Exclusive: Director Craig Brewer Talks FOOTLOOSE, TARZAN and MOTHER TRUCKER

     July 29, 2011


I’m going to tell you something you might not believe, but I swear it’s the truth: the remake of Footloose is actually pretty great.  Director Craig Brewer (Black Snake Moan, Hustle & Flow) has taken the original story, made a few changes, added his unique style, and the end result is something that audiences are going to love.  While I wish I could go into more detail about what works and what I thought, I’m under embargo, so for now you’ll just have to trust me.  For a taste of the film, here’s the trailer.

Anyhow, yesterday I got on the phone with Brewer to talk about the remake.  We discussed how relieved he is that the buzz is great, what Footloose means to him, how the teenagers in the movie are portrayed as real kids, the soundtrack, was Kevin Bacon ever going to cameo, what’s up with Tarzan and Mother Trucker, and a lot more.  Hit the jump to check it out.

As usual, I’m offering you two ways to get the interview, you can either click here for the audio or the full transcript is below.  Footloose hits theaters in October.

footloose-kenny-wormald-julianne-hough-imageSo how happy are you after yesterday (the movie was shown to the cast and selected media)?

Craig Brewer:  I’ve had to kind of bite my tongue and hold my breath for a couple of weeks now.  I think when the trailer came out it was the first time that a lot of people realized that the movie was happening.  I acquaint it to when a buddy of yours comes up and says that they have been screwing one of your ex-girlfriends or wives.  It’s like you haven’t thought about the girl for a long time but now suddenly someone else is making her feel special. [laughs]  I think that is how a lot of people feel about Footloose.  It’s like, “What do you mean you are remaking Footloose?  That movie was my girlfriend.  That was my girl.”  I knew there was going to be initial anger.  As a matter of fact, when I was deciding to do Footloose that was one of the first things that I had to realize.  First of all, I had to figure out a human connection to it but then I also had to reconcile that I was going to get beat up a little bit on this a little bit.  But I felt that Hustle and Flow and Black Snake Moan had prepared me for that a little bit.  I just knew that if people just saw it they would see that I tried my best and the cast tried to their best to come at this with love.  Nobody worked on Footloose that was as a fanatical fan of Footloose as I am.  So we wanted to make a movie that was really respectful.  It’s not here to replace it by any means.  If anything, I hope that fans of Footloose take a special ownership of it because we put so much in there that people will remember or feel special about.  I also feel, and I know that this sounds weird to say it, but I feel like I made a “Craig Brewer movie”.  I feel like I made something that speaks to the things I love, where I am from, and my experience.   I was just holding out knowing that surely people are going to see it and they will see what we were trying to do.  So I’m really happy because now I can finally talk about it and I have a lot to talk about.

First of all, you definitely saw me on Twitter saying that I thought the movie was great.  I totally agree with your assessment that your fingerprints are all over this film and yet it is still Footloose.

Brewer:  I’ve been kind of in-between.  It’s like a double edge sword a little bit.  I have some people saying. “How dare you redo that movie?” and then there are other people that say, “Why would you redo that stupid movie?” and I think I get more offended by the second.  I get offended when people…I don’t even think they have seen Footloose.  I think they may remember it or maybe they have seen music videos on VH1.  When I saw Footloose in the theater I was 13 years old and it rocked my world.  It really did.  I know the music is always referred to and the dancing is always sampled or shown or spoofed on television all of the time.  But I really remember the movie being kind of hard.  You know what I mean?  Kids are smoking pot and I was 13 when I saw it.  So it was like, “Man, there is all this drama that is going to be happening around the corner in high school.”  I was back home in Tennessee and I was in a small town like this.  I think that the movie as a narrative is…I think I’ve already been making this movie.  Look at Ariel.  She is the daughter of a preacher and she has had a lot of pain in her life.  She is almost suicidal and she is acting out.  I think I made that and it was called Black Snake Moan.  I feel like I have already been affected by Footloose in my career that it seemed like it was a perfect movie for me to make, but I did get a lot of shit.  I got a lot of people criticizing me and wondering why the hell I was doing it.  Footloose is a story that I think I am perfect for to be telling.  I love it and I am loving the right things in Footloose.  I am not loving the cheesy things in Footloose.  I am loving the heart of it.

footloose-julianne-hough-sliceWhat was it like for you after the screening yesterday?  I saw it yesterday at Paramount and I realized afterwards that basically the entire cast was in the theater.  That must have been their first time seeing the movie.  So was your phone blowing up last night?

Brewer:  It was.  You have to understand that, and I say this respectfully as a man who has turned 40, but I call them my kids.  I know they are grown ups, but they are new.  This movie meant a lot to them.  They worked really hard on it.  Right before the trailers started coming out and really at the end of shooting I remember having this big long talk with the cast saying, “Just remember that there is going to be a lot of hate and there is going to be a lot of snark.  But I really believe in my heart that we did this justice and that we made a movie that people will be thankful that we made.  So just hang on until people see it because the way that the internet and journalism works nowadays is that because it is so quick people have to put their opinion before they really see something.”  So last night it was like, “Oh, yeah.  That is right.  I guess we weren’t fooling ourselves.  People really do respond to it.”  Everybody was just…you have to understand that everyone in my movie has not been in Hollywood so long that they can be blasé about this.  This is a big deal to them.  They love the movie and they are excited to show it to people.

My big question that I want to ask about the film is that there is a club scene in the movie where four of them go to a club and there is a little bit of alcohol.  So I have to ask, how are all of these high school seniors in this club?

Brewer:  Well, how do all the high school seniors get to that other club?  The song you are listening to is “Fake I.D.”  It’s not necessarily a novel idea that teens can maybe get into a place without the proper I.D. The one good thing about living in the south is that sometimes these things happen.   That is another thing that I really have to give…to be honest with you, I don’t like how much Paramount and MTV films get beat up out there.  I know they are big conglomerates and everything, but they were completely supportive of my vision on this.  They really were protecting the heart of Footloose.  So when I called them and said, “I’m not going to do this unless I can do at the very least a teen pitch for Footloose.”  Meaning that I want these kids doing things that they shouldn’t be doing like drinking and like Ariel, who is engaged in a destructive relationship where she is having premarital sex.  You can’t shy away from that.  It’s like saying, “You can’t really have these teenagers kill themselves at the end of Romeo and Juliet.”  You can’t do that – it’s Romeo and JulietFootloose is Footloose.  I’m not going to change it up where Ren is now going to Mars or Afghanistan or anything like that.  We need to do the same Footloose that I remember seeing.  We have to at least have the same taboos that they were dealing with.  They were great.  They were supportive of that and encouraged it.

footloose-imageI definitely want to know about the songs.  You have a great soundtrack and everyone who knows your work knows that you have some great musical taste.  Can you talk about your decisions behind certain songs?

Brewer:  First of all, what was really great about it is that I got to be really hands on with it.  I first called up some of my friends and that is when I first realized that the love for Footloose goes beyond just me.  The first call I made was to David Banner, who was in Black Snake Moan.  He is a successful rapper and I told him, “I’m calling up my friends.  I’m calling up Paul and Juicy J from Three 6 Mafia.   Are there any songs in Footloose that you love?” and David Banner was like, “Aw, man.  Dancing in the Sheets by Shalamar was my joint back in the day.”  [laughs]  So he did that one song that is at the drive-in movie theater.  Then we really started putting the word out.  My favorite of the  reissues of these songs is actually by this girl named Ella Mae Bowen.  She is this young woman.  I think she is 16 or something like that.  But she literally made a demo of Holding Out for a Hero and it was such a beautiful and sweet version of it that didn’t necessarily distract from the original.  It was just so pure and wonderful that it is now in the movie.  I think it is one of the best parts in it.  Of course, we start off with Kenny Loggins’ Footloose and we end with a new Footloose.

Every movie has deleted scenes.  Did you have a lot of stuff end up on the cutting room floor?  I really liked the way you edited the film and the way you kept everything going.  You were in scenes but you never really stayed too long.  I think you really did a great job on the editing for this.

Brewer:  Thank you.  I recently looked through the deleted scenes and we maybe only have a handful.  I’m happy to see that a lot of it made it up there.  There are not any big chunks.  There are maybe three or four moments.  But I’ve found that that always happens.  I will always take leaving a scene on the cutting room floor over me having to go out to reshoot.  Luckily we didn’t have to reshoot.  We got the movie on the first run.

There was talk awhile ago about Kevin Bacon maybe doing a cameo.  What was the part that he might have cameoed in?  Do you mind saying?

Brewer:   That is news that kind of got a little distorted.  There was never really a Kevin Bacon cameo.  I think that is something that got out there in the ether and people started commenting on it.  I knew Kevin and all we did was send him a script out of respect.  Everybody else gave it to him to see like, “Hey, is there anything in here…” but there really wasn’t anything in there for him to be honest with you.  I didn’t want him to play Uncle Wes.  I really wanted Ray McKinnon to play him because I really think if it was somebody like Kevin Bacon people would think that it was almost like a sequel.  I am dying for Kevin to see it.  But I am really fine with it being the way it is with no gimmicky things.  I just didn’t want to Kevin to be in it and winking at the camera just so that everyone can applaud.  I wanted this movie to succeed with the only star that I have kept from the original and that is writer, Dean Pitchford.  We share screenplay credit because I really wanted to stick to the story and utilize a lot of his iconic dialogue.  He also wrote all of the lyrics to Footloose.  To me, that is the only star that I wanted to reprise in it – it was the story.

footloose-movie-posterI actually think you made the wise choice because I agree with everything with what you just said.  I think that Kevin would have been a little bit of a distraction honestly.  I think you nailed it with what you did.

Brewer:  It’s just something like…it says it on the poster, “This is our time.”   There is nothing better than seeing this movie with 13 year olds.  I’m talking about 13 year old boys as well as girls.  There is just something about high school that we forget about.  That is what I always loved about the original Footloose.  When you watched the original Footloose in the theater and you got to the end of it you weren’t watching amazing dancing and going, “Oh, man.  That joint is off the hook.”  You were watching people that looked like nerds and people of different sizes and shapes just dancing their ass off and having a great time while cracking each other up.  That is what people forget that high school is.  It is just that last hurrah that you have before you have to start growing up, having pain, and wanting to protect everything that is in their life.  I think we managed to capture that and keep it.  So you have to do it for a new generation of kids.  They need to have that movie where they have that special feeling as well.  Where they are not being judged by how they look or how amazing of a dancer they are.  Everybody should get out on the dance floor and celebrate just one time.

I have a lot more Footloose questions but I am going to run out of time.  For fans of yours, what is the update on Tarzan and Mother Trucker?

Brewer:  Mother Trucker is waiting for the right cast member.  I love Mother Trucker.  If you loved Footloose then you are going to love Mother Trucker.  With Tarzan I will actually tomorrow be typing “Fade to black.  The end.” And then I will be working on trimming it and making it good, but I am very happy with it.

craig_brewerSo is Tarzan really shaping up to be the definite next project for you?

Brewer:  Oh, man.  I really don’t know because you know how it is.  You write a screenplay and then everybody is going to want to get in on it and we have to figure that out.  I’ve written three screenplays that are at studios and I still haven’t been making them yet so there is always something that is either going to trip something up or maybe get another pass.  But I will let you know as soon as I know something.

What is funny is that a big hit like Footloose can lead to you all of a sudden getting a lot more phone calls.

Brewer:   It’s already starting to spread, which is really encouraging.  I was up for a couple of other movies but then Footloose came up and I decided to do it.  A lot of people were like, “You are making the biggest mistake ever.  Why would you want to redo that movie?”  But then all of those people called about a month ago after the press screening freaking out saying, “Well, egg on our face.  We are hearing you did a pretty good job on Footloose.  So let’s talk about some other things.”

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