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Sandy Journal

Kevin Bacon returns to Utah for 40th anniversary of ‘Footloose’

May 06, 2024 10:07AM ● By Tom Haraldsen

The actor took his own selfie along with hundreds of students who gathered for the event on the Payson High football field. (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak)

Utah was never supposed to be the location where “Footloose” was filmed, and the lead in the movie was at one time offered to someone else. But things changed, and fortunately for all of us then and now, the Beehive State was chosen for the locale, and a somewhat unknown actor named Kevin Bacon was chosen for the lead.

Those realities of the summer of 1983, when the iconic movie was filmed in Utah County and released the following year, came together last Saturday. Bacon came to Payson High School, where the majority of the film was shot, thanks to a concerted effort by students and faculty leaders who had been begging him to return for more than two years. It marked both the 40th anniversary of the movie’s release and the school’s spring prom, even as a new Payson High is being built right next door and the current school will be demolished next year. The “#BacontoPayson” campaign finally enticed Bacon to come to Utah from Georgia, where he’s been filming a new movie, thanks to hundreds of student and community volunteers willing to help his charity,, with it’s BKxKB program—community kits for youth in need.

“When I first heard about #BacontoPayson, I was like, ‘Wow, this is crazy,’” he said, addressing the crowd in the PHS football stadium. “But you were all just tireless, unrelenting in your desire to have me return, and you talked me into it.”

Volunteers, assisted by the actor, worked to assemble 5,000 resource kits that included more 121,000 items, most of them donated by local businesses, to help four local nonprofits. The kit contents, which included some food items, sanitary supplies, journals and pens among other things, were valued at over $865,000.

Bacon’s organization has set a goal to provide 40,000 kits nationwide this year, in celebration of the movie’s 40th anniversary. Saturday’s effort in Payson knocked out 12.5% of those in one day.

The actor doesn’t often attend the kit building events, but Stacy Huston, the executive director of, said Saturday was the largest activation of kits the nonprofit has done in its 17-year history, and she said he was amazed at the turnout.

For his part, Bacon kept the focus on the students, not the hoards of media types who had gathered to cover the event. He did no one-on-one interviews with media, but instead interacted with the students making those kits.

“I think it’s great to see that kind of commitment to anything,” he said. “I also think it’s amazing the power that this movie has had to bring people together, by showing compassion. That’s what all of you have shown here by turning what could be just a movie star coming back to get a pat on the back into something really positive. Thank you so much, and especially for the commitment to giving back to your community.”

After the kits had been assembled, Bacon joined student body officers in touring the school, not much of which has changed in 40 years. His locker is still there—still maintained as a shrine of sorts to the movie. It will be moved to the new school once it’s completed.

So what about the planned location and the considered star lead actor? Well, producer Herbert Ross thought they would just shoot some exteriors in Utah—the mountains, the valley, even Lehi Roller Mills, then do the rest on soundstages in Hollywood. But once they scouted the location, the film company realized they had everything they needed right here in Utah—great locales, experienced film crews and even extras. (Yes, this reporter was one—in the library scene with Bacon and Chris Penn.) 

And the actor they had considered—a guy named Tom Cruise, who had a conflict with a film he was committed to called “Risky Business.”  

Let’s face it, Ren McCormack was meant to be played by Kevin Bacon. Hollywood got it right! Let’s dance! λ