Andie MacDowell is celebrated for her understated and powerful performances in such films as “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Groundhog Day” and “Sex, Lies and Videotape.” The filmmakers of “Footloose” found the perfect preacher’s wife in the versatile actress who is as comfortable with comedy as she is with drama. Being from the south, she truly understood where the character of Vi was coming from. Playing the role also reunited MacDowell and Dennis Quaid again as husband and wife who previously played a married couple in the film “Dinner with Friends.”
MoviesOnline sat down with MacDowell to talk about what it was like to be a part of remaking the beloved 1984 classic film, “Footloose,” and what she did to make her character more contemporary in the new version. She discussed how she dealt with repression growing up, shared her memories of the original “Footloose,” and described the star making quality of the current cast. She also revealed what the experience was like playing opposite her daughter in the indie feature “Mighty Fine” and being featured as a high powered executive in the new ABC Family Show “Jane By Design.”
Q: Did you base Vi on anyone you knew? Did she seem familiar to you?
ANDIE MACDOWELL: Well it was essentially in the writing. It was more in the writing and I did what Craig told me to do. He wanted it to be a little more lively, not quite as repressed. Contemporary.
Q: Do you feel that she represents the person who’s kept quiet and sees things get too restrictive and out of control and finally has to be the voice of reason?
ANDIE MACDOWELL: I think she was quiet for as long as she could be. Things were obviously boiling to the top. And then it was no longer appropriate to be quiet. She had to speak out. You could see it underneath there, earlier, that it had to be said.
Q: When you were growing up, did you ever have to deal with repression?
ANDIE MACDOWELL: The only thing I can remember is there was one church that didn’t like the cheerleaders skirt and they would come and picket the fact that the cheerleaders’ skirts were so short.
Q: Were you on the squad?
ANDIE MACDOWELL: I wasn’t. My sister was. I was really young.
Q: Do you have any memories of the original “Footloose”?
ANDIE MACDOWELL: I had seen it. I watched it again right before I did it just to refresh my memory. I remember it being really radical, thinking it was really radical. It was kind of funny watching it because it’s not nearly as radical watching it now as it was when it first came out, which is why they needed to update it and make it somewhat more contemporary. The world’s even crazier than it was.
Q: What takeaways do you think the audience will have from this?
ANDIE MACDOWELL: I think that everybody needs a relief. All of us are so sick and tired of worrying about the economy and all the depressing financial issues that everybody needs a movie like this. Everybody needs to laugh and have fun and feel good. And it’s got a lot of heart. I think it’s perfect timing for a movie like this. To go and have fun and forget about their troubles for a couple of hours would be very healthy not only for escape but to feel good.
Q: The original movie was such a star-making vehicle for Kevin Bacon and other members of the cast. What do you see as far as star quality with this group of actors?
ANDIE MACDOWELL: They’re so talented. I knew Kenny because my daughter was a dancer. I knew him from the dance world. All the little girls adored him. I think the great thing about Kenny and what he has to offer is he’s truly a great dancer, that’s where he’s going to steal your heart. When he starts to dance, that’s it, it’s all over. You love him. But I think he as a person is genuine. If you know him, that’s how he really is. There’s not a mean bone in his body. No ego. He’s just such a good person that I hope for him that he becomes a big star. And Julianne too, they worked so hard. The scene in the church, that was very difficult. And I’ve been in the position that they’ve been in where everything’s on your shoulders and they carried the movie. You’re doing it, there’s nobody else. Of course, there’s the crew and everybody else, but ultimately it’s on their shoulders and they really pulled it off. They did a great job. And the dancing’s fantastic.
Q: You and Dennis had quite a volley, what was it like working with him?
ANDIE MACDOWELL: You know we worked together before on “Dinner With Friends” so we joked that we’d already been married, we’re an old married couple, so I do think that helped with being comfortable, already having been married once. It felt like we had been married.
Q: You’re a mom of three, what aspects of that inform your playing a mom here, being protective?
ANDIE MACDOWELL: I think it helps, not only in the role, but off screen too. I am a nurturer by nature. I’m very maternal and I really enjoyed being there for Julianne and knowing what my place was for her. Having been the lead, like I said, in many movies, I knew what my role was to help support her and give her the space to do what she needed to do and at the same time try to make her feel good and also touch her in just the right way so it all opens up. I was very aware of all of that. I love being a mom so it was an easy thing for me to do. I’m doing it again on this ABC Family show I’m doing right now: Jane By Design.
Q: You’re the boss in that, not the mom.
ANDIE MACDOWELL: I know, I’m mean from hell, but not off screen. Off screen I’m really nurturing and loving, which is fun
Q: The character is the boss of the young designer?
ANDIE MACDOWELL: Correct. A woman executive in a very high-powered job. She doesn’t have time or patience for anyone. But there are moments when she’s nice, small moments.
Q: That’s a departure for you, you play nice ladies.
ANDIE MACDOWELL: I know. It’s not really that I think I’m mean, I’m just under a lot of pressure.
Q: When does it come on?
ANDIE MACDOWELL: January.
Q: Have you worked with Kevin Bacon?
ANDIE MACDOWELL: I have. I did “Beauty Shop” with him.
Q: Are there any other movies from the ‘80s you’d like to see remade?
ANDIE MACDOWELL: I really haven’t thought about that. I can’t really think of anything.
Q: What was your favorite film from that era, besides “Footloose”?
ANDIE MACDOWELL: I like all the dance movies. “Dirty Dancing.” I also like really simple movies where here are just a couple of people.
Q: Your acting career was just starting then?
ANDIE MACDOWELL: Yes.
Q: How was it different from filmmaking today and in what ways is it the same?
ANDIE MACDOWELL: It was different, less computers. There were no monitors. I was pre-monitors. They all sit behind a box now. They used to just watch you. Then when they got monitors, there were still directors who wanted to come and watch you because sometimes when they’re watching monitors they don’t see everything. It’s hard to see everything on a little box.
Q: You have this movie “Mighty Fine” and your daughter’s in it with you?
ANDIE MACDOWELL: That’s right
Q: Is it her first film?
ANDIE MACDOWELL: It is her first film.
Q: What’s the premise? Do you play mother, daughter?
ANDIE MACDOWELL: Mother, daughter. I have a Polish accent in it. It’s going to be interesting. It’s taken from the writer’s true life story. The father is bi-polar and the mother is very repressed because during the Holocaust she had been hidden. It takes place in the ‘70s. As a child and a really young woman she had been through that. She doesn’t have a voice and she’s afraid to, she doesn’t know how to take care of her daughters. She’s kind of caught up in his spiral. She’s definitely an enabler, and what’s the other word I’m looking for? Co-dependent. She feels that she can control it which is an illusion. She can’t. My daughter plays my daughter. She’s the main victim to his aggression. Oh my God it was so hard because she’s really my daughter and Chazz Palminteri plays the father, and the things she had to do and the things he did to her. In hindsight, ‘cause in the moment all you’re thinking about is doing the best you can do, that’s all you do, it’s complete tunnel vision, focusing on getting the job done, it’s got to be the best whatever it takes, ‘get there, no matter what happens to your daughter.’ And when it was all over and time passed by and I reflected, it was so painful.
Q: How do you feel about her following in your footsteps?
ANDIE MACDOWELL: Well she sings too and I’m thankful that she has another outlet than me. She sings like you would not believe. I don’t know where it came from. She was given a gift. She’s got lungs that are incredible. I’m thankful that she has something besides acting. I don’t want anybody to compare her to me. I want her to have her own voice.
Q: Knowing how the industry works it can be tough on people with all the rejection. Did you have sleepless nights when she said she wanted to do this?
ANDIE MACDOWELL: I’ve tried to talk her out of it. It didn’t work. It only seems to make things worse. My other one is a dancer. I tried to talk her out of it for years. And you know what, I quit trying to talk her out of it and supported her completely. She went off to the High School of the Arts at 15, she got into ABT, she did all the most prestigious programs, she did ABT this summer, she got offered an apprenticeship at 16 to work with Jean Pierre Bonfoux and Patricia McBride and Francois Perron at the Academie Francaise and the Paris Opera. And she called me this summer while she was at ABT and said ‘I’m questioning it.’ I hadn’t said anything for four years because she started following her dream: ‘I want to dance, I don’t care if I make any money!’ Dancers work really hard, they don’t make any money. It’s hard. So now she’s studying acting and she’s drawing. And thank God, my son is a teacher.
“Footloose” opens in theaters on October 14th.