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Kevin Bacon visits high school where ‘Footloose’ was filmed after months of student campaigning

“It’s amazing. It’s so cool to be back at this school,” Bacon told TODAY.
/ Source: TODAY

After a committed effort from Payson High School students to get Kevin Bacon to cut loose with them, the "Footloose" star has paid a visit.

On April 20, the 65-year-old actor arrived at the school in Payson, Utah, where they filmed “Footloose,” which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year.

Bacon was blown away by the student turnout.

"It’s amazing. It’s amazing. It’s so cool to be back at this school," he told TODAY in a story that aired April 22.

Kevin Bacon
Kevin Bacon (left) takes a tour of Payson High School.TODAY

For Bacon, the trip down memory lane was bittersweet.

"It’s one of those things where it’s changed, things have been built up a lot. But sort of the essence of it is definitely still here. A young woman said to me, 'You know, my grandfather was in school here when you were doing the movie.' Your grandfather?? If going through the 40th anniversary wasn’t enough. I was like, 'Wow, OK. Check yourself, buddy.'"

Bacon also talked to TODAY about how he enrolled as a student at the school, appropriately named Ren, like his "Footloose" character, Ren McCormack. He said he "had the hair" and wore a tie, but became scared.

"I lost all of my bravado. I just became you know, kind of terrified," he said.

Kevin Bacon
Kevin Bacon stopped by his locker from "Footloose."TODAY

"And then, just like the movie, one kid sort of took me under his wing and said, 'I’ll show you around. Come on, you’re with me.' It was straight out of the movie."

The Payson student body waged a long campaign to get Bacon to their school. What was the clincher for him to agree to visit?

"I don’t know. It was more they just wore me down," he said with a laugh.

Bacon also said he hopes the students take something away from their interaction.

"I think to be good to each other and to the planet, to have compassion for people that are different than you and give back to your community when you get the opportunity to," he said.

While visiting with students and teachers, Bacon took a moment to stop by the locker he used while playing Ren in the popular 1984 film.

The students decorated the locker with "Footloose" memorabilia, as well as award him an honorary diploma from the high school. He took a moment to reminisce on filming, talk about music and thank the students for their legendary decorating.

Bacon also posed with the student council, proudly holding up his new diploma and showing off his Payson letterman jacket.

Kevin Bacon
Kevin Bacon (center) with students from Payson High School.TODAY

Students showed their appreciation by putting together 5,000 essential resource kits to help the community for the actor’s charity. On the football field, Bacon addressed a crowd of students and volunteers, who were there to donate supplies to local Utah organizations. The actor also helped package material himself.

"Wow, look at this place. Look at these people," Bacon said after walking onto the stage. "It's so great to be here. Go Lions!"

“I tell ya, it’s been a long time,” Bacon continued. “It’s been 40 years. I mean that just blows my mind, you know? Things look a little different around here. I’d say the thing that looks the most different is me.”

Kevin Bacon surprises Payson high schoolers on TODAY

For months, the students at Payson High School have tried to get Bacon to attend this year’s April 20 prom, which is the last at the building as the school will be relocating at the end of the academic year.

While on TODAY March 22, Bacon confirmed that he would indeed be visiting on prom day.

The actor called in from Atlanta, Georgia while a throng of students filled the school gym. He shared his appreciation for all they have done and to let them know he would visit the high school on prom day, with the announcement prompting an eruption of cheers.

“I have been so impressed with everything that’s been going on there with this crazy idea to get me to come back,” he began while noting how big the movie and the school has been to his own life.

Kevin Bacon shocked students of Payson High School, where "Footloose" was filmed, with news that he'll be attending their prom.CBS via Getty Images

Bacon also showed appreciation for the students supporting his charity and how much effort they've put into trying to get him to come visit.

“I’ve been amazed at the work that all of you have been putting into this, with the musical and the flash mobs and the re-creations," he said.

“It hasn’t gone unnoticed by me, not to mention the fact that you tied in, our foundation, and are trying to figure out ways to give back to your community. It’s really inspirational, so thank you. Thank you. And I’m gonna come. I gotta come,” he continued, as the gym exploded in joy.

What did the high schoolers do to catch Kevin Bacon's attention?

Students have indeed put on an all-out blitz to get Bacon to come to visit their school, using the hashtag #bacontopayson on social media, re-creating scenes from the movie, learning the “Footloose” dance and hosting an event on prom day to benefit

"Let's dance! We're gonna do it! This is awesome!" student Rubie Raff told him after he made the announcement.

"We're gonna party really hard, Kevin," Kaleb Dymock added. 

"Thank you guys. Let's dance," Bacon said.

In a segment that aired right before Bacon's announcement, the school's student council advisor Jenny Staheli said she's proud of all the work the students have put in.

“To watch them just take ownership of that and run with it has been ... it succeeded beyond my wildest dreams, honestly,” she said.

Bacon, who celebrated the end of last year's actors strike by re-creating a famous dance scene from "Footloose," has embraced the enduring popularity of the film.

“I think that it was a great gift to be part of that movie,” he told TODAY’s Willie Geist in 2022. “I certainly took it very seriously when I was doing it and I love that people will still come up and say that they just showed it to their kids.”

CORRECTION (March 22, 2024, at 2:59 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this story said Kevin Bacon was planning to attend Payson High School’s prom. Bacon plans to visit the school during the day of prom, not attend prom.