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Kenny, who plays the lead role of Ren (originated by Kevin Bacon), is Julianne's new classmate and love interest in the flick, while Miles (who previously starred with Nicole Kidman in 'Rabbit Hole') fills the character of Ren's best friend, Willard. The actors had all appeared in films before, including Julianne's supporting role in last year's 'Burlesque,' but 'Footloose' marks the first flick in which the three take on the lead roles -- and they didn't take their new responsibility lightly.
"Luckily, we got to spend time together prior to shooting," Kenny explains to The Boot of their strong on-screen chemistry. "I met [Julianne and Miles] at the same time, and I started hanging out with him once I found out I booked it. We live really close to each other, so we just hung out in L.A. and played golf and normal stuff. And then me and Julianne got to work with the same acting coach, so we spent a lot of time with him together. By the time we got to Atlanta, we were all friends, so we just clicked."
The young actors quickly embraced the help of an acting instructor, whose input they admit was priceless. "For us, it was our first real leading film, so it's more about experience and having someone who can help younger actors with their first project," says Julianne.
The novices, who both are experienced dancers but have very little theater training, credit their coach with helping them create their stand-out roles. "Most of that happened on set, the growth," Kenny adds. "The acting coach we worked with was phenomenal, but he didn't give us line reading. He didn't tell us what to do. He just made us familiar with the atmosphere and showed us a lot of old footage from other movies that we could relate to, or pick from -- what I call 'borrow,' but steal from."
"I remember seeing the transformation on your face," director Craig interjects. "I wish I had an acting coach now on all my movies."
The 'Footloose' remake carries many of the same memorable scenes as the original flick, with a couple of changes, including opening the film with the accident scene that killed five high school students and was the catalyst for the ban on dancing in the town. It was a labor of love for the director, who says it was watching the 27-year-old film as a teenage boy that changed his life.
"I was 13 when I saw the original. I saw it in a movie theater, and it was probably the transformative movie of my youth," he acknowledges. "It wasn't really until I saw 'Footloose' that I saw a connection, like the movie was made for me. What I wanted to try and figure out to do ... There are really entertaining movies with music, and they make me smile -- some people call it cheesy, but it also had a particularly hard edge to it."
Craig tried to make a film that could be enjoyed by teens and adults alike, but he admits that was an arduous task. "There's a tendency to think you actually have to make a movie for the grown-ups, and I knew I had to make a movie for both. I had to make a movie that would please people like myself who love and revere the original, but I also had to keep in mind that there are 13-year-olds that don't give a damn what I like or care what I liked," he notes. "You can't force that experience on a 13-year-old, so I tried to gauge which would be the things that I could keep and which would be the things that I could change."
"People discovered me as a dancer when I was 18, but the reason I am so happy and positive all the time is because of certain things that I have gone through in my life that I don't really choose to talk about, and those are the things that I can really relate to with Ariel," reveals the 23-year-old. "Not that it was an easy thing, but the most natural scene for me to do was the scene in the church. It came from a real place. It was free therapy. I have certain experiences that really helped me become that."
Both the director and her fellow actors give the multi-talented Julianne huge props for handling the challenging scene so well. Known for her generosity and approachability among everyone from the extras to the crew (for whom she hired masseuses after one particularly trying day), she thoughtfully sent out an e-mail to everyone the day before she filmed the difficult scene, explaining why she would be a little less friendly that day.
"Look, I'm just getting in my space," she wrote. "If I don't respond to a question you ask me, I'm really sorry. I'm gonna have my headphones on, listening to music. Don't take it personal, it's just for today."
Her process worked. "When [she] started nailing it, there was just this electricity among the crew," boasts the film's proud director. "We'd look at each other and nod and smile. This was a different kind of pride that was happening than just an actress hitting it ... it was like step one of the Julianne Hough career. It was pretty damn good."
The blond beauty admits she gave herself a break following the emotionally taxing day. "I definitely rewarded myself," she recalls. "I had been on this crazy diet and hadn't messed up at all, and after that night, because it's exhausting crying and feeling that stuff, I went to [a local pizza place] and got literally every flavor. And they're big pizzas! I got every flavor they had and I got a bottle of wine, and I had chocolate dessert and everything. I was so sick!"
The church scene wasn't the only trying day for the Utah native. Her character also deals with domestic violence, as Ariel is brutally beaten up while trying to end the relationship with her boyfriend, Chuck Cranston (played by Patrick John Flueger). She manages to work out some her emotions on-screen by taking a metal rod to his beloved pick-up truck.
"That's a tough scene for my family to watch that, or for my loved ones to watch that," she concedes. "They see the same emotions in me, so watching that happen, they were all like they couldn't breathe almost ... I really loved that scene, too, because I got to beat the crap out of [his] truck."
In addition to the powerful emotional scenes, there's plenty of fancy footwork, including one unforgettable scene dubbed "The Angry Dance," which was a dream come true for Kenny. The scene was repeated from the original flick, but with a decidedly different angle.
"I remember sitting at Paramount in a meeting with Craig, and he brought his boom box, which he does all his pitches with, and pitched me the angry dance," Kenny recalls. "I remember sitting there going, 'Are you kidding me? I get to do this?' I was getting chills because the way he described it was so infectious ... I was so happy that he picked that song and that he made it a little more not-perfect. In the original, it's very perfect. It's just like a music video. He doesn't mess up. It's perfect. And this wasn't. I fell. I had to get back up, and that struggle of trying to make it added something ... It took hours of rehearsal."
'Footloose' boasts a country star as one of its leading ladies, and the soundtrack also features plenty of music by some of Nashville's biggest stars, including Big & Rich, Zac Brown, Whitney Duncan, and Blake Shelton, who sings the title track. The CD features several remakes from the 1984 original, including 'Almost Paradise' and 'Let's Hear It for the Boy,' but the 12-song CD also includes a few new songs by up-and-coming artists, along with a tune by Blake's 'Voice' buddy Cee Lo Green. But one name that is decidedly missing from the album is Julianne, who made the choice to keep her music separate from the movie.
"I even wrote songs before we started shooting the movie with the movie in mind, because I thought maybe I would want to [include my music], and have them hear it. But then we had conversations, and I just think I want people to see me as an actress in this movie," she concedes. "It's awkward sometimes. There's this one scene from 'A Walk to Remember,' and I love that movie and I loved the book, but when they're putting the butterfly tattoo on her and you're hearing Mandy Moore's voice on the radio, that's just uncomfortable. It's not the character."
Craig knew he could draw from a wide list of singers who would be thrilled to have their music included on the album, but he decided early on he wanted to focus largely on country artists.
"The country music element of it is something that I always wanted to do," he reveals. "When you look at the soundtrack itself, it's very country and very blues. But the soundtrack of the whole movie is very eclectic, because you have all that country, but you also have rock and hip-hop and rap. I felt that was important because, in the original movie, the soundtrack was also equally diverse ... Every kid has 3000 songs on their iPod. That alone has made them more musically diverse. They don't have just Kenny Chesney."
Julianne may have decided to just focus on her acting for this film, but she hasn't abandoned her love for Music City. The songbird says that, while her film career is keeping her too busy to focus much on her music career these days, she does hope to return to Nashville for an extended visit in early 2012. Meanwhile, she can next be found in 'Rock of Ages,' where she will star opposite Tom Cruise. The film will hit theaters next year. She also just announced plans to star in a still-untitled movie opposite Russell Brand, where she will play a troubled young woman who becomes lost in the nightlife of Las Vegas.
For showtimes and tickets to 'Footloose,' click here.