The 2006 dance movie Step Up launched the career of Channing Tatum and a franchise that has grossed $403 million over three films. So first-time actor Ryan Guzman was understandably surprised when he landed the starring role in Step Up 4: Miami Heat 3D.
''I made fun of the producers, saying, 'Dudes, you picked two leads who didn't act or dance professionally before and a first-time director, what were you thinking?''' the 25-year-old former model and mixed martial arts fighter recalls with a laugh, referring to his co-star, So You Think You Can Dance finalist Kathryn McCormick, and former commercial and music video director Scott Speer.
Choreographer Jamal Sims, who worked on all four films, admits he ''freaked out a little'' when producers told him they cast a dance novice.
''After watching Ryan in the audition when he was really nervous and inexperienced, I thought we were going to have to get a dance double,'' he admits, ''but on the first day of rehearsal, I took one look at him move and told them to cancel the dance double because he blew me away, so we got lucky.''
Step Up 4: Miami Heat 3D centres around childhood friends Sean (Guzman) and Eddy (Misha Gabriel), who work as waiters at a posh Miami Beach hotel owned by ruthless developer Bill Anderson (Peter Gallagher). In their off-duty hours, they pull off hit-and-run flash mobs with a renegade crew of cutting-edge dancers and musicians. When Sean becomes involved with Anderson's daughter Emily (McCormick), also a gifted dancer, she joins the flash mob to protest her father's decision to raze their neighbourhood for a development.
Sims says this film showcases the most ambitious dance sequences of the franchise, from contemporary to hip-hop to salsa. ''I think TV shows like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance have really educated audiences on what good dancing looks like, so our movies really have to deliver,'' he says.
Despite the enormous physical challenges, Guzman confesses he had only one injury during the entire shoot. ''I pulled a butt muscle,'' he says sheepishly. ''I had to go to the ER and have a doctor stare at my butt … which is something I really wish I didn't have to talk about promoting this movie.''
STEP UP 4: MIAMI HEAT 3D
GENRE Dance drama.
CRITICAL BUZZ Gets 36 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes but shouldn't hurt the box-office.
STARS Ryan Guzman, Kathryn McCormick.
DIRECTOR Scott Speer.
RELEASE Now screening.