March 2009) because he came to the realization he didn’t want to do any more movie musicals for a while.”

Successor Chace Crawford backed out in April 2010 when the film’s start date got delayed, reportedly cutting into his “Gossip Girl” shooting schedule.

Ortega had departed six months earlier over what Variety called creative differences and budget.

“At that point, the whole thing was falling apart,” Zadan remembers, “and we thought, ‘Oh, maybe it’s not meant to be.

And that’s when Craig Brewer came along with his pitch.”

That pitch, by the writer-director of “Hustle&Flow” and “Black Snake Moan,” was anchored in depicting the car crash — only talked about in the original — that killed five teens returning from a beer-fueled dance that led to the ban.

“Like a lot of people,” Brewer says, “I struggled with why the movie should be remade, and I actually resisted doing the remake for a while.”

The original, after all, had been a revelation to his 13-year-old self, he says.

Since his Army-dad family moved frequently, “I was always drawn to the fact that Ren (McCormack, Bacon’s character) had to make things work for him where he was.

He was a new kind of hero for me.” Why tamper with that?

“I got this vision,” Brewer explains, “of dancing feet on a muddy floor with a keg” — which became the new film’s opening, echoing the dancing feet in some clean, gray limbo in the original.

“I’ve been to many parties like that, and (as in the original) there’s that Kenny Loggins (title) song giving audiences a party — and then it would all crash down when that accident happens.

It would really put into context that a town can suffer horribly, and then there’s this kind of American reaction where a tragedy happens and everybody overreacts and makes a lot of laws that in the long run cause more harm than good.

Once I started thinking in those terms, I thought I could update the simple ‘80s pop story.”

Brewer went back to the original Dean Pitchford screenplay.

“I don’t think it’s the right idea to completely reinvent ‘Footloose,’” he reasons.

“We can update a couple of things to make it more relevant, but it’s got to be the same spirit. (Zadan) understood I was paying homage to the original while adding my own flavor to it.”

So, will the iPod-era remake compare well with the Walkman original?

Who knows, but however it’s received, let’s hear it for the Brewer — let’s give the boy a hand. It takes guts to update an old favorite. Says star Wormald, “I hadn’t seen ‘Black Snake Moan’ until I was going to audition for him — I’d only known that people either loved it or thought it was from left field.

I saw it and said, ‘This guy is making “Footloose”? This is gonna be the wildest “Footloose” there could be!’”

This isn’t the first time “Footloose” has been remade: A Broadway musical played for nearly two years at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, running 18 previews and 709 performances from Oct. 5, 1998, to July 2, 2000.

With Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, John Lithgow and Sarah Jessica Parker among the stars of the original “Footloose,” was there any thought given to having one or more return for a cameo?

“We decided if we had anyone from the original movie, it was going to be Kevin,” says producer Craig Zadan. “Initially he thought, ‘Hey, it might be cool,’ but he decided that he’d rather not.”

What part would he have played? “There was an earlier draft of mine that had the character of Ren’s deadbeat dad,” says writer-director Craig Brewer. “I thought, if Kevin wanted to do a cameo, this is what I could see him playing.

But Kevin wasn’t interested in it, and I cut it out of the script before shooting.”