Thursday, September 15, 2016

Interview: Mimi Broadhead (Ren's younger cousin in "Footloose")


  • Mimi's last name is now Hanson.
  • Meghan Broadhead, who played Mimi's older sister in the movie, is her sister in real life; she did not respond to my interview request. (See note at bottom.)
  • Photos courtesy of Mimi.

How old were you when you were cast in Footloose?

If I remember correctly, I was eight years old during the audition process and the filming; I was in the third grade. The most exciting part of the whole thing for me was I missed the last part of my second grade year for filming. I was unaware they had a teacher on the set, so that was quickly dashed.

How did you get the role?

Actually, I had been acting since the age of four. My parents were both performers. My father was a stage actor and my mother was an opera singer; they were both commercial actors. I had been in quite a few commercials and some print ads at that point. Utah was really starting to pick up as a filming location, so there was quite a bit of film work that came through.

When we went on the first audition, my mother told me not to get too excited because it was a "cattle call." Initially I learned the lines for the younger sister, the part I finally played in the movie. When we got to the audition, I was told I had to read for the older sister. My mom scrambled to teach me those lines. It meant my older sister [in real life] and I would be reading for the same part. When it was my turn to go back, I had no qualms about expressing to the casting director [that] I was really upset because I liked the other part better and I was told I couldn't try out for it. The casting director shrugged and said "Well, I don't see why not." I read for the younger sister. The next callback, my older sister and I read together as sisters, and I think there was one more callback where we read for Herbert Ross (director) and Lew Rachmil (producer), though that might have been the same audition.

In the end, my older sister and I were cast together to play sisters in the movie.

What other members of your family were in the movie?

Aside from my older sister, my father was cast in the role of Mayor Dooley, my mother and my little brothers were extras in some of the large town scenes, and my 14-year-old brother was not in the film but got a job working for the company that catered the set.

Any funny anecdotes about your
Footloose experience?

My funniest memory was the day we filmed the scene where the brick went through our bedroom window. Herbert Ross was a great director, but he had a bit of trouble evoking a performance out of me that day. I was so distracted by the movie glass on the floor once somebody told me it was made of sugar. I was also distracted with the fact that we were filming a nighttime scene in the middle of the day. I kept bringing what I perceived to be a huge mistake to the attention of someone on set (I don't remember who) and they kept assuring me it would look like night when the movie was done.

I want to preface this by saying I didn't have a single bad experience working on this film and Herbert Ross was one of the kindest men that I ever met. That being said, to try and direct a performance of a child who is scared, I remember him stomping around, raising his voice, slamming things to make loud noises, slamming around stuffed animals…but the problem was I was not the least bit scared of this man. I quite liked him and I found his tirade as an attempt to be humorous. My sister was doing a great job, pulling out all of the stops. I just couldn't get into it. Finally, they broke out the glycerin tears and did the best they could. I think I still didn't realize what was going on. It was one of those situations that clicked much later in life.

For the two dinner scenes that were shot, they asked my sister and me what we liked and didn't like to eat and constructed the final set food accordingly. When the day came to shoot the first dinner scene, a plate of food was put in front of me and I was getting ready to devour it; after all, they made everything that I liked. Whatever set member put this plate in front of me grabbed my hand and said "Oh no, you can't eat it." I was really confused. I was instructed to take bites only while the camera was rolling [and] only during certain shots. I was, of course, not allowed to eat the food when I had lines to deliver. The idea was that I wasn't supposed to fill up too fast because the filming was slated to take a while. I didn't understand all of the rules; what I did understand is that there was food in front of me that smelled really good, so the game became to shovel as many bites as I could into my mouth while the crew member who told me I couldn't eat wasn't looking. The inhaling of massive amounts of air with my purloined bites of food gave me a massive case of very loud hiccups. Suddenly the focus of everyone became curing my hiccups. All the stops were pulled out. It wasn't until I was grown and I realized how much a movie costs to film why curing my hiccups in this scene that had the bulk of my lines in the movie was so important.

I found strange [some] little details that Herbert Ross put into the movie. The actress who played my mother was made to wear a pregnancy pillow, though no pregnancy was ever referred to in the film. My sister was fitted for a retainer, though her teeth were perfectly straight…he just thought it looked better. We were also given roller skates and told to learn how to skate well, yet nowhere in the film were we ever on roller skates—I'm not sure if that was something that was cut.

What do you remember about your impression of Kevin Bacon?

I remember Kevin Bacon as being very nice. We did do quite a few scenes with him. I formed a pretty big crush on him. In fact, shortly after filming, I got a puppy; I named him Bacon. I remember him doing yoga between takes. One day he showed my sister and me a few yoga moves. He had a stunt double, but he actually did some of the gymnastics in the film (so I heard). When we had to film the little dance sequence where he is teaching Chris Penn how to dance, I didn't want to touch his hands as they were covered in blisters from the gymnastics.

John Lithgow?

He was very nice, but in my memories I have a fear association. John Lithgow is pretty tall. I remember him as towering over everyone. I really didn't interact with him much. I'm trying to remember if I knew he was in The Twilight Zone [1982 movie]. I was very scared of
The Twilight Zone as a child, mostly because of the theme song. I remember certain images from the television commercial, one of which was John Lithgow in the plane. I would scramble and hide when that commercial came on. I was surprised and kind of delighted when he came out with a children's album. It softened my memory of him.

Lori Singer?

Really very few memories. There were some scenes we were in together that were lost in rewrites before they were filmed. I met her during the rehearsal period, but that's about all I remember.

Dianne Wiest?

I had minimal interaction with her. I don't really remember her at all.

Sarah Jessica Parker and Chris Penn?

I had to put these two together when I answered; in addition, I have to add Francis Lee McCain and John Laughlin. These are the cast members I remember most. All four treated my sister and me wonderfully and I can't see talking about Footloose without mentioning that.

The motel that the production put us at had a swimming pool. The only stipulation was that my sister and I could not go swimming until after dark as they did not want us to get any sun. Chris Penn, John Laughlin, and Sarah Jessica Parker were always in the pool when we went down. They took time and they played with us. Over the course of filming, SJP taught me how to swim. I remember Chris Penn as being quite a clown. He was always making us laugh. It speaks a lot about him that he would take the time to interact with us. I cried off and on for a week when I heard he died. Seriously. I know that sounds dramatic, but he made that big of an impression on my life.

Sarah Jessica Parker was, and I bet she still is, amazing! I'm sure that you know that Tracy Nelson was originally slated to play Rusty. My favorite show at that time was Square Pegs. I was so excited to meet Tracy Nelson. I don't remember how the timeline worked, but I clearly remember being at a rehearsal and Tracy Nelson was there. I was so excited to meet her, but it was quick and it was disappointing.

After I was told that she was replaced by SJP, I was even more excited! I liked her better on the show. Again, I had to psych myself up to introduce myself. The difference was she was so sweet and so warm. She hung out with us, ate lunch with us many times, and genuinely listened to us. My sister and I found out she was in Annie. We loved that movie! She answered every single one of our questions about it. In retrospect, I think a lot of that care came from the fact that she was a child actress and she truly understood what it was like. I remember her so well; I am so sorry we didn't stay in touch with her.

Francis Lee McCain was also often with my sister, my mother, and myself in between takes. Most of the pictures I am providing you with were taken by her. She was very nice and took a lot of care in how she treated us. When, as a child, you feel like an adult has your full attention—I think [those] kinds of interactions go a long way. 

Did you attend the premiere, and if so, what was that like?

My sister and I didn't attend the Hollywood premiere, but I remember there was a premiere party in Salt Lake City with a lot of the local actors in the film. We got ride in a limo, so it was really fun for us.

How often were you recognized on the street? Any funny stories about that?

Elementary school actually turned into quite a nightmare. When the move was a hit, kids were coming out of the woodworks to meet us; when the movie started to slip, the same kids would come up to me and say "
Footloose sucks, you suck…" And so on. At the end of that school year, we moved to a new home. My sister and I decided we were not going to tell anyone about Footloose, but we were very quickly recognized.

When the movie was at the height of its popularity, a rumor started that Kevin Bacon was staying at our house. A car full of teenage girls pulled over by me on the way home from school one day and asked if I was the girl from the movie. After I confirmed, the same group followed me home for about a week. They stayed parked in front of our house, hoping to see Kevin Bacon. It was kind of scary for me. My father finally had to take care of it. He stormed out to their car and I was ordered into the house. I don't know what he said to them, but I never saw them again.

Do you remember what you earned for the movie, and do you still earn residuals?

Not at the time. I remember seeing the approximate amount on my social security report a few years ago. It was in the thousands. I still get four checks a year. It pans out to be about $200-400 annually, small enough that I forget about them. Recently I found about eight uncashed
Footloose checks while moving. I took them into the bank and they could cash only a few of them because [more than] 180 days had passed. The teller, who was maybe in his early twenties, called over his supervisor, who was maybe in her late twenties, to see if there was anything she could do about depositing the older checks. The supervisor started grilling me about why I had so many checks from Paramount Pictures. After trying to steer away from the subject, I finally told her it was because I was in a movie when I was a child. The supervisor, the original teller, and another young teller started pressing me for what movie it was. Finally, I said Footloose. *silence* The supervisor says "But wasn't that movie [only] a few years ago?" I told her I was in the original movie from the eighties. *silence* The teller asks "There was an original?!" That was the first day I felt really old.

What are you doing these days?

I'm finishing up my degree in economics with an emphasis on professional and strategic communications. I am also researching and slowly working on a book on wage inequality and the poverty trap in America. I don't work at the moment. I spend most of my free time with my six-year-old; some days that can definitely be counted as work.

It took me a long time to get where I am at. I continued to act until I was about fifteen, when I formed horrible social anxiety. I was so focused on eventually having a career in the entertainment industry that I tried many different things, looking for something that clicked. I worked on writing screenplays for a while. I submitted a different screenplay to Sundance Feature Film Lab every year for about six years. Twice, I made it to the final round, but I never got a lab spot. I bought camera gear and worked on filming a documentary, but that was too slow of a process. I tried my hand at short films. I actually shot a short film with some friends of mine in Austin, but I never finished it. I came to the hard realization that being in entertainment was not for me.

I took a job at a coffee shop to be free enough to work on some of these other things I was doing. Before I knew it, I had been working there for twelve years. At the same time, I had been slowly chipping away at my B.S. I took so long, mainly, because I had no idea what to do. When I finally really got back into school, I made a discovery: I love math. Not only do I love math, but I am really good at it. This was major for me because all of my life I considered myself more on the English side of the fence, so I never tried to like math. I always assumed I was not good at it.

I made the decision that I was going to major in math and take the actuarial exams. I decided to minor in business because I wanted to take some finance classes and the only way I could do it was to be accepted to the business school. Through taking microeconomics as a business prerequisite, I discovered that even more than I love math, I love economics. That is the first time, as strange as it sounds, that I have truly felt fulfilled.

Any interest in acting again?

I really have no interest in acting again. As I mentioned earlier, I have battled horrible social anxiety for many years. Around 2008, my little brother was on a reality television show. Though the show was [only] marginally successful, the network really latched on to my brother to do a lot of the promotional work. A segment was booked on The Today Show where he would show how he has integrated his new healthy lifestyle into his family. It was around my birthday and my brother worked it out so the network would fly me out to New York with him; the rub was I had to appear with him on Today and in an Associated Press interview. "You have to be on national television" is about the worst sentence you can speak to someone with social anxiety issues. I was mortified, but I knew it was so important to my brother and he worked so hard to make this happen so we could go to New York for my birthday. I had to keep reminding myself that I was in a blockbuster film. I have been seen by most of America, whether I like it or not.
Footloose is what pulled me through.

Mimi is on the right.

In school, more recently, I have had the chance to work with two spectacular and inspiring professors who have really cultivated my love of public speaking, and I am forever grateful. It has exposed another side of myself that I really love. I love crafting talks and connecting with an audience, but 100% as myself. Acting…? No…! I am less about Hollywood and more about Ted Talks.

Where do you live?

Salt Lake City.

If you have children, how many and ages?

I have two children, both boys. My older, Christian, is 21. My younger, Leo, is six. Yes…quite a spread. It's like having two only children.

If they have seen you in
Footloose, what do they think about it?

They have both seen it. My oldest really didn't think much of it. My six-year-old was not interested in the movie, but was interested that I was in it. He has the acting bug and had been telling me long before he knew I was a child actor that he wanted to be in movies. I really don't want him involved in professional acting so young. My experiences were not bad, per se, but the aftermath was really pretty bad (in school and such). I would rather he be a kid. I let him do a YouTube channel with his father. They do toy reviews and they have a lot of fun with it, but that is about as far as I want it to go.

Have you ever participated in a
Footloose-related event (reunion, convention, documentary, etc.)? If not, would you be open to meeting fans and signing autographs?

I haven't, no. I suppose I would be open to it.

When was the last time you saw a member of the cast, and was it on purpose or by chance?

None of the heavy hitters. The man who played the cop that pulled Kevin Bacon over was once a substitute teacher at my junior high school.

When was the last time you watched
Footloose? How did you think it held up?

I have watched my parts with my son, but I don't think I have watched the full movie for about ten years. I mean, no getting around it, it is quintessential cheeseball eighties. I think it has held up in the sense that it is still talked about, still quoted, still spoofed in pop culture. For being an iconic movie of the eighties, it stands with a select few. Many people think
Footloose when they think of eighties entertainment.

Do you have any mementos from the experience such as set photos, a script, or anything from the set?

I do have a few things. I have a script, pictures. It was really fun to pull them out. I actually used my
Footloose script to teach myself to write in screenplay format. At the time I was not aware of the differences between a script and a shooting script.

Do you have clippings from 1980s magazine/newspaper interviews/profiles?

I don't.

What did you think when you first heard from me?

It was really out of the blue. My brother called me. I think you had sent him an email in February. He had forwarded it to an email I hadn't used since 2003. I'm happy to answer questions about the experience [but] was surprised that anyone had any interest in it.

How do you look back on your
Footloose experience?

Very fondly. It was a great experience. It is magical to know that you were a part of something that blew up the way that that movie did.

If the experience changed your life in any way, how?

It could have changed my life. When the movie was a hit, my parents were contacted by one of the bigger talent agencies in Hollywood. My mother had planned to drive my sister and me down to L.A. to meet with them. At the last minute, my parents decided that they didn't want Hollywood kids, they just wanted kids. We continued to act locally, but never anything big. I am actually so thankful for that decision. I hear a lot of scary stories about child actors from that particular generation and it makes me so glad I was never subjected to that. My father passed away suddenly in 1989. I feel I got a lot of time with him that I couldn't have gotten if we had traveled down that road. So I guess my answer is no, but it was for the best.

12/3/23 addendum: On 1/24/19, Mimi told me that her sister Meghan had passed away after a battle with mental illness. At the time, the family did not want me to post this update, but have now given me permission.


Unknown said...

Great interview, really interesting. I'm watching footloose right now. It's one of my favorites. I'd love to see more photos ��

Unknown said...

I have always liked the movie. What I have noticed is when they do a remake of movies a lot of the new versions are not near as good as the old version. Same as redoing TV shows. I will always like the olddies better.

Unknown said...

I agree the original Footloose is the best.We are watching it tonight.

Katluverz75 said...

Love 💞 the original 80's Footloose. Thanks for sharing your experience!! That's Awesome SJP taught you how to swim!! Plus, you got to swim with Chris Penn!! You saw Kevin Bacon quite a bit...So Cool 😎You and your sister were both so cute in the movie!! ☺️🍿 Everything you explained was Awesome to know about the movie and actor's. Thank You 😊💘

D said...

Thanks for such a fantastic interview! Great questions MTN and Mimi, your honest and articulate responses are insightful and thought-provoking on many levels - thanks for sharing. While it was the music that first had me hooked (I only saw the movie for the first time on DVD less than 10 years ago), and yes, while the movie itself is very 80's in many ways, the life-lessons explored within the movie are timeless and portrayed in a way that is relatable and non-preachy (no pun intended). This interview has definitely added to the value of the film - thank you!