The names Ren and Ariel are touchstones for a generation. In the teen classic Footloose, big city boy Ren (Kevin Bacon) romanced Ariel (Lori Singer) and brought the boogie back to the small town of Bomont, Georgia.

Despite bad reviews, the story of teen rebellion and two-stepping struck a chord with audiences who made it one of the biggest hits of 1984.

Director Craig Brewer knew his new big-screen version had to tread carefully, reinventing the characters without losing what made them popular in the first place.

“I think all of my cast members were able to occupy the characters without there being any sort of mimicry or impersonation of the original,”?he says.

 

The project had been in development for some time, with big names like Zac Efron attached, but Brewer decided to go a different way.

“If you went in a time machine and sat with me in 1984 when I was 13 and went and saw Footloose, right before the screening happened if you would have asked me, ‘What do you think of Kevin Bacon?’ I would have said, ‘Who?’ That movie made that guy. He was already a talented actor, he just needed a movie to break him into the pop scene.

“You want to see someone new come into town, you want to have that same bit of mystery surround them so I resisted having Ren McCormack being played by a ‘movie star’ because then you get all the baggage of their other movies tied into this one,” he says.

Kenny Wormald, a choreographer and dancer, won the role after a recommendation from Justin Timberlake, who spotted his innate talent when Kenny was a backup dancer for the singer.

For Ariel, Brewer cast the more established Julianne Hough, best known as a Dancing with the Stars champion.

After her initial audition Brewer was relieved.

“I knew I had Ariel. I was excited because I had just seen the birth of a new actress who was really good and really brave,” she said.

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