Reactions were mixed. After what feels like hundreds of remakes, many of which seem to get worse and worse each year (see The Women or Fame), it seems the American public has become fatigued with the lack of originality.
So, when Paramount Pictures announced in 2007 it was planning a remake of the beloved 1984 film, not many were pleased.
No one is aware of this more than the filmmaker, Craig Brewer.
“Here’s what I had to decide when I decided to do Footloose: I had to make peace with the fact that there was going to be a wall of hate coming my way,” Brewer said. “I do know that, with the best of intentions, sometimes people don’t show up, or people pre-judge. I can’t anticipate what the box office is going to be because that’s, to some degree, out of my hands.”
The film’s star, Julianne Hough, agrees.
“When I first found out they were doing a remake of an iconic movie like Footloose, which is really close to my heart, I thought the same thing — like, ugh, remakes, they suck, you know? Like, nobody ever does them justice,” Hough said.
Brewer’s involvement in the project is what apparently changed her mind.
“I think there wouldn’t have been a better choice to do this film other than Craig Brewer,” Hough said.
To some, Brewer might not be familiar. Most recently, he was behind 2005’s critically acclaimed Hustle and Flow as well as a not-so-acclaimed flick — Black Snake Moan, featuring Samuel L. Jackson and Justin Timberlake. Both films were noted for their sense of southern grittiness.
In either case, they’re a far cry from Footloose. So what inspired Brewer to take on the remake?
Brewer, who passed on the film twice, said, the need for greater authenticity in the portrayal of teenagers was what compelled him.
“There was a time where teenage movies actually dealt with teenage problems,” he said.
The portrayal was real, not glamorized or dumbed-down or as Brewer puts it, “under the guise of Glee,” taking a dig at the popular — yet pretty fluffy — television show.
Hough believes Brewer’s presence helps the remake reflect our modern society, as well as proverbially thank the original.
“I think that [Brewer] did justice with giving [the movie] the same heart that you felt when you were watching it in 1984. I think he was the perfect choice,” Hough said.
Despite success in the production process, the film was actually plagued by problems since its inception in 2007.
The original director was Kenny Ortega (High School Musical), and Zac Efron was slated to play the lead role of Ren McCormack. Differences with the studio, however, caused Ortega to back out, and Efron soon followed.
Soon afterward, Gossip Girl’s Chace Crawford came on as the lead, but left because of scheduling conflicts. Finally, Kenny Wormald signed on as Ren around the same time Brewer came on as director.
All the production conflicts worried Brewer, mainly because he was afraid the film would try too hard to be just a dance film.
“They kind of got the same team that made High School Musical,” Brewer said. “I kind of shook my head saying, you know, I don’t know what they’re going to make. Footloose is more than a dance movie.”
Brewer wanted to tap into real teenage lives. He wanted sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll — topics often deemed taboo in mainstream films based on teenage lives.
“I think I was particularly worried that a spoof was going to be done, that it was just going to be like a dance movie that somebody threw the name Footloose on, and called it a day, you know?” Brewer said.
According to Hough, a copious amount of content in the remake was based off the original Footloose, but with some tweaks, such as the loss of Ren’s mother and greater explanation as to why the town’s elders outlaw dancing.
Simply watching the film’s trailer can show how much has changed — in place of line dancing, there’s break-dancing.
Brewer isn’t worried about changes reducing the film’s appeal, though. In fact, he believes updating the original will help the film’s message speak to a new generation.
“There is a tremendous amount of love for the original,” Brewer said. “But there is also an urgency to tell a movie that has the ideals of the original Footloose, that has the energy of the original Footloose, and to give it to a new generation.”
Footloose is set for theatrical release Friday.