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July 2007
An Interview with Kevin Bacon

An Interview with Kevin Bacon

By Wilson Morales




August 3rd, 2007

If you are a film fan, then mentioning ‘six degrees of Kevin Bacon’ is nothing new. Bacon had done it all; worked on some many genres and with so many actors, but I don’t think he’s ever attended San Diego Comic Con. It’s been a long time since he’s done a film that fits within the realm of Comic Con lure and he’s here this year with a vengeance slasher film that we haven’t seen him do before. The film is ‘Death Sentence’ and to say more ruins the fun, but to give you a hint of what the film is about, think of Charles Bronson’s Death Wish and you get the picture. While speaking to blackfilm.com, Bacon talks about his latest character, comparisons to ‘Death Wish’, and working with his wife Kyra Sedgwick.

What was the particular challenge for you in taking on this reluctant sort of action hero?

Kevin Bacon: Well, you know, I felt like – actors really like transitions. You like to take a character from point A to point B. And he starts out as a nerdy, suburban run of the mill kind of guy, nothing really extraordinary about him. And has to transform in the course of the film into someone who is able to take another man’s life, quite a few at that – quite a few men’s lives. And it’s a physical transformation as well as an emotional one. So the movie was, you know, you look at some scripts and you go ‘Well, it’s going to be emotionally taxing’. And you look at some scripts and you go ‘Well it’ll probably be physically very difficult to get through’ and this is a movie that kind of had both. There’s about five minutes in the movie where I’m happy.

At the beginning.

Kevin Bacon: Yeah at the very beginning. And then from that point on it’s various levels of fear and anguish and sorrow and hatred and physical violence. So, you know, that’s the challenge.

Well as such it’s fun to watch, even though it’s not something any of us would wish on anyone in their life. Is it fun to play?

Kevin Bacon: I like to act so things that are deep and give me a lot to play are fun in terms of that. But I wouldn’t say that it’s like, you know, it’s not really like maybe doing a comedy where you got to work and everybody’s laughing and it’s a big Yukfest on the set. Now that being said, in the last section of the film, which has a lot of gunplay and a lot of cars and fights and stuff like that, that stuff is really fun. It’s fun because it’s challenging to see how we’re going to script things and rig things and, you know, what we’re going to do in terms of the guns and James Wan is incredible in terms of his placement of camera and I was always amazed to see what kind of rigs he was going to do. One of the things I’m really very proud about in terms of the film, I’m proud of James’ work and the stunt team and the special effects team is with the, in this day and age most action films are really driven by a lot of CG, by a lot of digital effects. And there’s none in the Death Sentence. So everything that’s there is real and it’s kind of like in a way going back to the way films were made in the early, you know, Bronson’s days or Peckinpah, you know. And I think it’s definitely got that vibe.

Is it a throwback to Bronson’s Death Wish? I mean I know that that’s been the film that this is compared to the most.

Kevin Bacon: Yeah. Death Wish was actually a novel. And it is the same novelist. This is another book that the guy wrote. I went back and looked at the first Death Wish, I didn’t make it through all eight of them, which I knew very well as a young man but I had not seen it in a long time. The thing that’s really different about Death Wish is that Death Wish is a movie about a guy who takes the law into his own hands, becomes a vigilante and goes after all criminals. In fact, Bronson doesn’t even go after the guys who hurt his family. He just doesn’t even focus on them. He just puts himself into situations where he knows he’s going to get mugged and, you know, turns around and smashes ‘em in the head or shoots ‘em or whatever. And in Death Sentence it’s much more of a revenge movie than a vigilante movie. True, the guy does go outside the law and makes that terrible fatal mistake. But it’s really more about this cycle of violence that he unfortunately creates and that he is then focussed on this one gang and seeking revenge.

Can you talk a little bit about Billy Darly, the character played by Garrett Hedlund, and sort of – apparently his situation to some degree kind of mirrors your own in that he’s also lost someone. Can you talk about that?

Kevin Bacon: Yeah well again, it’s one of those things that helps when you want to make something in this genre a little bit more complex and a little bit more compelling. There’s no doubt that Billy Darly is a bad guy but then you meet his father who is – or actually I’m not supposed to say that it’s his father, but you meet this guy who ends up being his father, who you can tell has just been definitely not ‘Dad of the Year’. And he loses his brother. And his reactions to that are also very emotional. And so in a strange way you start to learn a little bit more on the personal side about who he is – in the beginning of the movie you just think of him as this like crazy gang monster kind of guy. You start to learn a little bit more about his personal side. And on the flip side you start to see me transform a little bit more into what he is. He says something like ‘You’re swimming in my sewer now’ or something like that, you know. And at the end of the film you look at the two of us – we’re the last men standing - and it’s like two sides of the same character. With about thirty years difference but still.

Would you say that the physical demands of this film are the greatest that you’ve faced or something like River Wild still kind of is the top in terms of …

Kevin Bacon: You know really the hardest thing physically I ever did was Hollow Man because, you know, I was invisible but I was covered in this green suit or a mask glued onto my face or whatever. So I thought that it was going to be the easiest gig in the world because I was invisible and that I would just float in but in fact it was physically demanding, mostly from the standpoint of just claustrophobia and a lot of time in the makeup trailer and all that kind of stuff.

How hard is it to shake off a character like this, somebody who’s this intense – this gamut of emotional rollercoaster?

Kevin Bacon: Well what I find is that shaking it off on Friday is difficult because you know that you’re going to have to get back into it on Monday. So it effects your thoughts, it effects my dreams. I feel a strong need to get back in touch with my family and see my kids and kind of reaffirm that they’re OK because I’m spending all this time with, you know, the opposite. And of course using them, which I have to use them, for my own kind of memories. if there’s such a thing. Connecting with my wife. But at the end of the film - so I tended to sort of get a little bit dark probably while making a movie like this – at the end of the film it’s pretty easy for me to say goodbye to it. I have this picture – I did a movie called Murder in the First which was really hard and I lost a whole bunch of weight and I was in shackles and there were like bugs crawling on me. It was a really tortuous kind of character. But I’ve got a picture of myself on a beach in Hawaii holding my daughter who at that point was about maybe six months or a year, and I’m emaciated and my head is shaved but you can see in my face that the guy is gone. You know, that there’s no – and this is maybe two days after we finished filming – that I’m able to just put them away and kind of say goodbye once the shooting is over.

What it’s like as a parent to deal with kids than you, you know, approaching a movie like this. Is it a hard place to go?

Kevin: Yeah. Definitely. I mean that’s the worse thing you could possibly imagine is something happening to your kids or someone doing something to your kids. And so yeah, I mean when I look at just my face in this film, there’s a tremendous amount of stress I think on this character and that all has to do with putting those feelings that you have for your kids in your gut and hoping that it comes out through your face.

Did that challenge draw you to the picture?

Kevin: It did. I think that I certainly felt like I could relate to that piece of it. And as I said, I mean I pick it up and it says Death Sentence. I mean you think about that title and you go Death Sentence and you start to read it and I’m sort of thinking – ‘Well I’ll read it but I don’t know if it’s really like …’ I didn’t know if there was going to be enough from a character’s standpoint for me because while I really like horror and I really like action and I really like genre movies as a filmgoer, sometimes I feel like the actual character – they’re a little bit light on character development. They just kind of say ‘Well he’s the guy’, you know. Whatever. And as I started to read Death Sentence I felt like ‘Wow’. This is really, even if you took the action out of it, this is really a compelling kind of drama. So that’s what really drew me to it.

Have you been looking for a revenge film because weren’t you supposed to do Dolan’s Cadillac and that’s kind of a similar thing, a revenge thing?

Kevin: Yeah well Dolan’s was quite some time ago and I did like that script a lot. I wasn’t so much looking for a ‘revenge’ film but I was looking for a film where I could kick some ass. I felt like, you know, after these very emotional movies, Mystic and Woodsman and Where the Truth Lies, again just very kind of emotional drama, I was looking for something to, I don’t know, just to kind of get a little bit more kind of physical and also while I’ve been in thriller kind of things before with Trap and River Wild, I was bad guys in both of them, so it’s kind of nice to not be the bad guy.

Is it also important to kind of broaden your appeal because those other movies you mentioned in a lot of ways are smallish films that get limited release and was it important for you at this point to say ‘No I really would like more people to see what I’m capable of doing’?

Kevin: Yeah one for the meal, one for the reel. I mean it’s hard to, you know you can say that but it’s always a roll of the dice about whether people are going to see it or not. There’s no guarantees even if you say ‘Well I think maybe this movie feels more commercial/less commercial.’ Who knows? It’s the same thing with the small movies. Sometimes they break out and based on how much they cost, they have a tremendous upside that you don’t really expect. So it’s not so much the reason to do it.

Do you find it strange that they’re remaking Footloose?

Kevin: No. I mean I think I’m right about this. What they’re remaking is the musical that was made from the movie.

Like Hairspray.

Kevin: Exactly. I think it feels like the same kind of idea of Hairspray. You know, John Waters makes a movie which – is it a musical? I forget. No. Then they do a Broadway musical of it and then they remake the movie as well. And so I think it’s a similar kind of thing. So it sort of feels like it’s one degree of separation if you will.

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