Sunday, February 14, 2021

Interview: John Laughlin (Ren’s friend Woody in “Footloose”)

In Footloose (1984), John Laughlin played Woody, friend to Kevin Bacon’s character Ren McCormack. 


John’s behind-the-scenes recollections of the experience:

What were you doing professionally prior to Footloose?

Before my acting career took off, I worked every part-time job professionally you could imagine, and was also fired from each one as well. I was fortunate enough to work on the series White Shadow which then led to me being in the movie An Officer and a Gentleman, and then, of course, Footloose.

What’s an example of a part-time job you had in the early days?

I’m pretty sure I hit every part-time job at the time: bank teller, bartender, waiter, construction, etc., and I pretty much hated all of them. (laughs)

Why were you fired so much?

I think it was because I was so easy to get along with.

How did you get the role in Footloose?

I auditioned for the director Herbert Ross.


Any funny anecdotes about your Footloose experience?

The first time Chris Penn and I met, he was barbequing steaks in his hotel room. The whole room and hallway were smoked out. We got a memo on that one.

Does that mean you and Chris specifically? Were you an accomplice to the indoor BBQ?

Yes, the memo was just for us two. I was addressed as an accomplice. But man those steaks were terrific.

Is there one story about your Footloose time you tell more than any other?

Not really. All of it was just an extraordinary experience and equally memorable.


While working on it, did it seem like just another script to you, or did it feel like something special?

It’s funny that you ask this question because out of all of the films I’ve had the privilege of working on, this one in particular [did] feel quite special. During filming we even had some of the music already, which was wonderful. Also when you have the likes of Dan Melnick, Lewis Rachmil, Craig Zaden, and Herbert Ross producing and directing…hard to go wrong with that powerhouse.

What do you remember about your impression of Kevin Bacon?

This was a really big film for him and he was a nice guy who worked hard and really dedicated himself to the role.


Chris? Lori Singer? Sarah Jessica Parker?

All were a lot of fun to be around and play off of, both on screen and off.

How so off-screen?

Dinners, parties, rehearsals, off-camera prep.

John Lithgow? Dianne Wiest?

Incredibly nice people. They were such amazing actors then and continue to be.

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

The premiere was fantastic. Both old and young Hollywood attended. I was able to sit next to Cary Grant and Dyan Cannon.

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

Footloose definitely boosted the spotlight for me.

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

Yes and yes.

What did you earn for Footloose (before residuals)?

Let’s just say it was a very healthy paycheck.

What are you doing these days?

By the grace, the same thing.


What has been your favorite role?

I’ve been asked this a lot in my career, and for me it has been all of them. It is a huge honor and privilege to have had such a blessed career.

Where do you live?

California.

Children?

One son, best gig I’ve ever had. He’s 28.

If he has seen Footloose, what does he think about it?

It’s one of his favorite movies and he loves to cheer during the tractor scene.


Have you ever participated in a Footloose-related event (reunion, convention, documentary, etc.)? 

No.

Would you be open to meeting fans and signing autographs [at such an event]?

I’ve always been open to my fans and signing autographs. It is a privilege.

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

It was Kevin and by chance.

Where? Did you catch up?

It was at ArcLight movie theaters. We ran into each other catching different films. It was a quick hello as we were both in a hurry.

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

Last year, and it has definitely sustained itself through the years.

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

All of the above.

What did you save from the set (besides the script)?

My director’s chair and the script were really it.

Have you been interviewed before about this specifically, and if so, do you have those clippings (particularly from back then)? 

Yes, many times, and yes.

What did you think when you first heard my request?

Gratitude.

How do you look back on your Footloose experience?

Incredible memory and experience.

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

It really helped open up my career.


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