Kevin Bacon on Six Degrees fame, awkward sex scenes, and singing to goats

6 October 2020, 15:48 | Updated: 8 October 2020, 05:26

Kevin Bacon's interconnectedness is a thing of urban myth, but contrarily he chose his latest movie based on its isolation and intense focus on just a few characters.

The 62-year-old actor both stars in and executive produces You Should Have Left, but the inspiration for the film actually came from his wife, actress Kyra Sedgwick, who suggested a horror based around a marriage would be right up his street.

Bacon told Sky News: "I like working on big, expansive, explosive movies, but sometimes it's great to close ranks and have a smaller cast and just a house. And [Kyra] said, 'Well, what about a marriage?'"

The showbiz couple are something of a Hollywood anomaly, having been happily married for more than 30 years.

But Bacon admits that even in a good relationship there is still plenty of inspiration to draw from: "I think that in any long-term relationship, you always have moments of doubt. Even if they're not as extreme as You Should Have Left."

The psychological thriller draws from a German novel of the same name, and the screenplay was written and directed by David Koepp, who previously worked with Bacon on supernatural horror Stir Of Echoes.

In the film, ex-banker Theo takes his wife and young daughter to a deserted holiday home, deep in the Welsh countryside. But despite the change of scenery, he can't escape his own thoughts.

One departure from the source text was to make Susanna, played by Amanda Seyfried, an actress.

Bacon says that was a nod to his own background: "We've learned how to deal with it, Kyra and I. But if you're married to an actor or actress, and they go away for work, it's a little different than other work situations. It's very intimate.

"The hours are extremely long. A lot of times you are on location far, far away. You don't have a connection necessarily to the people that they are involved with. And you can definitely feel a little put out by that. And certainly, you can have those feelings of paranoia or doubt.

"I am lucky in that our relationship is solid. But I think it wasn't completely out of the realm of possibility that I could draw on things that I've experienced myself."

One excruciating scene in the film sees Theo visiting Susanna on set, only to be mistaken for her father due to their age gap, and turned away.

To make matters worse, she's filming a sex scene. Bacon says awkward romantic shoots are all part of an actor's life, but that doesn't make them easier to deal with.

"If you know someone has to shoot a big love scene that day, it's in the back of your mind wondering how that's going for a number of reasons. One is that they're uncomfortable and weird and something that a lot of times you just want to put behind you. There are challenges to that.

"But I would much rather see my wife in a love scene than in a scene where she's getting hurt or beaten up or emotionally abused. Those are much harder to watch or even to think about her shooting, frankly, than the love scenes."

Perhaps the secret to Bacon's long-lasting marriage is inventive gifts; he bought his wife goats for their last anniversary present.

He says the farmyard surprise went down well, and when she's working in LA she misses them so much he's come up with ways to put her mind at rest.

"They like nothing better than me going down and sitting there and hanging out with them and playing music for them. And when you walk away from the barn, they cry like babies. It's really sad."

The longevity of Bacon's marriage echoes the longevity of his career, spanning six decades and more than 60 feature films.

One homage to his filmic success, now associated with his name the world over, is Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon.

The trivia game, invented by three Pennsylvania college students in 1994, is based on six degrees of separation (the idea that all people are six, or fewer, social connections away from each other).

The adapted theory allows most well-known actors to be traced back to Bacon in a handful of steps, known as their "Bacon Number".

While Bacon admits he wasn't initially flattered by the game, he went on to embrace it, founding the charity SixDegrees.Org which has raised millions of dollars for charitable causes since its creation in 2007.

He has also recently released a Spotify podcast called The Last Degree Of Kevin Bacon, a scripted comedy based around his life that describes itself as "part fiction and part alternative reality".

Acting since he was 20, Bacon acknowledges that fame is all part of the package: "Being well known and acting as a career is just strange. But I've had it for so long and it's so much a part of me that to not live in this sort of world would feel strange now.

"Like the Six Degrees thing, when it first came around, I was like, 'Well, that's kind of weird' and I didn't really get it and I was a little bit offended by it, you know?

"But now it's just part of my life. It's like brushing my teeth in a way. I mean, if you really stop and go, 'Oh, wow, my life is weird'. Why? That's just my life."

And of course, anonymity is a thing of the past. "The thing that is the most recognisable about me is my nose. So, if I'm walking through a crowd and I don't want to be picked out" - he covers his nose with his hand - "I go like this".

You Should Have Left gives Bacon the chance to play with his appearance too, something he's not averse to in real life: "I have a prosthetic disguise that I tried out a couple of times. Although it's really interesting now because we sort of all have that ability because of face masks."

The film was shot in remote Wales before the coronavirus pandemic set in. And Bacon admits it's a location most Americans aren't too familiar with.

"We have a definite idea about England. And then secondly, we can understand some kind of idea of Ireland and Scotland. But Wales is a little bit of a mystery."

Despite stepping into the unknown, Bacon says he loved his Welsh experience.

The production sidestepped the easy choice to find a gothic mansion as their spooky retreat, instead settling on a modern house nestled in the hills.

And while the rest of the cast and the crew were keen to locate familiar mod cons away from the shoot, Bacon embraced the return to nature.

"I lived in a really isolated sort of little camp that had been originally just supposed to be my dressing room. But I liked it so much that I stayed out there and the crew all went into town and into the villages and stuff."

He says his decision paid off: "The countryside was so quiet and [there were] so many sheep and on the moonless nights, darker than I'd ever seen."

A film about memories, guilt and regret, Bacon's character is led down rabbit holes which leave him wandering the house at night.

But what keeps Bacon up at night? He says 2020 has given him plenty to worry about: "A pandemic and tremendous social injustice and social unrest in our country. Not to mention climate change and our political situation. These are all things I think about."

A keen advocate of getting people to vote, Bacon feels there's much at stake at America's forthcoming election.

And as for his opinion of whether Donald Trump will get a second term, he says: "There's plenty of other much smarter, much more knowledgeable people speculating than me. But I can tell you from my standpoint, there is nothing about his policies that I agree with and nothing about his character that I admire."

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Away from politics he also has concerns closer to home. A father-of-two, Bacon admits: "Once you have children there's always a kind of feeling of waiting for the shoe to drop."

But being a parent also has its uses. Bacon says scenes in which he's working with kids are probably the ones where the audience gets the biggest insight into his true character.

He explains: "I remember one time, being about to play a scene with a son, and my own poor son, I called him up just randomly from the set. And I said, 'I just need to talk to you for a second and can you send me a picture?' And then I jumped into the scene.

"I mean, it's a shameless, shameless way to use your children for your career. But it's something that I tap into."

You Should Have Left is now available to download on platforms including Amazon, iTunes and YouTube, and on DVD and Blu-ray