Loosely based on events that took place in the small, rural, and extremely religious farming town of Elmore City, Oklahoma in 1978. Dancing had been banned for nearly 90 years until a group of high school teenagers challenged it.
With the Principal's knowledge, 24-year-old Kevin Bacon attended the Payson Utah High School as "Ren McCormack", a transfer student from Philadelphia to get into his role. With his narrow tie and new-wave haircut, he was treated pretty much like in the film. Bacon gratefully left with the location scouts on the afternoon of the first day.
In a 2013 interview with Howard Stern, Kevin Bacon admitted that he has actually tipped DJs at weddings NOT to play Footloose. He stated that people expect him to dance the song as he did in the movie. In truth, while he did do some of the dancing there was also a dancing double for him as well.
Kevin Bacon was offered the leading role for the Stephen King movie Christine (1983), at the same time that he was asked to do a screen test for Footloose (1984). The producers had to convince Bacon that turning down a sure role in "Christine" for a part he might not even get in "Footloose" was the wiser choice. The producers told him that if he got the part for "Footloose", the role would make him a star. 30 seconds into the screen test, Bacon was offered the part.
In the liner notes for the re-released "Footloose" soundtrack (1999), there's a brief introduction by Kenny Loggins which mentions that the script for the film was loosely based on actual events which transpired in the young life of his longtime friend, Footloose (1984) screenwriter Dean Pitchford.
Kevin Bacon broke out in hives around his midsection when he had to film the City Council scene where he makes the case for holding a prom dance. The actor says he is uncomfortable when speaking in public, but has never had a reoccurrence of hives.
Michael Cimino was originally hired as director. He was fired when he asked for a $250,000 advance for re-writing the entire screenplay prior to shooting. (The movie's total budget was only $7.5 million.)
Tom Cruise and Rob Lowe were both slated to play the lead. The casting directors were impressed with Cruise because of the famous underwear dance sequence in Risky Business (1983), but he was unavailable for the part because he was filming All the Right Moves (1983). Lowe auditioned three times and had dancing ability and the "neutral teen" look that the director wanted, but he pulled his knee, and the injury prevented him from taking the part. After watching Diner (1982), the director had to convince the producers to go with Kevin Bacon.
Lehi (named for a prophet described in the Book of Mormon) is the town where the Lehi Rollermills resides. The Lehi Rollermills is actually an old time grain house as depicted in the film and it's still (2012) operating in Utah. The film is often considered Lehi's claim to fame.
The movie was adapted to a Broadway musical and opened on October 22, 1998 at the Richard Rodgers Theater, ran for 709 performances and received the 1999 Tony Award for Best Book and Score for a Musical.