ATeardrop bells would ring for most couples if a partner suggested marriage as the perfect subject for a horror movie. Kevin Bacon doesn’t seem worried, however, that his latest film, You Should Have Left, was inspired by such an idea his wife, actor Kyra Sedgwick, came up with.
“I’m drawn to dark things,” he said over the phone from their farm in Connecticut. “At some level, it’s therapeutic. I have a functioning marriage and I didn’t have much trauma as a child and yet I feel that all human beings have darkness in their souls. Fear, anger and doubt live in us. Part of what I love about my job is tapping into these demons. I became an actor because I wanted to explore all facets of the human condition. Being heroic or handsome or winning the big game – I don’t care about those things! But going into the darkest corners of a man’s psyche is an interesting thing to do.
It was in this zone of discomfort that he played, among others, a menacing killer (The River Wild), a sadistic guardian (Sleepers) and a pedophile (The Woodsman). Theo, his character in You Should Have Left, is initially a naturally jealous husband: his much younger wife (Amanda Seyfried) is an actor whose latest project calls for intimate love scenes. Theo’s paranoia is bad enough, but when the couple move to a rural retreat in Wales, they encounter ghosts, a mysteriously unpredictable topography, and other issues far beyond Relate’s competence.
Bacon, who wears his 62 lightly, is awesome and laid back during our conversation. It’s a different matter in the film, where he’s sprung up and nervous, his childish look showing signs of corrosion. The storyline is littered with references to his character’s years of progression and declining virility. “We recognize from the start that Theo’s wife is too young for him,” says writer-director David Koepp, who previously worked with Bacon on the chilling and underrated Stir of Echoes. “I said to Kevin, ‘To do this I’m going to have to make jokes about your age. Right now. And often. He said, “Great! I am all for it. “
Even when it appears that Theo has some, perhaps literal skeletons in his closet, Bacon remains a stubbornly sympathetic presence. How is it? “His light characters have darkness in them and his dark ones have light in them,” says Koepp. “I have always found it unique that way. You can see it going back to his early films like She’s Have a Baby. It’s that delicious John Hughes comedy, but there’s something about it, a glint of darkness, that makes you wonder if he’ll be faithful and follow the rules.
Bacon especially appreciates Theo’s humiliation in the scene in which he visits his wife on set, thinks of himself as his father, and then stands with the team listening to her moans of sexual pleasure. “When David sent this to me, I said, ‘This is so perfect! The day you show up, your wife is in the middle of a sex scene! The other thing he captured so well is when you visit someone on set and always feel like persona non grata. You are still the third wheel. Even him? ” Even me. If you’re in a relationship with an actor, you learn pretty quickly that when they leave to work, there’s an emotional intimacy created in the acting workspace that you won’t find in an office. People say, “Oh, it was like family” and if you are not part of that family you may feel uncomfortable. I really experienced it.
He first entered a movie set at the age of 19 in the frat house comedy National Lampoon’s Animal House. “I had only ever worked on stage so to be immersed in it all – everyone, cameras, cranes, dolly tracks, walkie talkies – my jaw dropped completely. But I also fell in love with it. Every element seemed so beautiful to me. Was Animal House’s hoarse reflected off-screen? “It was quite noisy, yes. It kind of spilled over.
Convinced that he would become a star after this movie, Bacon quit his job as a waiter in New York City, then sat down again over the months without offers. Eventually, he returned to junior work and off-off-Broadway theater. He landed a small role on Friday the 13th – her character was killed by a postcoital arrow in her throat – and had a spell on a day soap. What kind of actor was he at the time? “In reaction to some sort of insecurity, I was incredibly arrogant and didn’t want to take any advice. Even though I was in acting school, there was still a part of me that felt like it was kind of a waste of time. That I knew pretty much everything there was to know about theater, life, love and the world.
These days, he says, he feels he has more to learn than ever. In 2017, he starred in the Amazon series I Love Dick; several episodes have been directed by British filmmaker Andrea Arnold, who has occasionally asked actors to do silent takes, moving through a scene without saying their lines. “I loved Andrea’s silent take,” he says. “I entered this show knowing that there would be exercises and weird stuff; what i thought was hippie shit. It was my wife who said, “Listen, old man. You have to leave yourself open to new ideas. And I heard her on it. I really did.
Little is remembered that Bacon is a director himself – Helen Mirren won a Golden Globe for his performance in his 1996 TV movie Losing Chase – and the actors who will work with him in the future, he says, can be expected. to the silent treatment of Andrea Arnold.
For anyone unfamiliar with the early stages of Bacon’s work, it was his turn in Barry Levinson’s Boyfriend Diner, set in the late 1950s and released in 1982, that hinted at its complexity. As Fenwick, the smiling prankster, first saw windows knocking, he conveyed the inner pain of a young man who hides his true intelligence until he is alone. Maybe Bacon would have stuck with more roles like this if he hadn’t been sent in another direction after landing the starring role in the 1984 teen hit Footloose, where he played a rebel. jiving in a town where dancing is prohibited.
Casting agents told him when he started out that he was the neat type. “They were like, ‘You’re going to be good at soaps and ads. You’ll be the boy next door. He moaned at the memory. “It wasn’t who I thought I was, so I worked hard to be something else.” He won an Off Broadway Theater award in his early twenties for playing a hustler junkie in Forty Deuce; underground director and associate of Andy Warhol Paul Morrissey directed it in the film version. “It was weird. To call it “independent” would be an understatement. ” So what? “Then I had this whole career with Footloose.” It gives the impression of having a toothache.
For about six years, he was essentially led astray as he tried to reconcile the actor the industry wanted him to be with who he knew he was. There was a weird, decent picture during that time (the glorious B Tremors movie, the cinematic comedy The Big Picture) but Footloose tripped it up. “This movie was kind of an anomaly,” he says. “Look, I’m basically a character actor. “
To help Hollywood get the message across, he asked influential agent Paula Wagner to represent him. Wagner, whose clients included Sean Penn and Val Kilmer, Bacon’s co-stars from the 1983 Broadway production of The Slab Boys, was already a fan. “Kevin’s talent has always been natural and organic,” she tells me. “What I admired when we first met was that he wanted to grow as an actor. He was thoughtful, determined and determined to change what he was doing. I told him, “If someone calls me and says he has the perfect role for Kevin Bacon, I guess that’s not the perfect role for Kevin Bacon. “
His first and most radical step was to introduce him to director Oliver Stone, who was prepping JFK. It’s Bacon’s brief turn in this picture as Willie O’Keefe, the gay prisoner with a flat top, sparkle, and salty twist (“You don’t know shit because you’ve never been fucked in the ass! ”) which he identifies today as the turning point in his career. “JFK gave me the chance to take what I had learned as a stage actor and put it on screen,” he says. The roles that came to him afterwards were smaller than those he had been used to, but infinitely more interesting. “I have so much respect for him for taking this chance,” Wagner says. “He’s freed himself from the pressure of what to do if you’re a movie star. “
Bacon has hardly ceased to sizzle ever since, appearing in both glamorous (A Few Good Men, Apollo 13, Mystic River) and gleefully trashy (Wild Things, Hollow Man) movies as well as the occasional blockbuster (X-Men : First Class). Recently, he was convincing as a corrupt FBI agent in the Showtime City on a Hill series.
The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon board game, through which he can be linked to any actor in history in just a few steps, is proof of his ubiquity, longevity, and reach. Koepp, however, would love to see him do more comedy. “Kevin has terrific comedic timing. Our two films together are a bit austere in nature, but I would love to do something with him where he could be funny on screen.
What would Bacon himself like? “I’m not twice hired by directors very often,” he says. “I love it when you see that relationship, that Scorsese-type thing, De Niro. I’ve never had this but would love it. He was also never nominated for an Oscar, though he surely got close to The Woodsman.
“Well it should be! said Wagner. “It’s an elusive thing, the Oscars, and he’s not playing this game. It is something that happens or not. But he certainly deserves one.
Not that Bacon feels anything to complain about. “I’m thankful that the parts that come to me are sort of all over the map,” he says. “All I ever wanted was not to be ranked.
He has made his wish come true: no one is likely to confuse him with the 62-year-old boy or boy next door.
You Should Have Left is available on Blu-ray and DVD October 12 on Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.