Feb 20, 2024 - News

Celebrate the 40th anniversary of "Footloose" with Kevin Bacon, nerd of Provo

Miniature figurines of people dance in a barn labeled "Lehi Roller Mills" with a miniature yellow VW bug outside.

Miniature students from Bomont High School dance at a miniature Lehi Roller Mills in a diorama at the Utah State Capitol. Photo: Erin Alberty/Axios

It was 40 years ago this week that crowds were lining up to see "Footloose," starring Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, John Lithgow and Lehi Roller Mills.

  • This is Old News, our weekly flashback montage into Utah's history.

What happened: The city-kid-in-a-country-town movie was filmed in Utah County, with scenes at:

  • Payson High School
  • American Fork Presbyterian Church
  • The old Geneva Steel Mill in Vineyard
  • And, of course, the famed Lehi Roller Mills, where the kids from the dance-banning town of Bomont throw their high school prom.

Between the lines: The movie doesn't identify the fictional town's location, and the "Bayson County" patch on a sheriff's arm doesn't exist.

Yes, but: Utah license plates are visible on several vehicles.

The intrigue: In the early 80s, Utah County was rural enough for Kevin Bacon to take his character, Chicago-raised Ren, out for a test run.

  • He attended Provo High School undercover for a day, wearing a "David Bowie" tie like the one Ren's mother warns against before his first day at Bomont High.

What they said: "People just made fun of my tie and made fun of my hair, made fun of the whole thing," Bacon told HuffPost Live in 2014. "And there was a big, cornfed kid who took me under his wing, just like the movie and said, 'Don't worry.'"

  • Bacon said he had planned to play Ren with overconfident bravado until that "terrifying day" in a Utah high school taught him that a new kid would rather keep his head down.

Also in a HuffPost interview, Lithgow said he called a local Assembly of God pastor for help with his role as Bomont's town minister — and, like Bacon, went undercover.

  • "I literally went and sought spiritual counseling: … You know, 'I'm very lonely here on location, and I find that people with faith have someone that they can turn to. Can you talk to me about Jesus?'"
  • "I did feel like a total snake in the grass," Lithgow confessed.
  • But, he said, the pastor "was extremely kind and compassionate — and very persuasive. That's what I needed to play that part and to deliver those sermons."

The latest: Payson High School is scheduled to be demolished and rebuilt next year, so students there are lobbying Bacon to attend the final prom at the building where he filmed his breakthrough role, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

  • An English teacher had students draft invitation letters to him for a persuasive writing assignment, and the school staged the musical "Footloose" in November.

Previously in Old News

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