Mike Fleming

KennyEXCLUSIVE: After testing more than 1,000 males for the lead role of Ren McCormack in the remake of Footloose, Paramount Pictures is setting Kenny Wormald, a 25-year old trained dancer, from Boston, to star in a film that begins production almost immediately. I’m hearing he will star alongside Julianne Hough, and that Dennis Quaid will play Reverend Shaw Moore, the heroine’s strict father who’s trying to uphold a town ban on dancing. Craig Brewer is directing a script that he wrote based on the 1984 original Dean Pitchford script. Wormald previously starred in the little-seen film Center Stage. He and Hough are real dancers, and the plan is to take full advantage.

This completes a lot of movement on a property that seems such a strong candidate for an update.The project began with plans for Kenny Ortega to direct his High School Musical star Zac Efron. Then Efron wanted to distance himself from dance fare, and the studio focused on Gossip Girls hunk Chace Crawford. A search for the right heroine led to Julianne Hough from Dancing with the Stars, who was set into a holding deal and then spent months going off and honing acting skills that left the studio greatly impressed. Right as his Michael Jackson documentary This is It! became a hit, Ortega had creative differences with the studio. He left, and Paramount set Craig Brewer, best known for Hustle and Flow. Even he was touch and go, as he had to decide between Footloose and Mother Truckers, a New Regency action comedy he wrote, based on a true story about a guy who breaks out of jail and heads cross country in a stolen semi to see his ailing mother before she dies.

Paramount will release the film April 1, 2011, I’m hearing. The film is being produced by Brad Weston, Dylan Sellers, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron.

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