Friday, October 14, 2011

entertainme: reviews "footloose" and "the big year"


Remakes can be a tricky thing. Some movies more than others seem sacred like “Back to the Future,” “The Way We Were” and “Grease.” Before seeing the new remake of “Footloose” I would have said this film belongs in that category as well. And I was wrong. Happily wrong.  “Footloose” was a touchstone to a generation in the 80’s. Kevin Bacon’s ‘angry dance’ is one we all remember. You just can’t remake a film like this but thankfully director Craig Brewer (“Black Snake Moan” and “Hustle & Flow”) decided to take this on.

I’ll get to the point quickly here. Yes, see this film. Yes, you will like as much as the original. If you were a fan of the music, you’ll be pleased to know that Brewer found a clever way to keep the original “Footloose” theme song. It’s still there. It’s still good but the rest of the music has been updated in a fresh way. Featuring Kenny Wormald ("Ren MacCormack") and Julianne Hough ("Ariel Moore")  in the lead roles, “Footloose” (2011) is the story of a city kid, Ren McCormack making his mark in the small town where he moves to live with his aunt and uncle after his mom’s death. Hough is Ariel, the preacher’s daughter who struggles against living in the shadow of her dead brother. In a town where Rock n’ Roll is banned and there is a curfew, what is left to do but dance, of course.  And dance, they do. Both Wormald and Hough have dancing backgrounds which make this film thoroughly enjoyable to watch.

Stealing this film, however, is Miles Teller (“Rabbit Hole”) as Willard, Ren’s best friend. (You’ll remember Chris Penn in the role in the original 1984 version.) With his unique humor and country boy attitude Willard is the guy you want as your wingman. I caught up with Miles recently and we talked about his role in this iconic remake.

The Happygirl: Hi Miles. Let’s talk about the original film. Have you seen it?

Miles Teller: I have never seen it.  I have seen clips of Chris Penn and the dance montage. I did the play in high school. The first proper play I did in high school was “Footloose.” I played Willard.

HG: Did anything change really from the high school play to the film?

MT: I was 5’1” and 120 pounds the first time (laughs). Willard is still one of my favorite characters to play. I was excited to revisit it.

HG: Willard stole the role with comedy. Is this part of your personality or from Craig (the director.)

MT: Thank you. I think it is a marrying of my acting style and his control. The town I grew up in in Florida is like 6000 people. Willard is a good ole boy. This idea you have with a guy in overalls and cowboy boots. I’m Willard.

HG: What do you look for in a role?

MT: Good writing. I don’t think I purposely search out comedy, drama. I would do pretty much anything if I thought the character was interesting and the writing is good. You shouldn’t hear the lines when you watch a movie.  In “Project X” I think the character’s ends up being my own name.

HG: Can you tell us about “Project X”?

MT: (laughs) NOTHING. Really. It’s called “Project X” for a reason and I think I’ve said some things in the past and I’ve gotten me the wag of the finger. It is pretty much what you have maybe seen online. The cast is mostly relative unknowns. I think they are going for the surprise factor. Todd Phillips is the executive producer.

HG: People can get nervous before an audition or a job interview and you clearly nailed this. How do you psych yourself up before an audition?

MT: I think the fear and the nerves are absolutely good things. Once you reject the feelings of nervousness, when you don’t have complete control of a situation, you need to accept what is going on and you can turn these things around to work for you. Every audition I go on I am super nervous but when you get in a room that part of your mind shuts off. When you do a really good performance you do the scene and you think OK. You want to be as unselfconscious as you can. I psych myself up by feeling like I am very prepared. If you phone it in you feel crappy. Be prepared and enjoy it.

HG: What were you most concerned about for this film acting or choreography?

MT: Oh, this is going to come across as pompous but I was not concerned about the choreography because my character can’t dance at all. I’ve seen Chris Penn’s evolution in the original. He goes from not being able to dance to you know adequately.  I knew it wouldn’t be too complicated. I am pretty confident in my dancing. I don’t do what Kenny or Julianne does in any way. I do have actually rhythm, though. I play drums. When I go out to a bar I feel like I am the best dancer. I am a groover man.

I actually auditioned for Ren. Laray Mayfield (Casting) said “I think you could make a pretty good Ren but if you could do a southern accent I think you’d make a perfect Willard.” From there I was the only person they saw for the role.  I we excited about it. I was a little worried about nailing the southern accent even though I grew up in the Gulf of Mexico in Florida which is super southern. People don’t believe that Florida is really that south. I mean come on. Rebel flags, mud tires. We floated down rivers with gators. I’ve been hog hunting. . .

HG: Wait. You go hog hunting?

MT: (laughs) Yeah. I don’t know what it’s supposed to be. It is supposed to be legit. You wait around for the hogs. . . We had a tent and two hunting dogs and we would hear a hog and the dogs would go running but we would wait scared inside the tent. These hogs are like 300 pounds! I don’t know what it was supposed to be. We just waited for something to happen. I’m just glad it didn’t because I am sure we were very underprepared.

HG: So, you hid from the hogs? (laughs)

MT: (laughs) Yeah, man. I personally was not trying to find a hog or have a hog find me.

HG: (laughs) I don’t think that’s how hog hunting is supposed to work.

MT: It’s definitely not what hog hunting is supposed to be. (laughs)

HG: How much fun/dancing was going on on the set?

MT: We had so much fun on the set. Kenny is one of my close friends. Patrick Flueger (“Chuck”) is a really good friend of mine. Ziah (Colon “Rusty”) and Julianne were hanging out together the other night. They sent me some photos from Beecher’s Madhouse. It’s David Arquette’s place. It’s like a carnival with drinks. Craig Zaden, a producer from the original would always tell us we weren’t crazy like the original cast. Chris Penn would have barbecues in his hotel room every night.  He’d set off the fire alarm. So we tried to spruce it up a little bit. Kenny and I started stealing the crew’s golf carts and doing different things. It was a pretty loose set and I was just trying to make people laugh since I was in overalls and a cowboy hat and my name was Willard. I was trying to keep it loose.

HG: I’m sensing you like the name Willard.

MT: YEAH! Don’t you? When I did the play in high school it was the first play I did. I have a very nostalgic and now contemporary feel for Willard. He is awesome. I love that character. I could do that character for dinner theatre. If these movies stop working out (laughs) I am going to just do “The Return of Willard” and write my own play.

Hg: I think you have something there with Willard and Hog Hunting.

MT: (laughs) you think? “Lord of the Flies” kind of Willard.

HG: “Footloose” is a remake. What other movies would you like to see remade?

MT: I hear Scorcese is remarking “The Gambler” and I would like to be involved in that. There is a good part in there for me. I don’t know. I don’t watch movies much. I loved the “Indiana Jones’ movies. I would love to work with Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. That would be a complete fanboy experience.

HG: Who else would you like to work with?

MT: Harrison Ford, Kate Winslet, Phillip Seymour HoffmanDaniel Day LewisLeoMeryl Streep.

HG: You’re putting together an Oscar movie there.

MT: Yeah, yeah, That is what I’m going for there.

HG: Switching gears a little. What gets you happy when you’re not feeling it?

MT: I think when I’m feeling run of the mill I want to isolate myself and that’s not good so I pick up the phone. I have two older sisters and mom and dad are still together. Phone conversations put me back where I should be. They can give me reassurance. Also driving. When I am driving listening to music in Florida with those long roads.

HG: You love the 60’s and 70’s rock. What music makes you happy?

MT: The Grateful Dead. Anything Dead. You can help but be happy with that stuff.

HG: Do you sing in the car?

MT: Yeah I’ll sing. A little bit.

HG: At a stoplight when someone’s looking at you do you stop singing?

MT: No, man! I’m like “You know the words? Join in!”

HG: What was your happiest moment as an actor?

MT: I have been acting for 8 years when you do a play it is such a high. That is a happy moment. When I found out I got “Rabbit Hole” that was pretty incredible. I had been a guest star on a TV show but that was the first role that I thought I could do this as a profession. Getting into NYU was exciting. Right now I am filming a movie and whenever you finish a take and you’re super excited . . . There are highs and lows. I am going to try and keep up the small successes and the big successes will come. That’s what life is man, small things. Focus on the grass and work your way up.
“the big year”

What do you love so much that you would dedicate your life to it for one year? Would you give up time with your family? Your job? What is your passion? These are questions I thought about after watching “The Big Year” starring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson as birders who are going after the title of the #1 Birder for spotting the most species of bird in one year.

If you are a member of the Audubon Society as many were who screened the movie along with me, you will love this film. They seemed to. Maybe it’s because they identified with the passion that goes along with standing still for long periods of time to catch a glimpse of a rare bird. Maybe it was the beautiful locations featuring mountains, deserts, forests and oceans. While it is on the surface a film about birding, there’s more going here as in “Sorry, honey, I need to bail on another holiday because I am searching desperately for an owl. He’s elusive, babe. Gotta go.”

Fans of Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson expecting a comedy may be disappointed. This isn’t a laugh a minute kind of movie. It’s lighthearted, yes, and a beautifully shot movie with hundreds of species of birds but it is not a comedy.

This film will make you think. I identified with these characters. I thought about all the weekends (for 10+ years) that I spent away from home when I was covering movie junkets around the world. I missed birthday parties, anniversaries and simple moments of hanging out at an apple orchard with my husband on an autumn weekend because I was busy screening movies in Los Angeles or London or Melbourne, Australia. This was my passion though, and my husband understood this. He wanted me to be happy and feel fulfilled.

What about you? Do you work late? Travel for work? Have you missed your son’s soccer tournament or your daughter’s play? That is what makes you think when you leave this film. How far will you go to pursue your dream? Is your life balanced or is your Blackberry the first thing you reach for in the morning and the last thing you look at before you close your eyes to sleep?

Here’s the absolutely great thing about movies. You can go and just enjoy seeing what’s on the screen and in this case that is three talented actors you know you love with gorgeous scenes in nature or you can go a little deeper and think “You know what, I get it. And Thursday nights are now sacred. I’m leaving work at 4pm every Thursday because I am not going to miss another one of my son’s games.”

It's getting colder out. Go see a movie this weekend and be cozy.

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