Craig Brewer causes a few differences in opinion here at The Playlist. Some of us find his two big films to date, "Hustle & Flow" and "Black Snake Moan" somewhere between overrated and terrible, while this writer happens to find both grimy fun, with some smart things to say about racial and sexual politics, and an unusually good sense of musicality. Whichever side of the fence you fall, there can't have been many who were happy when Brewer signed on to direct the long-in-the-offing remake of "Footloose" for Paramount, which hits theaters in October.
But at the MTV Movie Awards this past weekend, Brewer spoke to Collider about that project, piquing our interest a little, as well as revealing some of his approach to the "Tarzan" reboot he recently signed on to write for Warner Brothers, as well as updating on a few projects that have been longer in the offing.
Firstly, Brewer addresses the surprise of many that he was picked to direct "Footloose," which updates the Kevin Bacon dance 'classic' to the present day, saying that the film won't be some "Glee"-esque fancy-free picture, and it was his own personal connection to the project that inspired him to take it: "There [used to be] a certain type of pop movie that had a harder edge, people forget that "Flashdance" and "Purple Rain" and "Footloose" had a toughness to them, they're not just dancing in the hallways like a Nickelodeon show. I was 13 when i saw "Footloose," but now I'm a dad. I realized when I watched the movie over and over again that it wasn't so much that everybody was religious zealots, but they were overreacting from an accident that happened when five teenagers were killed. I got kids now, I can't help, I can see myself overdoing it a little bit, and clamping down too hard on my kids myself, and once I saw that connection, I saw there was a way I could connect with "Footloose"... I think setting it in the South made it a lot more relevant to the red state/blue state division... I live in the South and i see these kind of conflicts occur a lot."
This grittier, more grounded approach extends to the film's musical approach, with Brewer saying that "It was important that Jamal Sims (the "Step Up" films), who was my choreographer... we said that we didn't want it to feel like it was choreographed. [We wanted to] make it so that noone suddenly claps hands and everyone was in unison, necessarily, and also in the casting, as someone who lives in the south... teenagers don't always look like supermodels. When you saw the end of the original "Footloose," you weren't saying "Hey, everybody's dancing amazingly"... It was a celebration of life. I felt i was in similar territory to "Hustle & Flow" and "Black Snake Moan."
And the musical selection certainly will be different to the original, and a somewhat diverse mix, with Brewer confirming that Southern rapper David Banner, "Hustle & Flow" Oscar-winners Three Six Mafia, and country artists Zac Brown and Big & Rich have all contributed cuts tot the soundtrack, along with, for one key sequence, The White Stripes: "Remember the Angry Dance from the original? We have an angry dance... I'm happy to say that the angry dance is set to The White Stripes' 'Catch Hell Blues,' and you haven't seen an angry dance until you've seen it set to Jack White's guitar." It wasn't what we were expecting, to be sure, even if it's a track off the band's least listenable album ('Catch Hell Blues' is admittedly one of the better, bagpipe-free tracks: check it out below).
Brewer also talked about "Tarzan," which he signed on to last week, and hopes to make his next directorial effort, saying that the film won't shy from the racial questions inevitable in a contemporary take on the legendary character, a white man raised in the African jungle: "I don't want to give too much away of what I'm doing, but that is something I have thought about, and something I am addressing, and I can just say that "Tarzan" is a love story really, the movie I want to tell, that's on the backdrop of this adventure, where Tarzan has to reconnect to his love, Jane, and to Africa itself. I know there's probably going to be some concerns, in terms of racial attitudes toward the original films, and towards the books, but it's territory that I've been in before... I don't want to say I'm comfortable in it, because I think it's best to stay a little uncomfortable, and be mindful of things that need to be sensitive, but I think it's important to tell a great story from one of the most famous literary characters of all time."
As for other prospective projects, Brewer also gives an update on "Mother Trucker," an action comedy last heard of in 2009, about a man who steals a big rig in order to see his mother before he dies, saying that the project "is definitely something that's still out there, we're trying to find the right guy to play it, but I love that movie, I can't wait to make that movie." Meanwhile, while he says that any mooted "Hustle & Flow" sequel is probably a way off, saying he doesn't want to follow a remake with a sequel, and that he's focusing on "Tarzan" for the moment, Brewer does share his sequel pitch "I had a great reteaming of the family, as they go out on tour to try and sell a single, and show a different part of the musical process, where it's really dog eat dog out there... just trying to sell units in music stores, where that alone is beginning to go away."
All in all, it's an intriguing line-up of projects, and either way it looks unlikely that the four year wait that's followed "Black Snake Moan" will be repeated, particularly if "Footloose" hits: we'll find out if that film lives up to Brewer's hype, or if it's just another anonymous dance picture, when it lands on October 14th.
The White Stripes - 'Catch Hell Blues'