Kevin Bacon makes good on promise and returns to Footloose high school 40 years later

Kevin Bacon lived up to his promise to return to the Utah high school that was featured in his iconic 1984 film, Footloose, more than 40 years ago.

On Saturday (20 April), the now-65-year-old Bacon made his way back to Payson High School, one of the movie’s original filming locations, following a months-long student-led social media campaign to get him to attend the final prom held at the school, which is set to be torn down next spring.

“It’s been a long time – 40 years – that just blows my mind, you know,” Bacon told the students, according to Salt Lake City’s local news outlet, ABC 4. “Things look a little different around here. I’d say the thing that looks the most different is me.”

The actor recalled his surprise by the #BaconToPayson campaign – which saw students recreate popular scenes and choreography from the movie – telling them that it was their “unrelenting” commitment that led him back.

“You were all just tireless. Unrelenting… You talked me into it,” he said. “I think it’s great to see that kind of commitment to anything. I also think that it’s amazing the power that this movie has had to just kind of bring people together, and connect on the basic ideas there are behind the movie – you know, standing up to authority sometimes, and to being forgiving to people who are not exactly the same as you, and for standing up for your own freedoms and your right to express yourself, and for having compassion for other people.”

Bacon starred in Footloose as a Chicago teen who moved to a small town and fought its ban on dancing. Payson High School students ended Saturday with a “Footloose”-themed prom, just as the movie ended.

Principal Jesse Sorenson said students for years have tried to persuade Bacon to visit.

What started as lighthearted appeals on social media turned into a community-wide campaign to partner with Bacon’s charity, Sorenson said. Students agreed to help put together 5,000 care packages for the charity, SixDegrees, to convince Bacon to visit.

Students for weeks wrote hopeful messages for the eventual owners of each of the care packages and worked with the Utah Film Commission and SixDegrees to raise money and donations of toiletries, clothing and other items to go in the backpacks, Sorenson said.

On Saturday, Bacon helped fill the bags alongside what Sorenson estimated was about 700 students and 300 community members.

Sorenson, who graduated from Payson High School in 1995, said DJs always play the song “Footloose” at proms, and students recreate the film’s iconic dance. Older residents tell stories of being an extra in the film and delight in pointing out spots in Payson shown in the movie, he said.

“It's something they can be proud of, and it’s fun for them,” the principal said.

Additional reporting by Associated Press