NY1's Budd Mishkin continues his "One On 1" series with a profile of a film star, a director of the new movie “Loverboy,” the subject of a game that's now part of pop culture, and a New Yorker - actor Kevin Bacon.
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Kevin Bacon's career has taken him around the country and around the world. But he's lived here for the last 30 years, in the city he calls the most celebrity friendly place in the world.
“I just walked here today from 89th Street. I said hello to, I don't know, 30 people, and not a single person stopped me,” he says. “They were just like, ÎHey. Hey. Hey.’ That's fine. It's the greatest.”
I met up with Bacon not on the streets of New York, but one flight above on the High Line, the historic rail structure that extends from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street. Bacon has been a supporter of the High Line for the last six years. The plan is to convert the elevated railway to a 22-block greenway.
Bacon is actually pretty knowledgeable about urban planning. His father was the leading planner in Philadelphia for decades, and would take his son to burned out neighborhoods and empty lots on what he called “field trips.”
“He'd say, ÎSomeday this is going to be a park or something. There's going to be people living here. Children will be playing in this’ - that kind of stuff,” says Bacon. “If you hear it all your life, it eventually seeps into your bloodstream."
We most recently saw bacon on the final episode of “Will and Grace.”
“They cut a lot of my part, which I wasn't happy about," he says lightheartedly. “I was pretty much a sight gag, but that's OK.”
His latest project on the big screen is “Loverboy,” the story of a mother's obsession with her young child. Bacon is the director. The star of the movie, and the producer who hired him? His wife, Kyra Sedgwick.
They've worked together before, in the 2004 movie "The Woodsman."
“People sort of assume is that it's kind of like fun, like the happy couple goes off to work together, you know what I mean? We pack our lunch and get to spend all this fun time together. It's really not the case," he says. “We're not really spending time together as husband and wife so much, we're spending time together as director and producer, director and actress, this character and that character. What we find is that we kind of need to come back together again after the project is over and kind of figure out again what it's like to be husband and wife.”
If you don't see Bacon on screen or on the streets, you can see him on stage, performing with his brother Michael in the Bacon Brothers. Bacon says the band is its own business, with six band members, roadies, and a tour manager - like a second career.
Then there is that other subject for which bacon has gain some renown.
"Walking down the street they'll say, ÎI'm one degree. I'm one degree,’" he says.
The game is Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
“The funniest thing I've ever seen was a guy who gave me an incredibly well-researched printout that connects me to John Wilkes Booth in six degrees," he says.
The idea is that Bacon can be connected to any actor through his roles in six steps or less. Ironically, Bacon says he's terrible at it.
He initially thought it was a joke at his expense, but he's learned to appreciate it. And Bacon's working on taking the concept that we're all connected and morphing it into charitable work.
“Maybe I will keep in mind that I am actually somehow connected to Darfur or wherever, and I think that concept is a beautiful one,” he says.
From an early age growing up in Philadelphia, Kevin Bacon was able to witness the effects of fame. His father, Edmund Bacon, was a renowned urban planner, his vision shaping much of today's Philadelphia, even landing on the cover of Time Magazine in 1964.
Not too many of us get our dad on the cover of Time Magazine.
“That was big,” says Bacon. “And he was into it. It wasn't like he poo-pooed it. He got a lot of copies, and there were copies around the house. Even up until his death we'd walk through the streets of Philly and people would say, ÎMr. Bacon, Mr. Bacon,’ and I'd turn around expecting to sign an autograph, and they'd want to talk to my father: ÎEd, I think that building is no good.’"
And Bacon says his career choice was not just about making art.
“I knew very young that I wanted to be famous,” he says. “I knew I wanted to be in the situation where if I walked into a room people would know who I was. And I knew that I wanted to be more famous than my father."
At 17 he came here to go to acting school. Only a few years later, he landed a small role in a movie that was rather popular at the time.
“’Animal House’ was a monster hit. I was still working as a waiter, and I thought, ÎThere’s something not right about this,’” he says with a laugh.
Bacon continued working off-Broadway, and then landed a role in a film for which many have an emotional attachment - “Diner,” Barry Levinson's first picture about his beloved Baltimore of the 1950’s and early 60’s.
“We had no idea that we were making something that would stand the test of time,” he says. “And we did have a lot of fun. It's probably one of the most fun experiences I had making a movie."
“Diner” was a small movie with a lot of, to borrow a word prominently used in the film, "nuance." There was nothing small about the film Bacon starred in two years later, “Footloose.”
Only a few years after leaving Philadelphia for New York, Kevin Bacon was a pop star.
“It was something I didn't want to be because I was a serious actor. I was a New York Guy," he says. “When someone does come up to me and says, ÎWow, I loved you in ÎFootloose,’’ I say, ÎHave you been to the movies in the last 20 years? Because there have been a few others than that one.’”
Bacon says some of the roles he chose in the aftermath were designed simply to move him far away from “Footloose.” In the late 80’s, he was dealing with turning 30, newly married, a child being born, a mother dying, and a career which he says "was starting to hit the skids."
“I had not done a movie that had made a dime for a long time. I was running out of money, and just had kind of a lot of pressure,” he says. “Those are big issues; life and death, marriage and money."
But then bacon revived his career by focusing again on character acting, a strength he'd shown during his off-Broadway days. He played a gay hustler in “JFK,” then a pedophile in both "Sleepers" and "The Woodsman," a hometown detective investigating old friends in “Mystic River,” and an Alcatraz prisoner on trial in “Murder in the First.”
Bacon says when he's playing a dark character he can never completely shake the role at home, because he knows he has to be that character again in the morning. But when shooting for “Murder in the First” wrapped, he says, “I have a picture of us, we went to Hawaii, maybe the day after we wrapped or something like that, and my head is all shaved, I weigh probably 15 pounds less than what I do now, and I'm pale as a ghost. When I got my daughter in my arms and I'm sitting on the beach, that guy is gone. You could see it in my face that it's over."
Bacon and his wife have two children, and have long made New York their home. He turns 48 this summer, still blessed with that youthful look, still pursuing the only career he ever desired.
“The one thing I knew was that I was never going to give up," he says. “If I had never gotten a single job, I would still be here working as a waiter trying, because there was never any kind of thought about doing anything else."
- Budd Mishkin
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