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Craig Brewer

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It took about as much coaxing to get Craig Brewer to direct a “Footloose” remake as it will some purists to see the film.

Brewer, the Memphis-based filmmaker who scored a spot on the Hollywood map of the stars after the success of indy fave “Hustle & Flow”, was such a big fan of the 1984 original he didn’t dare want to touch it. If people wanted to see the Ren McCormack story, they only need pop down to their local DVD library and pick up a pre-MTV musidramedy starring Kevin Bacon in the role of a rebel who rouses a town into rocking, after all. But when the crafty suits suggested to Brewer that if he didn’t remake “Footloose”, someone else would – and they can’t guarantee someone else’s take won’t bring on night sweats – he quickly realized there was a bigger opporunity at hand than simply saving the world from a Dennis Dugan-directed “Footloose” starring Adam Sandler as an ageing dimwit Jew with fire in his sneakers.

Clint Morris caught up with Brewer to talk about the growing trend of remakes and why he feels his film is a different beast to the Bacon movie.

Hey Craig, how are you?

Hi, Clint. I’m good. How are you doing, man!? I really appreciate all…

Good man. Good, good. Thank you so much for making a kickass ”Footloose” remake and shoving my tongue as far back into my gob as possible…

Oh, I appreciate that. Thank you so much. I loved your comments…

I was going to say, I guess that’s actually a poor choice of words, I didn’t see this is so much of a remake as… And I even want to say a re-interpretation because that kind of sounds wanky too. Is just a good film that stands on its own, I think.

Thank you. I kind of think of it as a revival. I come from theater and you’ll sometimes think like, “Well, let’s do West Side Story this year. Let’s do another movie this year,” and I knew that when Paramount was wanting to make Footloose that there’s probably a bunch of different ways to do it. I thought, well, maybe I can just do it my way. And I love the original so much, it is probably the most important movie in my life.

Yeah, it meant a lot to me growing up too. So, tell me about the initial meeting when they approach you to do ”Footloose”.

Well, it was a… It was a little tricky. I passed on it a couple of times, like about twice. They were really insistent on me doing it and I had lot of reservations. It is a classic movie that’s something that it is really important to myself but then somebody once said to me from Adam Goodman, the president of Paramount that really kind of stuck with me and he was very honest and he was honest about the movie business right now, he’s honest about how audiences truly do consume entertainment. But it’s like, “I know that there’s this wave of remakes happening right now or the board games or whatever, and you’ve made these original films for us before, but we think you could do something really special for this. Now, this is a library title. We want a remake to be made for a bunch of reasons but we really think that there hasn’t been a good teenager movie in a long time that has the same ideals that Footloose had that would give 13-year-olds the same feeling that I got when I was 13 in 1984 watching Footloose.” Then there was something about that last part of that comment about that hasn’t really been a good teenager movie that does for teenagers today, what Footloose did for me when I was 13, that really kind of made me sad.

Yeah. That’s right but there’s also another side…

Yep, but it’s not as easy as insisting that they watch the original. I can say that but I know it’s not easy done. I don’t know if it’s necessarily going to have the same impact on the kids today, you know what I mean? So the realization that the movie was probably going to be made by someone made me suddenly be very protective. Well, it’s not just as easy as making a bunch of dance numbers and throwing the name Footloose out in front of it. There has to be some other things that work there and there has to be the camaraderie and the friendship of those guys that something that I always responded to when I was younger. I wanted my own Willard. To some extent, I already had a Willard in my life. I’m from the south in this small town but I’ve lived in a lot of big cities and I rarely go back home. And now there was…

I had family members that were kind of like Willard and I was kind of like Ren McCormack with mousse in my hair, leather jackets I bought at this store called Merry-go-round that would sell like Michael Jackson’s zipper jacket stuff like that, and I felt like Ren. So, I loved other things in the movie other than the music and the dancing. There was something about Ren McCormack in how defiant and how much of an individual he was that the kind of replace in my 13-year-old head what a hero was. To that point to it was like, Luke Skywalker with a life saver, Indiana Jones… But Ren is different and I really wanted to somehow tap into that in a respectful way becaus6e I also realized that the result like a mass magical opportunity right now because 13-year olds are probably going to go see it, then they’re probably going to go with their parent who were about 13 when the first one came out. And if Footloose remake came out later or sooner, it wouldn’t have that interesting dynamic.

No. Exactly right. And I notice you share script credit with Dean Pitchford , who did the original…

Yeah. Well, it was… he didn’t co-write it with me. I mean, I went back to the original script and looked at the scenes that didn’t make it into the original Footloose, look at the scenes that did. I really crafted and rewrote a lot of the scenes but I always knew that this wasn’t going to be something that I wanted to reinvent the wheel on. I know that there might be some people that are critical of that but I just really… Oh, I don’t know what to say. I felt that if I suddenly had like switched the actors where like Ren was a girl moving to a big city here, something like that. If I pick this, I think I would really anger a lot of people; Footloose is Footloose. It’s just like Aunt Jillian is called Aunt Jillian. It’s possible to make it into a Puerto Rican movie but if you want but it still got to be the same characters, it still needs to be the same tone. In Footloose, it’s so much about the songs as well.

Yeah, it is. So you just basically… You have the pivotal moments in there, but you’ve changed them up and put a new spin on each key sequece… Like the chicken race basically and Willard’s dance lesson and the angry Dance..

Right, right, right.

So that was intentional from the start, you wanted to do it, for lack of a better word, a little ‘different’?

Yeah, I mean, when Adam called me and I was struggling with it, it took me a minute to figure out my way into Footloose. But once I saw that… I was like how can I do the dancing feet? That was my thing. I remembered the dancing feet at the end, and I could see it to more like a kegger party, I saw it with the Hatfield solo pubs and beer kegs with mud around it and just kind of staying with these five teenagers until the energy just reached this fever pitch and they were killed.

Yeah. And it works like a toy with fresh batteries; works good.

And once I figured that part out, I could see the rest of the movie a little bit better. I could see the lead sort of parents were coming from and not necessarily demonizing them so much.

And I think there are some lovely nods to the original in here but I’m glad you kind of stopped at not filling the film with cameos; if you’d see Lori Singer or Kevin or someone, that might have taken you out of the movie.

Yeah, and I don’t want it to… I want it to be respectful nod to the original but I’m not trying to replace or photocopy that movie by any means. It’s definitely my movie. In other words, somebody the other day was like, “Yeah, but Reverend Moore in the original, he just owned that town. He was in charge of it.” I was like, “Yeah. And I love that about that movie. But I just don’t see myself making that movie.”

No, no. Different times.

I don’t see myself doing something that’s really rings that false. I mean, I would rather explore something that I think is a little bit more at the times today, which is good people over reacting in the wake of a trauma. And I know it’s not necessarily unique for my age or to our time today but I do think especially here in America, we have a little bit of an issue with that. It seems like it will be two years into rules or laws or methodology, and now we begin to wonder, should we really have code orange or code yellows? Is there something actually that maybe causing more harm than good? I mean, I don’t know if they would feel good right after a tragedy but the fact that there’s… And it goes through every bit of life from the grand to the specific, from entire countries doing things to just things that are around the dinner table. I think that there’s a big difference between me now and me when I was 13 because I’m a parent. I get that kind of fear now.

And how hard was it to convince these big guns, Dennis Quaid and Andie MacDowell to be part of a ”Footloose” remake? What was their first impression?

Oh, you know, it wasn’t that difficult.

No?

I think they really wanted to be a part of it, especially Dennis. Dennis has never played a preacher, and someone’s father as a minister. He’s very respectful for all different kinds of religions. But I think that personally I really saw that Andie’s daughters both of them dance. As a matter of fact, Kenny Wormald trained Andie MacDowell’s daughter in dance years before they came to know each other through Footloose. So amongst like the education world and dance, Kenny is kind of a hero. He was a young teacher amongst all of them, so she was really excited to do that. But Dennis I think understood that there is a benefit in retelling a story to a new generation. And I’m glad he was a part of it.

And can I ask? Now this is a personal favour…can you please direct all the remakes of all these 80s films from now on?

I’ll try. I don’t think I will. [chuckle] But it’s funny because I think something is happening which is there’s people that are my age that immediately start getting angry at this. I think what’s bothering them is that we’re getting old. They’re not necessarily flaming about True Grit being remade or anything like that, they welcome that. But they would like to believe that 13-year-olds today can watch, be in some movies and have the same connection that we did. I’m not saying that they won’t, I’m not saying that they shouldn’t see those original movies but I’ve been there a few times with my kids and it kind of bums me out. Because I’m like, “What? This was awesome back when I saw it.”

Yeah, it is a large part of that. Yeah, I know.

It bums me out a bit that all our favourites aren’t as appreciated. Take The Karate Kid. They don’t want to see that Ralph Macchio movie, they want to see the one with Jaden in it.

Yeah. More Jackie, less Banamarama.

You know? And what am I supposed to do? Just be like an arrogant 80s asshole?

There is a club. Yeah. [laughter]

I tell them, “Oh, you’re going to like Ralph Macchio,” I don’t care… I don’t care if you look exactly like Jaden and you got this thrilling story and you got to have finally like some wish fulfillment that you could relate to. No, you’ve got to watch my movie and that’s it. I know there’s an argument, hey, make original movies or make new type of things that could inspire a generation. But kind of like what Adam told me, that’s not so much Hollywood’s fault, that’s the audience. Every time I have somebody send me something hurtful or hateful, like, “Why don’t you do something original,” I said, “What did you think of 50-50 this weekend?” “I didn’t go see it.” And I always send back, “Then shut up.”

Exactly. There’s your cause.

There’s really good movies out there that people are doing and audiences, they’ll come out and support it. They’ll show up for robots in space battling each other. They’ll show up for a board game or storyline or a remake or a sequel or something like that, that the very thing that people are complaining about. So I’m not saying that they have to be because there’s all different kinds of models that you can make original content. But for mass entertainment, the kind of entertainment where people are going to show up on opening weekend for something ideal place for these retelling stories and there’s just too much interest around them to turn away, you know.

True. You’ve got another, I guess, name ”brand” movie on the way? the ”Tarzan” films you’re working on?

Well, yeah, I turned in a script that I’m kind of waiting to see what happens but I love it and we’ll see what happens with it. But I would love to tell that story. I was a big fan of the books and I would love to see that character come back.

It’s a three-parter, is it?

Well, you know, no one never talked to me about that. I was surprised to read that in the papers myself. [chuckle] I don’t know where that information came from. I’ll tell you, I never really thought of it as a trilogy, I thought of it more as something to be serialized, you know. I thought it was something that you could have more than one. But after writing the script that I just feel like I can see it, I can see multiple movies.

Fantastic. Well, Craig, thank you so much for talking to us and thank you so much for remaking, rather successfully, one of this ’80s asshole’s favourite movies – and I love it just as much as the original.

Thanks so much. I appreciate that, Clint! You’re awesome.

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About Caffeinated Clint

Clint is the creator, editor and maintainer of Moviehole.

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