Director Kenny Ortega Says This Isn't It To 'Footloose'

Paramount is starting its search for a new "Footloose" director today after Kenny Ortega (pictured with Zac Efron) announced he was leaving the project over the weekend.

According to Variety, Kenny's publicity department issued a statement saying, "Coming off the extraordinary project, Michael Jackson's `This is It,' director Kenny Ortega has decided it is premature for him to commit to his next film and will not be moving forward with 'Footloose' as previously reported."

Sources close to the project said there were disagreements between Kenny and Paramount over "tone and budget." The director, who choreographed the "Dirty Dancing" Broadway musical, wanted to make "Footloose" a $30 million film with elaborately-staged musical numbers, which (coming from someone who has seen the musical on stage) seems to be a big screen version of his Broadway vision.

Production chief Adam Goodman, however, was looking for an edgier drama with less emphasis on musical numbers and a budget closer to $25 million.

Paramount confirmed the budget dispute for Variety, but said the budget would be less than $25 million.

Production is still planned to begin in March when star Chace Crawford is off from his work on "Gossip Girl." He is costarring with "Dancing with the Stars" country and western singer Julianne Hough.

Kenny, who also directed all three "High School Musical" films (you'll remember Zac Efron was originally attached to star in the project), is headed for the biggest opening weekend of his life, Variety says. Columbia Pictures said "This Is It" is scheduled for a two week worldwide run, but the feeling is that should the Michael Jackson biography become a blockbuster, the feature will be expanded "by popular demand" (think "Paranormal Activity").