Why 'Footloose' Inspired 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Director James Gunn

In a key scene in 2014's top-grossing movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt's character Peter Quill tells the interstellar assassin and wallflower Gamora (Zoe Saldana) of a legend on Earth called Footloose, in which "a great hero named Kevin Bacon teaches an entire city full of people with sticks up their butts that dancing" is "the greatest thing there is." Director James Gunn, 44, says he and Pratt came up with the conceit that Quill, who is abducted by aliens at a young age, would have a lasting but faded memory of the popular movie and, thus, Gunn notes, "a strange vision of what is cool."

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The filmmaker says his appreciation of Footloose had more to do with the film's star than its poppy soundtrack, which spent April 21 to June 23 at the top of the Billboard 200 and was the No. 9 pop album of the year. "I was into punk and new wave then, but I was a big Kevin Bacon fan," explains Gunn, though he does admit to liking Kenny Loggins' relentlessly upbeat "Footloose" theme and says there was talk of using it for Guardians' closing scene after Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige suggested it. "It would have been really cool," he says. "But, you know, the best pop song of all time is 'I Want You Back' by The Jackson 5, and I couldn't pass it up." Gunn is a Replacements fan, too, and says that "I Will Dare," from the band's 1984 masterpiece Let It Be, "is a pop song that's as good as 'I Want You Back.'" (Ironically, the 'Mats covered the Jackson 5 song -- which closes Guardians-- on their recently concluded tour.)

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"I really like hooky melodic music that also has a roughness and an edge and a soul to it," Gunn says. "And that's what the Replacements have. There's also something very tragic about them," Gunn continues, "because I think they were trying to write huge pop songs, and, you know, most people today do not know who they are." Gunn may yet play a role in introducing the 'Mats to the kind of massive audiences that watched his most recent movie. "I Will Dare is on a checklist of songs that I can hopefully use someplace and sometime," he says. "We'll see."

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Guardians of the Galaxy will be released digitally on Nov. 18 and on Blu-Ray disc on Dec. 9

This article first appeared in the Nov. 1 issue of Billboard.