For the Footloose remake, the role of Willard, the country boy who befriends Ren, went to newcomer Miles Teller who recently wowed critics with his performance in Rabbit Hole opposite Nicole Kidman. When filmmakers first saw him read for the role opposite Kenny Wormald, they recognized a natural chemistry between the two that would transfer to the big screen. With Teller, they saw an opportunity to introduce a new actor to audiences like they did with Chris Penn in the original film.
Ziah Colon, who plays Rusty Rodriguez, the role that Sara Jessica Parker originated in the 1984 Footloose, is an Atlanta actor of Puerto Rican descent. Growing up, Colon spent most of her time performing for family and friends. As she got older, she participated in her high school drama club, and once she graduated, she decided to pursue acting as a career. After her initial audition for the role, she was called back several times by director Craig Brewer who was convinced she was absolutely right for the part.
MoviesOnline sat down with Teller and Colon at a roundtable interview to talk about their roles. Teller described what it was like trying to play a bad dancer when you’re actually a good dancer and recalled playing the lead role in the stage version of Footloose in high school. Colon, who was a big fan of the original Footloose, told us she didn’t watch the classic 80s dance film to prepare for the role and chose to play Rusty as more of a tough cookie. The pair also described the strict dress codes they rebelled against in high school and updated us on their upcoming projects.
Q: So do you have to be a good dancer to play a bad dancer?
Miles Teller: Yeah, you have to be smart to play dumb.
Q: Did you have any dance background at all?
Miles Teller: Socially, a lot of dance experience, like at weddings. At college, I had to take a year of ballet, tap dancing or jazz. The choreography aspect I’m used to retaining.
Q: Was it hard to do the bad stuff?
Miles Teller: Yeah, that was hard. It’s hard to dance off rhythm when you have rhythm. I made it more of a physical exercise rather than to get myself to think off rhythm. I tried that for a long time, and it just didn’t work. I just tried to make myself feel as uncomfortable in my own body as I could. People that are bad dancers are very awkward. That was what I was trying to get into.
Q: What was your experience working on this film?
Miles Teller: It was a lot of fun. It was like we were all on summer camp vacation is what it felt like for three months. This was the first movie where I shot on location. It was the first time I felt like a movie star, in some sense of the word.
Q: Did they have the music on while you were dancing?
Miles Teller: Yeah dude, like cranking! It was pumping. Let’s Hear it for the Boy was… loud! It’s my favorite song from the movie.
Q: Have you seen the original?
Miles Teller: No, I haven’t.
Ziah Colon: I have seen it. I’ve seen it a lot of times. They play it on TV, a lot! I was aware of everything about Footloose, but didn’t watch it to prepare for the role.
Q: What gets you about the movie?
Ziah Colon: Kevin Bacon [laughs], those tight jeans. It was a fun movie. When I first saw it I was little, I didn’t understand the lesson that you get out of it. I just thought it was cool, a dance movie. I had seen it again and again, I was aware of their world.
Q: Miles, you played in the stage version of Footloose?
Miles Teller: The first play I did in high school was Footloose.
Q: Little did you know…
Miles Teller: I had no idea [laughs]. I didn’t even know I wanted to be an actor at that point.
Q: What changed for you?
Miles Teller: Honestly, I guess finishing that play and getting on stage and getting that first laugh. It was infectious. Junior year, I was pretty much the lead in all the plays. I was Drama Club president. I was missing baseball practice for drama rehearsal. My buddy was like, “What’s going on with you, man. You’re different. You’re changing.”
Q: That sounds like an episode of Glee?
Miles Teller: Yeah, right.
Q: Since then, you’ve shot a couple more films, right? Project X and 21 and Over.
Miles Teller: I just wrapped 21 and Over yesterday.
Q: Can you talk about what you play in those?
Miles Teller: Project X, I can’t say anything. It’s called Project X and it’s about these three kids who kind of cement themselves in high school and have some sort of reputation and they plan on throwing the most epic high school party that you’ve ever seen. The other one was written by the guys who wrote The Hangover, it’s their directorial debut. It’s our friends’ twenty-first birthday party and we convince him to go out. I say, “Just one beer, man.”
Q: The trailer sets up Rusty, like she may be the promiscuous one, but you actually see the movie and she’s sweet and cares for everyone. She’s the mother hen of the group. How did you approach her going into the film?
Ziah Colon: I thought she was a very simple girl. Seeing the original, that’s how she was. She was headstrong, confident in how she thought. I read the screenplay and I listened to Craig (Brewer, director) and decided to keep that timidness that she has in the original. She loves her man [motions to Miles]. I created her with what I had, not from the original. I used my own essence.
Q: Growing up, did you have any restrictions in your communities like what happens in Footloose?
Miles Teller: In my high school, there was a pretty strict dress code.
Ziah Colon: Mine too.
Miles Teller: Shorts couldn’t be shorter than the finger tips. Straps had to be two inches apart, which sucked because I wanted to wear wife beaters every day — completely kidding. You couldn’t wear sandals, because it was a danger insurance-wise.
Ziah Colon: No baggie pants. They got really into the dress code in my school.
Q: It wasn’t a private school, was it?
Ziah Colon: No, it was a public school.
Q: Did any of the kids challenge it?
Ziah Colon: Oh, all the time. There were plenty of kids in detention for dress code
Q: What do you want audiences to get from your Footloose?
Miles Teller: Hopefully, obviously you want them to leave feeling satisfied — entertained. It’s a fun movie. It’s not fluff. We’re dealing with a very real subject matter. Julianne’s getting beat up… there’s all that stuff going on. You want them to be entertained. You want them to dance a little bit. You have a dance finale, so if people just leave mildly like, “Oh, it was a good film.” That’s not good.
Ziah Colon: Stand up for what you believe in. That’s what Ren did. Find your own voice; hopefully that’s what they’ll get from it.
Q: How quickly did you pick up on the fight choreography? One day you’re dancing, the next you’re throwing punches.
Miles Teller: We learned that fight choreography the night before at like 4 o’clock in the morning.
Q: Ziah, did you like that you got to get involved in the fighting?
Ziah Colon: Yeah, I loved it. Rusty got to show different sides of herself. She gets to show that she’s a tough cookie. She didn’t show that last time. That was fun for me. I’ve never broken a bottle over someone’s head before… [laughs]. That poor guy, he was so nice.
Miles Teller: You really enjoyed that!
Ziah Colon: I really did!
Q: What are you working on next?
Miles Teller: Like I said, I just wrapped 21 and Over yesterday, and there’s one movie I’m really hoping for, but I don’t want to jinx it. Maybe, there’s an indie that I’m attached to in January and then maybe this studio film around the same time.
Ziah Colon: We’re considering certain options right now. We have some stuff, I haven’t attached to anything just yet. I think the sky’s the limit. We’ll see what happens.
“Footloose” opens in theaters on October 14th.