These days, it’s hard to imagine anyone but Kevin Bacon playing Ren McCormack in 1984’s Footloose, but back before the movie was filmed, even Bacon wasn’t so sure he could pull it off.
Until he went undercover as a high school student for a day, that is.
Bacon recently sat down with Footloose costar John Lithgow to discuss the film as part of Variety’s “Actors on Actors” series, where he revealed his day as an incognito teen. Aged 23 at the time, Bacon said he needed some guidance on how to play the 17-year-old McCormack, a Chicago-born teen who moves to Bomont, a small mid-west town where dancing and rock music are banned, with his mother in the movie.
As Bacon explained, he had Footloose producers enroll him for a day at “the local high school,” which he didn’t name. However, Footloose primarily was shot in Utah, and used the state’s Payson High School for many high school scenes. A 2011 article from Utah’s Deseret News indicates Bacon went to Payson to “sit in on a few classes” for the film.
“I went and had that same experience for a day,” Bacon told Lithgow. “The only people that knew that I was an actor was the principal and maybe the guidance counselor. The teachers didn’t know. The students didn’t know.”
After a day back in high school, Bacon said he got “real insight” into how to play the part. The experience, he said, was “exactly like the movie,” due to the way the students at the high school treated him.
“It was terrifying. I got a real insight into literally how to play this part,” Bacon said. “It was exactly like the movie because some kids gave me a hard time, made fun of me, made fun of my hair, made fun of my clothing. I was dressed and looked like the character. Some of the girls giggled and formed little groups and would whisper about me.”
Bacon’s “Actors on Actors” interview will air June 13 on PBS SoCal. He currently can be seen in I Love Dick, now streaming on Amazon Prime.