Speaking exclusively to, Kenny Ortega said he pulled out of the Footloose remake that’s set to star Chace Crawford (Gossip Girl) and Julianne Hough (Dancing with the Stars) because he was “exhausted” from directing This Is It and “wanted to take a few deep breaths and relax before I resurface.”“It was not planned,” Ortega told while attending the world premiere of the Michael Jackson movie on Tuesday. “None of this was happening when I started working on Footloose with Paramount. I honestly love the team I was working with on it — Craig Zadan, Brad Weston, Neil Meron and Dylan Sellers, the actors. It had been a wonderful couple of years developing the idea but I really need to take a break. I wish them all the luck in the world.”

Reportedly, Paramount still hopes to begin shooting in March to coincide with Crawford’s break from Gossip Girl. Ortega, who choreographed Dirty Dancing and directed the High School Musical films, still believes in the project. “They have a good idea to update it and Chace and Julianne Hough are going to be an amazing onscreen pair,” he said.

Hough, who also attended the This is It premiere, told that while she was saddened by Ortega’s decision to leave the project, she understood he “needed a break.” “He is one of the people who really believed in me in the beginning and championed my being hired,” said Hough. “I was surprised when he left the project but I know he is 100 percent committed to everything he does and he was very close to Michael and he wanted to give his all to this film and I think it just took a lot out of him. He suffered a big personal loss and because they went right into making This Is It he probably hasn’t even had time to process that loss. He probably needed a break and didn’t want to do Footloose unless he could give it his undivided attention.

“I think it will still be a good film,” Hough added, about the Footloose remake. “They have some good ideas and Chace is a cutie that all the girls love and the original is one of my favorite movies. The rumor is that it is going to be edgier than the original but to be honest we don’t start shooting until March of next year so I haven’t seen many specifics.” – With reporting from Carrie Bell