Julianne Hough

is having quite a moment. In addition to co-starring in next summer’s ‘Rock of Ages’ and Diablo Cody’s directorial debut, the former ‘Dancing With the Stars’ professional pulls on the iconic pair of red cowboy boots for the ‘Footloose’ remake. Directed by Craig Brewer, Hough stars as Ariel, a small-town preacher’s rebellious daughter — a role first played by Lori Singer in 1984. Is she worried about backlash from fans of the beloved original? “We didn’t mess this up,” Hough told Moviefone. “Just go see it; there’s so many skeptical people out there that have gone to see it already and we’ve changed their minds.”

Moviefone sat down with Hough in Los Angeles recently to discuss the new film, how the girls are going crazy for newcomer Kenny Wormald (in the role that Kevin Bacon made famous), and how she prepped for her big dramatic scene with movie-dad Dennis Quaid.

How many times have you seen the original?
Oh my gosh, probably over 50 times. Whether it’s on TV, I just kind of flip through channels and if it’s on, I’ll always watch it. Or just back when I was growing up, I would just watch it.

When this came along, did you go after the role or did they come to you?
I was attached when Kenny Ortega was first directing, and he came to me when I was still on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ and asked, “Would you like to audition?” I was like, “Yeah! Totally.” A lot of people don’t know this, but I’ve wanted to act my whole life. That’s what brought me out here. So I auditioned and I got it and then people started dropping out and there was a moment for me when I was like, “Maybe I don’t want to do this,” because it’s not like the original — it’s a musical and I was thinking that a lot of the ‘Footloose’ fans from the original were going to be really upset. So, at first, I was a little apprehensive, but then they went a different direction. And then Craig Brewer signed on and I read his version and I was like, “Wow, okay, this is like the original and I get to show off more of the acting side and not so much the dancing.” But then I found out he wanted to do his own cast and hire them and so I was like, “Oh crap!” So I had to go and convince him that I was Ariel. I read for him, very casually, and out in Nashville and he hired me that day. I’m so glad and so glad that this version was made.

How important was staying faithful versus doing something new and original?
I think we were really lucky that Paramount was doing it, since they did the original. We had two of the originals that produced it on our set every day. And then Craig Brewer, who calls himself a “Footloose-ologist.” He saw it when he was 13 and thought this movie was literally made for him, so it holds a dear place in his heart. I kind of left that pressure to them and I just kind of felt like, I’m going to take this like how I feel this generation is going to look at this movie now and I did that. I really felt like I made Ariel my own and really tried to do some different things with her.

You said that you haven’t really done the kind of “booty-shaking” dancing you do in the drive-in scene. But you’ve done your share of booty-shaking on ‘Dancing With the Stars.
Yeah, sure. (Laughs) But I always feel like it’s more structured booty shaking. This was like, “Let’s just make guys aroused,” basically, kind of booty shaking. It was fun, though. It was in the middle of the night when we were shooting that scene. We were drinking coffee at 3 a.m., trying to stay awake. But it was fun, I liked it. I like challenging myself and doing different kinds of dance.

I know you started dancing at a young age, but did you ever have those issues in your own family, where dancing or performing was frowned upon?
Never that it wasn’t right, but I grew up in Utah, which is very heavily Mormon and so when I would be wearing these sexy costumes as 7 years old and dancing sexy, it was a little bit like, “OK, tone down, Julianne.” It was never, like, “Don’t dance.” But my family was really supportive of everything that I did.

Did you have fun tapping into the rebellious side of your character?
Yeah! People know me as this kind of good girl and it was fun to tap into someone who was a little bit of a brat.

You got to wear the same red boots and the same prom dress as Lori Singer did in the original.
The dress was a little modified, but it was pretty similar. My favorite were the boots, though. I would wear he boots now.

What was your favorite dance scene to film?
Probably the country line dance scene, because, it was just fun. My family was there, my mom and my three sisters were in the number and you can see them in the movie, so it’s fun to share that with them. There wasn’t a lot of choreography, it was just the line dance part was set and everything else was just like we were really in a club dancing. And then the ‘Footloose’ [prom] dance, which is so nostalgic. It was amazing.

What was the part that got you the most out of your comfort zone?
A lot of people see me as the happy-go-lucky, bright, positive Julianne, so just acting in general and showing a vulnerable side is kind of scary. And doing that scene in the church with Dennis [Quaid] was really emotional and no one’s seen me do that. So it’s a little scary, but I loved it. Usually I’m so strong but being vulnerable like that in front of everybody, in front of the world, it’s exhilarating. When I’m scared to do something is when I should probably do it, is what i usually tell myself. It was fun. That was probably one of the most rewarding scenes for me, crying all day is exhausting, so you’ve got to really prepare yourself and focus and make sure you’ve got enough fluid in your body.

This is probably the first thing most people have seen Kenny in. What are your predictions: is his career going to skyrocket from this?
You never know, even when you’re shooting the movie, you never know until you watch the movie with an audience in the theater. And we’ve been doing screenings around the country and literally the girls go crazy when he comes onscreen. And we’ll do Q&As afterward and they’ll scream when they see him walk out and ask questions like, “Can I get your number?” and it’s cool. It’s fun to be in the same world and watch that happen to somebody.

What do you want to tell fans who are upset that there’s a remake and are convinced it won’t be any good?
I always watch remakes and I’m like, “Ugh, that was terrible, they totally butchered that.” But I can honestly say with pride that we did not mess this up. And it’s great. I think that you don’t see a lot of teen movies like the ’80s teen movies nowadays, with messages basically telling kids, “Fight for what you believe in.”

Have you heard from anyone in the original cast?
Not yet. None of them have seen the movie yet.

Are you anxious to hear their reactions?
Yeah. I hope that they like it and that we did them proud. But we feel like we really made our own movie with just a piece of the original.

Have you ever figured our your connection, degree-wise to Kevin Bacon?
I think it was something like three. I can’t remember the person in between, but Andie MacDowell did a movie with somebody who did a movie with Kevin Bacon. [Actually, MacDowell pointed out to us that she did ‘Beauty Shop’ with Bacon, so that would be a two-degree connection for the rest of the cast of the new ‘Footloose.’]

What are you doing next?
I just finished ‘Rock of Ages,’ which was really crazy. It was amazing, an amazing cast, obviously. I got to sing as well as dance and act in it and it was fun. It’s all ’80s rock songs that everybody knows and loves.

Who are your most of your scenes with?
Mostly with Tom [Cruise] and Mary J. Blige and Diego Boneta, who is the guy opposite me.

What songs are you singing?
‘Sister Christian,’ ‘Living in Paradise,’ ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane,’ ‘Shadows of the Night,’ and ‘Harden My Heart,’ and ‘Don’t Stop Believin.’ There’s tons.

[Photos: Getty, Paramount]

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