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HTF Exclusive Interview with Footloose Director Craig Brewer

Paramount Interview

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#1 of 3 Neil Middlemiss

Neil Middlemiss

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Posted March 04 2012 - 12:02 PM

Home Theater Forum recently sat down with Footloose Director/Writer Craig Brewer to talk about his remake of the 1984 original. Brewer talks about his passion for the original film, his approach to the remake, and how music plays an important role not only in his films but in his creative process.


Footloose makes its debut on Blu-ray and DVD on Tuesday, March 6.

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Thanks for chatting with us today.  I appreciate you taking the time.


Not a problem.


I had a chance to watch Footloose over the weekend.  I haven’t seen the original in years and I enjoyed it.  This is not usually my kind of tea, but I enjoyed it.


Well, that's good.


It can be tricky with the remakes and re-imaginings.  The tendency is to go bigger, to have a much larger budget than the original could ever have afforded, and to try and one up the original while paying homage to it.  But your Footloose seems to forgo that in favor of a more prudent retelling, which as someone who doesn’t tend to enjoy dancing films, I appreciate.  So was that always your intent, to keep it -- I won’t say low-key, but to keep it more in line with the original spirit and scope rather than to go flashy and big and bombastic in crazy ways.


You know, I'm so glad you said that.  It's something that from the beginning was very important to me because I always felt that what made the original work was its heart and it wasn’t just big hair and big dance numbers.  And so when I tell people -- even when Hustle & Flow came out, when people were saying, “what were the movies that inspired you to make something like Hustle & Flow”, I said, first and foremost, Footloose.  And everyone kind of looked at me a little strange.  That movie is really about people who are dealing with pain in their life.  You have a preacher's daughter who is craving her father's attention.  And her father is so immersed in grief that he feels like he has to kind of care for the whole town and protect them.  And she acts out in pain. I guess I always looked at Footloose as a more serious movie than a lot of people did because of those human elements to it.


So when we started working on it, I knew that they were at first developing a more kind of like musical dance movie of Footloose.  And I am sure that there are many people out there, myself included, that probably would have enjoyed seeing something that's more of a spectacle of the original story and more of a dance celebration of the original movie.  But the studio really wanted to go in a different direction and it seemed to lead back to the original heart of the movie, which is it's about people connecting with each other.  It's about standing up for yourself.  And it was one of the first movies I saw as a 13 year old that said that it's okay to be a teenager and speak your mind.  And as simplistic as that may sound when I see myself as a grownup right now, it's the world when you're younger.  You know, you want to believe you can be friends with the people that you want to be friends with.  You want to believe that you can love who you want to love and that you can dance.  There was something also about that movie that democratized awesome dancing. I really wanted it to seem like this is really not so much a movie about incredible dancing as much as it is celebrating life.


And you had a diverse cast, but you didn’t ever have to call out that you had a diverse cast.


Yeah, I live in Memphis, Tennessee.  And when I moved this to the south, the first thing I wanted to do was really show a south that I believe to be real.  And you'd be surprised, I did get some questioning with people asking is it really realistic that a black guy and a white guy and a country white guy would be all kind of hanging out talking with each other.  And I was like, yes, it's true, it's not a gimmick.


It's probably one of the things that I really like about the movie.  I think that what's interesting is that some people are wondering why I didn’t make more of a thing of it.  It’s not about race; it's really about teenagers coming to terms with parental control.  And that was more interesting to me especially now that I'm a parent.  When I was 13 and I saw the original Footloose, I was on Ren McCormack's side.  Now whether I like it or not, with a 10-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter, I'm more with Reverend Moore.  I want to know who's going to be at functions where they are.  I want to know that my kids are going to be safe when they walk out my door.


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 So the original Footloose is clearly one of your favorite films.  And I think I read that you had recorded the audio too and would listen to i?.


Yeah, I had a boom box that had an RCA left and right audio input.  And I didn’t know what that was for.  I could see the headphone jack and could understand what that is, but what are these audio inputs.  And so one day I turned on my old push top VCR looked at the back of it and it said left and right audio output.  And it was like the moment in 2001 where the ape has the bone – and I said “take me to radio shack”.  So I got my left and right cord and I plugged it up and I started recording the audio. I would walk to school with Footloose playing in my Walkman and with dialog included.  It's the same thing with Purple Rain too.  It was the same year, 1984, what a year!


Now Purple Rain is a great film too.


Oh, it's awesome.  As a matter of fact, my cast -- Julianne and Kenny and Ziah Colon who plays Rusty, and Miles Teller were all over at my apartment.  I said to them that I have a tradition before I begin filming - I order pizza and I watch Purple Rain - and none of them had seen it.  And so we watched Purple Rain.  I used to teach a class on filmmaking with the first eight minutes of Purple Rain and can break down the first eight minutes and teach everybody how it's probably the best opening of a movie ever.


Outstanding.  And they enjoyed it?


Oh, yeah, they loved it.  And we just made comments about it the rest of the shoot, so it was fun.


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So you almost didn’t take the helm for Footloose.  Is that because it was so ingrained in your head and you could hear it and see it in your mind without even actually having to watch it.  Did that give you pause?


It did and I think I couldn’t quite bend my head around the big conceit of the movie, which was to be honest, jarring back in the day. Why would a town outlaw dance, because it's just so dumb.  And as much as I can see why there were a lot of reasons to remake Footloose, I couldn’t quite crack how in 2011 there would be a town that would do this.


And then I had this experience where I was visiting some friends and I was on a long bridge in a car I had rented. It was over a swamp and all the bugs started killing themselves on my windshield. I did what everybody does, turn on the windshield wipers, but the rental car didn’t have any wiper fluid in it, so it just smeared bug guts across my window.  And I could barely see and all these trucks were passing me really fast.


And I then realized for Footloose -- the reason they started this ban on dancing was because of four or five teenagers getting killed after a night of partying, that's how to get into Footloose if we can show the party and we lead our audience to believe that this is just going to be another fun energetic dance movie.  But then we show the tragedy.  And not only do we show the tragedy, but we show the grieving parents and we show the town who probably was at each other's throats blaming each other as to who was at the party, who was driving the car, who was drinking, all the things that happened year after year after year with high school kids that are like graduating high school and then some kids do something stupid and then they get themselves killed.


I thought that this isn’t just indicative of 1984.  That's something that we deal with every year and I as a parent am dealing with it now where I know one day I'm going to be handing my daughter keys to a car and she's going to be going out with her friends.  And I sometimes break out in a cold sweat thinking about that because I remember myself in high school.  That's when I realized maybe Footloose is even more relevant today than it was in 1984 because we are a culture of overreactors now.


Yeah, you're absolutely right. The cinematography by Amy Vincent was really very good and you've worked with her since Hustle & Flow.  She seemed to evoke I guess an idyllic south that was ‘spoiled’ by rock and roll but wasn’t a fantasy land.  How did you go about deciding on the look of the film?  And I noticed that it wasn’t shot digitally which I was half expecting and so the film had a beautiful texture.  


Well, thank you.  And one thing I'd really like to give credit for is Adam Goodman at Paramount.  He told me please don’t shoot this movie digitally. All your movies have this really wonderful grain content to it and this film deserves to be shot on film.  And that’s not usually what you get from studios.  And so I was really happy to work with Amy again, she has a certain color temperature, a certain grain that she brings to movies that makes you feel like this world has been spinning without you and you've just been dropped into the middle of it.


And it's not so colorful that you think this is some world that was manufactured for me or that I'm being manipulated.  You really do feel like that garage where the kids are hanging out is real and that we're there.  And I really have enjoyed the three movies that we've made together.  She's really my partner in those movies, like a real field general.  And I really loved her work.


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I Do want you to pass along congratulations to Deborah Lurie whose score was really terrific.  And the limited amount of female composers in that space is sad, so  it is always good to see a female composer.-


It is, and Deborah is really talented.  I really like her a lot.  And I would love to work with her again.


And music obviously is very prominent in your films and how you use it.  When you're making your film do you do it with the songs that you're hoping to get or do you already have the songs lined up beforehand.  And then the same thing with the score, do you use temp scores or do you use the score or examples of score from the composer you're going to be working with.


Well it's risky but I try to come up with the music first because it's kind of like what gives me the excitement to go into filming.  Case in point was when I was pitching the movie, I used the White Stripes‘ Catch Hell Blues to talk about the angry dance.  And I really wanted to use that song, but you don’t want to get what's called temp love which is when you fall in love with a musical track and then maybe later you can't get it.  But luckily, we managed to get everything.  We managed to get that track of Catch Hell Blues.


And so I know that there are some people that will cut a whole movie and not use the music when they're cutting and then only later have a composer come in or a music supervisor who plays cues.  And I just don’t know how to work that way.  I need to have some music to get it to both in terms of writing, shooting and cutting it.  But who knows maybe I'll try to challenge myself on the next one and not do that.


Well thanks again for talking with us best of luck to you and we'll talk again in the future.


Thank you so much.  It was great talking to you.




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#2 of 3 Southpaw

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Posted March 05 2012 - 01:24 AM

Awesome, thanks for the interview. Always nice to see the filmmakers give a little insight into their thoughts and how they went about approaching the film. This is why HTF is the best. Have it coming from Amazon on Tuesday. :D

#3 of 3 TravisR

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Posted March 05 2012 - 04:43 AM

Craig Brewer is a really talented filmmaker. I haven't seen Footloose yet but Hustle And Flow and Black Snake Moan are both really good movies that I hope more folks see.