Kick Off Your Sunday Shoes With 20 Facts About Footloose
“Now I gotta cut loose. Footloose, kick off the Sunday shoes. Please, Louise, pull me off of my knees. Jack, get back, come on before we crack. Lose your blues, everybody cut footloose!” One movie that had all of us kicking off our Sunday shoes since 1984, Footloose is one of the best musical flicks of the entire 1980s. Join us now as we celebrate the antics of Ren McCormack and his crew, by giving you the following 20 things that you might not have known about this classic feel-good flick.
20. The film is based on a true story
The core plot of Footloose (a small town bans teenagers from dancing) may seem a little bit far-fetched to many viewers today. However, the film’s story is indeed loosely based on real-life events, believe it or not. The inspiration behind the 1984 musical hit came from the small religious community of Elmore City, Oklahoma.
This community banned dancing in 1898 in an attempt to cut down on heavy drinking amongst young people. Surprising this ban remained in place for 80 years, until a group of high school teenagers campaigned to change the law for their senior prom in 1978. They ultimately emerged victorious, and this inspired the story of Ren McCormack and friends.
19. It could have starred Kevin Costner instead of Kevin Bacon
Whilst we can’t imagine anyone else playing Ren McCormack in Footloose, Kevin Bacon wasn’t the only big Hollywood star to audition for the part. Another future superstar actor, coincidentally with the same first name, had also tried out for the role: Kevin Costner. We don’t know if we’re sad or glad that he was rejected, because we would have loved to see Costner strutting his stuff on the dancefloor!
The still largely-unknown Costner was 29 at the time, so was probably deemed too old for the part. He wouldn’t get his big break in movies until a year later, with the 1985 western Silverado. By the end of the 80s, Costner was one of the biggest leading men around, and in 1990 he became an Oscar winner with his directorial debut, Dances with Wolves.
18. Tom Cruise and Rob Lowe were also in the running for Bacon’s role
Of course, Kevin Costner wasn’t Bacon’s only competition for the Footloose leading role of Ren McCormack. Two other up and coming actors considered for the part were Tom Cruise and Rob Lowe (who had recently co-starred in The Outsiders). The producers saw potential in Cruise as a dancer – a key aspect of the role – thanks to that scene in Risky Business.
Cruise ultimately signed up to the movie All the Right Moves instead, but Rob Lowe was a serious contender for a while, as he had both the dance skills and the looks that Footloose’s casting directors were after. Unfortunately for Lowe, he picked up an injury that prevented him from taking the part. 1984 would instead see Lowe appear in The Hotel New Hampshire and Oxford Blues.
17. Kevin Bacon turned down Stephen King adaptation Christine for the role
In accepting the role of Ren McCormack, Kevin Bacon had to pass on another starring role, in 1983’s Christine. Directed by John Carpenter, Christine is an adaptation of the Stephen King horror novel of the same name. Bacon auditioned for the lead role of Arnie, the awkward teenager who develops an unholy bond with his vintage car.
However, Bacon (who’d already had a memorable horror role in the original Friday the 13th) had to weigh up his options when the offer of the Footloose lead came his way, and so the actor decided against Christine. The role of Arnie in Christine ultimately went to Keith Gordon, and the film wound up making considerably less impact at the box office than Footloose would in 1984.
16. Madonna was one of many actresses considered for the role of Ariel
Lori Singer stars in Footloose as Reverend Moore’s daughter Ariel, but it was a role that nearly every young actress in Hollywood was considered for. One key contender for Ariel was Madonna, who was already a big name in pop music but hadn’t yet broken through in the movies. Ultimately Madonna would have to wait for 1985’s Desperately Seeking Susan to get her first big film role.
Other actresses considered for Ariel include Michelle Pfeiffer, Jamie Lee Curtis, Rosanna Arquette, Meg Ryan, Jodie Foster and Bridget Fonda. Daryl Hannah was actually offered Footloose’s female lead role, but turned it down so she could instead take the role of the lovestruck mermaid Madison in fantasy rom-com classic Splash, alongside Tom Hanks.
15. The original director was fired after he demanded a quarter of a million dollars to rewrite the script
Given that Footloose is considered a bit of a camp classic, it might surprise you that an Oscar-winning Hollywood heavyweight was originally poised to direct it. Michael Cimino, director of awards-magnet Vietnam war classic The Deer Hunter starring Robert De Niro, was the first director attached to Footloose. Despite the massive success of The Deer Hunter, Cimino was in dire need of a hit in the early 80s following his massively expensive flop Heaven’s Gate.
However, Cimino was fired from the project after he started making extravagant demands: for one, he insisted that he be paid an extra quarter of a million dollars to rewrite the screenplay. Herbert Ross was hired to direct Footloose in his place, and Cimino would instead go on to call the shots on 1985 cop thriller Year of the Dragon.
14. Kevin Bacon came up with the title Footloose
While it’s hard to imagine Footloose under any other title, the project was originally set to be called Cheek to Cheek. We actually have Kevin Bacon himself to thank for the title Footloose, after he used the term in a conversation with director Herbert Ross. Bacon, in another notable contribution to the movie, suggested that a planned fight sequence in a steel mill should instead be a dance sequence.
The solo dance scene in question became one of the film’s most famous scenes. Whilst working on the scene, Bacon reportedly told Ross, “I gotta dance, I wanna get footloose” – and this struck a chord with Ross. Ross then decided that Footloose should be the movie’s title, while also deciding to change all the fight scenes into dance scenes.
13. The actors playing Ren and Ariel’s parents aren’t much older than Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer
Footloose casts John Lithgow and Dianne Wiest as the Reverend Shaw Moore and his wife Vi, and Frances Lee McCain as Ethel McCormack. These characters are the parents of Lori Singer’s Ariel and Kevin Bacon’s Ren respectively – but in reality the age gaps between the actors playing the parents and the children are not actually that large.
Lori Singer was born in 1957, making her only 12 years younger than her on-screen father John Lithgow, who was born in 1945. Similarly, Dianne Wiest (born 1946) is only 11 years older than on-screen daughter Singer. Frances Lee McCain, meanwhile, was born in 1943, just 15 years before her screen son Kevin Bacon came into the world.
12. Kevin Bacon went undercover in a high school as research
As well as getting into some intensive dance training for Footloose, Kevin Bacon also went a bit method to prepare for the role of Ren McCormack. The actor, aged 24 at the time, went undercover as a student at a high school in Provo, Utah (not far from where Footloose was shot), to get a taste of what being the new guy at a small town school was like. He was introduced as Ren McCormack, and only the school’s principal and the guidance counsellor knew who he really was.
Bacon (who was also wearing his character’s New Wave-era clothing and hairstyle) recalls, “It was very much like my experience in the movie. A lot of the kids were hostile and the girls did a lot of giggling.” The actor had intended to do one full day of high school, but says he only managed a few hours because “basically I was terrified.”
11. Bacon’s jeans were made extra-tight on purpose
Kevin Bacon’s distinctive Footloose look as Ren McCormack relies heavily on close-fitting stonewash jeans (back in the good old days when ‘double denim’ wasn’t considered a dad thing). If you’ve ever found yourself gasping at just how snug Bacon’s jeans appear to be in certain scenes, rest assured this was in no way an accident.
The actor says that the Footloose costume department was tasked with making his jeans even tighter, whilst still giving him the necessary freedom of movement to dance. Bacon recalls, “I remember having these pants on that were unbelievably tight already, but weren’t quite tight enough for some of the shots. They would take them and pin them from behind so they were really skin tight.”
10. Kevin Bacon broke out in hives shooting the town hall scene due to his fear of public speaking
You might not expect a big name actor like Kevin Bacon to have any kind of problem speaking in front of large crowds. However, this was not the case around the time Footloose was made, as the actor struggled terribly with his nerves when shooting the pivotal town hall scene in which Ren speaks out against the dancing ban.
Bacon suffered great anxiety over giving a speech in front of so many people; it was so bad that the actor recalls suffering an outbreak of hives all over his ribs. Bacon admitted on the Footloose DVD commentary, “I personally have a very difficult time public speaking.” Ultimately the actor had to be given half a valium to settle his nerves and get the scene done.
9. The cast and crew ran afoul of Utah townspeople because of their partying
Footloose centres on a young newcomer whose loose-living ways are frowned upon by a conservative small town. This actually wasn’t too far removed from the situation that Footloose’s cast and crew found themselves in, whilst shooting in Utah. Bacon recalls, “I don’t think we were completely trusted… a lot of people thought we were doing the devil’s work. There were reports of skinny-dipping in the hotel pool, illicit sex and drugs – all of which were true – but the community was really uncomfortable with us.”
Supporting actress Elizabeth Gorcey (who plays Wendy Jo) recalls, “We were not welcomed in Utah by any means… Normally when I did a film, the locals were very excited that you were even there and invite you for tea or something. This was not the case. They would actually close the doors instead of opening anything for us.”
8. John Lithgow and Dianne Wiest went skinny-dipping in their hotel pool
If you’d think anyone would stay out of all the partying it would be John Lithgow and Diane Wiest, who play the conservative Christian parents of Footloose. Clearly art doesn’t always imitate life, however. Lithgow admitted to Variety in 2017 that he and Wiest worried about feeling excluded as older cast members, so they got “wild” in after-hours parties during production.
Lithgow says that on one occasion, he and Wiest “took off our clothes and swam in the pool” at the hotel where the cast were staying – and their on-screen daughter Lori Singer followed suit. Lithgow recalls, “There was a memo sent out to every member of the production the next morning from (producer) Dan Melnick that said, ‘Behave yourselves.’ It was directed to Dianne and me.”
7. Chris Penn’s dance training montage was added because Penn really couldn’t dance
The Footloose team must have loved actor Chris Penn, as the role of Willard Hewitt was heavily reworked especially to fit the actor. For one thing, the character didn’t even have that name in the script; for another, the key subplot of Renn teaching Willard how to dance wasn’t originally part of the film’s story either.
This whole subplot – which reaches its peak in the training montage set to Let’s Hear It for the Boy – was added specifically because of Penn. The actor (who is the younger brother of Sean Penn) really didn’t know how to dance when work on Footloose began, so the montage really does capture his training and transformation.
6. Bacon had four stunt doubles during the filming of the warehouse dance scene
Bacon may have been cast based on his ability to cut a rug, but the actor couldn’t do absolutely everything himself. As is commonplace for such movies, the actor had a number of doubles to perform certain more challenging or dangerous sequences, although the producers of Footloose initially insisted on keeping this secret from the press.
Bacon himself has confirmed having “a stunt double, a dance double and two gymnastics doubles.” The double who performed much of the famous warehouse dance sequence was dancer Peter Tramm. Interestingly, Tramm was married to another dancer who did the lion’s share of the dancing in a similar 80s hit: Marine Jahan, one of Jennifer Beals’ doubles on Flashdance.
5. Sarah Jessica Parker almost missed out on playing Rusty
As well as Kevin Bacon, another future Hollywood star who got her first big break appearing in Footloose was Sarah Jessica Parker. The future Sex and the City superstar got one of her first big roles in the movie, playing Ariel’s friend Rusty. The role had actually been written specifically for a former co-star of Parker’s: Tracy Nelson, with whom Parker worked on 1982 TV series Square Pegs.
Director Herbert Ross ultimately decided against casting Nelson and offered the role to Parker – although Parker was hesitant to say yes. The actress had her doubts about playing Rusty as she was told to cut her hair and dye it red, which she was reluctant to do; once it was agreed she didn’t have to do this, Parker signed on.
4. Producers spent $250,000 re-shooting the closing prom sequence at the last minute
Director Herbert Ross originally had a somewhat different vision for Footloose’s closing prom sequence, shooting it entirely in slow-motion. However, when producers had their first test screenings of the movie, it immediately became clear that this wasn’t the bombastic climax they really needed for their film about the joy of dancing.
The producers quickly raised $250,000 with which to completely reshoot the climax, a mere six weeks before Footloose opened in theatres in February 1984. The producers then went on a last-minute talent hunt, scouring nightclubs on New Year’s Eve 1983 to find the very best dancers they could for Footloose’s grand finale.
3. The soundtrack contains two massive US number one hits
As big a hit as Footloose was as at the box office, it’s really the film’s foot-tapping soundtrack that’s most embedded in the popular consciousness. Columbia Records enjoyed huge success with the release of the Footloose soundtrack album, which was a big seller on vinyl, cassette, CD and even 8-track tape (those were the days!).
Obviously, the film is most synonymous with the title track Footloose by Kenny Loggins, which was a huge number 1 hit and a nominee at the Oscars and Golden Globes. Still, this wasn’t the only brilliant track on the Footloose soundtrack, which also contained Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out for a Hero, and Let’s Hear It for the Boy by Deniece Williams, which also became a number one hit single in the US.
2. Kevin Bacon bribes DJs to NOT play the Footloose song at weddings
Come on, who hasn’t danced to the Kenny Loggins song Footloose at a wedding or on a retro-themed dance floor? Well, it turns out one person who isn’t overly keen on doing so is none other than Kevin Bacon himself. The actor has admitted in interviews that he has been known to bribe DJs at weddings to not play the song.
Bacon told Conan O’Brien in 2013, “I go to the disc jockey, hand him $20 and say, ‘please don’t play that song’… a wedding is really not about me, it’s about the bride and groom. And it’s embarrassing.” The actor then demonstrated how as soon as the opening notes of Footloose come on, people tend to point at him, smile and clap.
1. It has spawned both a stage musical and a remake
A stage adaptation of the movie, entitled Footloose the Musical, was first performed in 1998. While the stage show utilises songs from the movie, it features original music and lyrics by Tom Snow and Dean Pitchford. The show had a mixed critical reaction, and ran on Broadway for just under two years; it also had a brief run in London’s West End.
Then, in 2011, a big screen remake of Footloose opened, from director Craig Brewer (Coming 2 America) with actor Kenny Wormald taking over Kevin Bacon’s role of Ren McCormack. The film was a modest success, receiving mostly positive reviews and making $63.5 million at the box office off the back of a $24 million budget.