Kevin Bacon regrets being 'resistant' to 'Footloose': 'Time has given me perspective'

Updated

NEW YORK − Kevin Bacon just cut loose and brought a dose of '80s nostalgia to Tribeca.

The 65-year-old actor stopped by Tribeca Film Festival on Friday after a lively 40th anniversary screening of "Footloose," which an enthusiastic crowd greeted with multiple applause breaks and a spontaneous sing-along during the closing credits.

During a post-screening discussion, Bacon opened up about how his relationship with the film has evolved. At the time of its release, the "Tremors" star explained he was "such a New York actor" and wanted to be "considered a serious" performer like Robert De Niro or Al Pacino.

The role of Ren McCormack in "Footloose" skyrocketed Bacon to fame, but "then I was a pop star," he said. So he wasn't so quick to appreciate it and found it disorienting to become "super-famous" overnight.

Join our Watch Party! Sign up to receive USA TODAY's movie and TV recommendations right in your inbox

Kevin Bacon attends a 40th anniversary "Footloose" screening at Tribeca Film Festival on June 14, 2024.
Kevin Bacon attends a 40th anniversary "Footloose" screening at Tribeca Film Festival on June 14, 2024.

"That was something I was just not comfortable with and resisted," Bacon said. "I could have probably, in retrospect, embraced the movie a little bit more than I did, but I was resistant to do that. Of course, now time has given me a lot of perspective, both on the industry and just on giving myself a break about it. I did my best."

Indeed, Bacon now looks back appreciatively at his breakout film and loves the fact that it makes people "happy."

"I'm so thrilled to have been in it," Bacon told the crowd. "I can't believe it's 40 years. There's no part of me that feels anymore like, 'Oh, God, 'Footloose.'"

'Footloose' at 40! Every song on the soundtrack, ranked (including that Kenny Loggins gem)

But while it may have taken Bacon some time to get to that point, that's not to say it was difficult to sell him on the role. "You know what sounded good about it? 'You're the lead,' " he quipped.

Though Bacon has not watched the film in four decades, he described a moment he became overwhelmed after revisiting footage of his screen test on the DVD.

"I've never done this before: I put it on pause, I went into the bathroom and I looked at myself, and I went, 'Is that the same guy?'" he said. "'Are you the same guy as that guy over there?' It was very weird. It was a real trippy experience."

Bacon also remembered his casting faced a "lot of resistance" from the head of the studio at the time, so much so that director Herbert Ross and producer Daniel Melnick had to personally pay for him to get an additional screen test to turn his chances around.

Released in February 1984, "Footloose" starred Bacon as a teenager who moves to a town that has banned dancing. Though reviews were mixed at the time, it became an enduring hit that has spawned a stage musical and 2011 remake.

Though Bacon "can't really" explain why "Footloose" is so beloved, he says much of it has to do with its iconic soundtrack. It's "one of the great produced records," he said, adding that it was strengthened by the unique decisions to release the songs before the movie came out and have the screenwriter, Dean Pitchford, also help write them. "That was a pretty unusual thing to do," he noted.

Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer in "Footloose."
Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer in "Footloose."

The "X-Men: First Class" star also said "Footloose" may still resonate because its themes of "being an outsider, being a bit of a rebel, standing up to authority, (and) letting your freak flag fly − in a very '80s version of that. A clean, safe version of that."

But despite the entire plot of "Footloose" revolving around dancing, Bacon acknowledged he didn't understand "the extent of the dancing" there would be after reading the script.

"I didn't get that it was a dance movie, honestly," he said, drawing laughs. "They said something along the lines of 'You're going to have to have a dance audition,' and I was like 'What? I'm not a dancer.' "

So Bacon was in for a shock when he arrived on the Paramount lot after being cast and found an entire sound stage set up as his dance rehearsal room. "I was like, 'Oh, I've really gotten myself into trouble here.'"

'Not a lot of laughs' Liza Minnelli opens up about addiction, Judy Garland in new film

Kevin Bacon looks back on the original 'Footloose' ending that 'bummed out' audiences

"Footloose" concludes with an energetic dance sequence set to the film's Oscar-nominated title song, a scene that brought the house down during the Tribeca screening.

But the scene almost never happened. The film originally was meant to conclude with a "beautiful slow-motion" sequence. Although he thought it was the "coolest thing," test audiences were "completely bummed out" by it, so it had to be reshot.

"They'd been sitting in their chairs wanting to rock for the entire movie," he said. "A movie like this, we needed to see the kids dance."

At the time, Bacon recalled being distressed to learn the ending would have to be reshot, thinking: "That's terrible. That's bad news.'" In the end, though, it was "definitely worth it."

The Tribeca screening was Bacon's latest way of celebrating "Footloose" in its 40th anniversary year after he visited the Utah school where he shot the movie.

"Forty years. That just blows my mind," he told students there in April. "Things look a little different around here. I'd say the thing that looks the most different is me."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kevin Bacon recalls 'Footloose' ending that 'bummed out' fans

Advertisement