By Frank Ariveso

When he was a young boy, Kevin Bacon had an obsession with hats. “I
loved them,” he tells me in an airless hotel suite. “My mom set up a
rack in my room, and I had them all lined up. Hats to me represented
characters, cowboys, firemen, whatever they were. Anytime I put one
 on, and I was transported. And that’s what I do today; I put on a
different hat every job I take.” 

It was a solid start for the icon
of American pop culture. Acting for nearly 40 years, Bacon is easily
one of the most celebrated figures in Hollywood thanks to his endless
string of performances from Footloose, Tremors, Diner, JFK, Murder in
the First, Sleepers, Apollo 13 and Mystic River.

And the star has never toyed with complacency. Recent roles in Crazy
Stupid Love and Patriots Day have complimented his ground-breaking
move into television, with the success of dark saga, The Following and
his new Amazon series, I Love Dick.

As the man states himself, he’s constantly seeking change and
evolution in his career, which in person, breeds a shocking level of
self-deprecating behavior. Today, in a black cardigan and jeans, his
trademark pinched cheeks and sharp eyes framed by loose, flowing brown
hair, Bacon is engaging and grounded as he reflects on an astonishing
40 years in the business. 

He touches on his initial fling with fame after the success of
Footloose and why he then struggled to find his feet in an industry
 that grappled with his intense gifts and talent. His latest series, I
Love Dick, from the intelligent makers of Transparent, sees a
crumbling couple (Kathryn Hahn and Griffin Dunne) relocate from New York to small-town Texas where they encounter the enigmatic, intoxicating Dick who becomes a focus of obsession for the marriage. It’s a tangled study of relationships and sexuality that spoke to
Bacon’s desire to constantly step beyond the boundaries, something he
admits will always be his primary goal in life. Fun and chatty, he talks about the depiction of masculinity in film and television and
why the female gaze is a powerful perspective. He also opens up on
screen nudity, rejection, career pitfalls and rejuvenations, fame,
public breakdowns and why his daughter defied his wishes. Bacon, 58,
lives with actress wife Kyra Sedgwick in LA. They have two kids, Travis, 28 and Sosie, 25.

STRIPLV: You read the title, what was your first reaction?

BACON: I did this just so I could say, I Love Dick. It’s so I can say
to you, “What’s the title? I Love Dick. And people flinch and squirm
and it’s given me boundless entertainment. I basically read the title
and I was done, I’m on board. I Love Dick. (Laughs) That was an easy
sell. It was an easy yes.”

STRIPLV: Were you a fan of Transparent and Jill Soloway’s work?

BACON: My whole family is, and they were like, “there’s no way you can said no.’” I consider Jill one of the auteurs of filmmaking. But then you have Kathryn Hahn, easily one of the best actresses working
today, both comedically and dramatically, which is a rare combination,
that doesn’t happen often. She’s known more for her comedy, but there’s
an intense depth there. Everything fell into place. And this was funny and romantic, it’s sexy, it’s uncomfortable, it’s
pushes the envelope. It’s about a heterosexual couple who become
obsessed with a man, which is something you don’t normally encounter
on any show, movie, whatever. And it turns the idea of the male gaze
around. We’re focusing on the female gaze, with women as the subject.
And I get to be the object, which at my age is a winner for me. I get
to play an object and I get to play a dick— a different type of dick.

STRIPLV: You get naked again, which is something you’ve proudly advocated in
the past. Does it ever unnerve you?

BACON: It doesn’t scare me, no. Here, it works for Dick. He’s very
comfortable in his form and it’s a tool, if you will, for the
story and progression of the character. It’s not gratuitous. I don’t
think I’ve ever found any of my nude work to be gratuitous.

STRIPLV: Did the idea of exploring a different aspect of sexuality appeal?

BACON: There’s a dissection of masculinity and sexuality here that’s
rarely presented in this way, and it’s very loaded, it’s so cool, and
it’s a unique voice coming from an edgy, offbeat environment which
I’ve always been a fan of in my career. And I found here, as a bonus, and something that really made me go,
”huh.” I kind of get that, was this notion of celebrity, something I
myself am very familiar with, and that concern of fading relevance and
removing yourself from the ocean into a small pond, which is what Dick
does, in order to restore his notoriety. Clinging on in a way. I
 understand that, having been famous for more of my life than not.

STRIPLV: Do you still like fame?

BACON: Yeah, I like being known. I like people coming up to me, I like
when they say hi, they tell me they love me. That’s all really nice to
experience. They give you free stuff without even asking. (Laughs) I’m not saying my life would cease if I wasn’t famous but I’m so used
to it now, it’s entrenched in who I am, so for that to ebb away, I can
understand chasing that high. I’m not saying I would do it myself,
perhaps I’d let it slip away without any action.

STRIPLV: Was fame what you always wanted?

BACON: For sure. And any actor who says otherwise, they’re lying. It’s
a primary factor in motivating you. Fame, money, all that, it’s what
motivates them but then it happens and you realize fame is something
else than you expected.

STRIPLV: Your son and daughter have both followed your footsteps but in different ways.

BACON: I feel like they came at two sides of my life and carved it up
between them: you take music, you take acting.

STRIPLV: Focusing on Sosie, who’s now starring in 13 Reasons Why, how did you
feel about her going into acting?

BACON: We weren’t into the idea. It’s not what we wanted for her, but she’s
always known her own mind and above anything else we’ve encouraged
that. And it wasn’t like a talk, or directly addressing our
reservations, it was delivered more subliminally and she picked that
up. I did maybe send out the wrong message when I was directing a movie
when she was 11 or 12 I think. I needed an actress to play a daughter. Kyra was in it, and she was kind of resistant. She didn’t want to miss
school; it was going to get in the way of whatever she had going on.
 I convinced her eventually, and she did an amazing job, which I knew
she would. I think I knew this was her path, I could see that spark.
 But she kept her distance, said this wasn’t her thing, that was the
 plan as far as I was aware and we were pretty content with that.
 Thought we dodged a bullet.

STRIPLV: What changed?

BACON: She went to school, went to college but then four, five years
ago, turned around and said, I actually want to give acting a try,
professionally and that’s my decision and I’m sticking to it. And I
said to her, “Where did this come from? You said you didn’t want to
act.” And she says, “I’ve always be drawn to it, I just knew you and
mom were against it so I wanted to respect that.”

STRIPLV: Is it easier or more difficult being the child of established stars?

BACON: She’s got the right attitude. There was never trading of the
name, never any expectations or demands because of who her parents
 were. And that’s something to be admired in an actor in her position
 because there are certain perceived advantages coming from a family
 with that connection. But she’s never utilized that approach, she’s
been very astute in her choices, and doing great work. I'm very proud.

STRIPLV: What was your biggest concern for her going into this?

BACON: I didn’t want her to experience rejection all day, every day.
If you can’t accept that, you’ll never survive and we didn’t want her
to go through that. And it never ends. I get no’s even now. I’m always
hoping and wishing things were better for myself.

STRIPLV: Really?

BACON: Most actors, barring the .001 percent, still hear no. It
 doesn’t matter how much success you’ve had. I tend to get
 frustrated very easily, frustrated why something I want isn’t coming
to me. But I’m still here; I’m still realizing some of my dreams, I’m experiencing new ones I never knew about.

STRIPLV: How did you get into acting?

BACON: I had a very traditional, one could say, the traditional route
into acting. Did some community theater as a kid in Philly, moved to
New York, was a busboy, waiter while I did acting classes. It’s total
cliché. And my apprenticeship, it stood by me. I did extra work on soap operas that fed into a year-long job on
 Guiding Light. Did some very off-off-Broadway stuff. I like to refer
 to it as toilet bowl theater. (Laughs) And then eventually landed an
 agent and it slowly started to shift ground from there.

STRIPLV: Footloose was huge for you but it took nearly another decade to get
back on track. How do you look back on that time in your career?

BACON: A mistake a lot of actors make, is judging and deciding based
on the size of the role, the budget attached, the salary, and if you
 do that, your window is this big (holds thumb and index finger close
together). I made the mistake. Or at least the people guiding my decisions did. After Footloose, I had to be the lead in the next movie. I couldn’t
take anything less. And a lot of these weren’t working, they weren’t
taking off, and I wasn’t getting what I wanted. They were bombs, yeah
 they were, bomb, bomb, bomb. I had this pop star fame from Footloose
 that wasn’t working to my advantage. Getting the lead, that seems
like the pinnacle, and for many, it is. But those character type
characters, with the compelling side story, who weren’t carrying the
action, they are the character, rather than a varying embodiment of
who the actor is, and who the actor chooses to play repeatedly because
 it works for them. I wanted to become the character in front of me, not the persona of
 Kevin Bacon, star of Footloose. And JFK did that for me. For the first
 time, it clicked and even though there were only a few scenes, that
 was enough to redirect that trajectory and point me towards a place I
actually wanted to go. That lead to Murder in the First, Apollo 13,
 it put things back on track for me and trained my process now. I love working. I’d rather be working than not, that’s always my purpose. I want to work. I want to play different characters and
challenge myself with new experiences. All I’ve ever done is thrown
shit at the wall, constantly throwing shit at it to see what sticks.
 And I’ll never change. That’s the gamble. Some sticks and a lot
 doesn’t. (Laughs)

STRIPLV: The Following was your first gamble on TV, was it a tough transition for you from movies?

BACON: I came from a generation of actors where if you ended up on TV,
 that’s where you stayed. You were dead. There weren’t the stretches
and crossed boundaries. Television was safe and uninspiring compared to film. And then you got shows like The Wire, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under,
all these shows changed the landscape, and now, it’s really gratifying
to see how the industry has adapted and evolved for the better, where
 an actor who’s had a level of success in movies, can move into
 television without it being a reflection on their status. And
 creatively, what you get from doing television, I saw this first when
Kyra was on The Closer. What you get from it creatively, what she got
 from it, was a full breakdown of the character, something you never
 witness in a film. There isn’t time. And when I finally relented, told my agent, alright, get me some
television scripts, and Amazon, Netflix. None of that was around yet—
Netflix was like these tokens you got in the mail. I said put me up
for something on television. And within a few days, I got sent the
best scripts I’d read in years. That’s when the ball dropped. That’s
when I figured out what so many already knew – the best writing in on
television. I was late to the party.

STRIPLV: Is Footloose still what you get recognized most for?

BACON: Yeah easily, but you get thrown curve balls all the time. Tremors
 happens a lot that one has entered modern day folklore, which when we
 were making it, it didn’t have that feel, so it’s interesting how these
things materialize.

STRIPLV: There’s talk of a sequel, isn’t there?

BACON: There’s something happening. And honestly, that is the only
character I’ve played, where I would like to go back again. I’m not
someone for looking back. I don’t like it. When I’m done with a
character, with a movie, I’m done. I never watch my movies. But
Tremors, for some reason, it’s 25 years later and I want to see where
he’s at, if his delusions of grandeur paid off. Who would he be now?

STRIPLV: And this is the movie that caused your breakdown wasn’t it?

BACON: I stood on the street, had a full blown panic attack in
Midtown, fell down on my knees and cried, “I can’t believe I’m in a
movie about underground worms!”


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