Connectivity was the theme in Austin on Saturday: Kevin Bacon made his first trip to the SXSW Film Festival to chat about his career, including the 20th anniversary of the “six degrees” game that links him to every other actor in Hollywood. The star of Footloose has gone from being “horrified” by the pop phenomenon to embracing it for his charity network: SixDegrees.org. Film veteran Bacon is now starring in the second season of his first TV show, Fox’s The Following, which was just renewed for a third season despite this year’s ratings slip. Bacon reflected on his career with Deadline as SXSW’s 2014 edition kicked off:
DEADLINE: Your first role was in Animal House, which the recent passing of Harold Ramis brought back into mind. And that role couldn’t be farther from the “Kevin Bacon” audiences have come to know.
KEVIN BACON: Between me and Neidermeyer, he’s the one you want the worst fate to befall. And that’s fun to do. I was so grateful to [John] Landis and Harold Ramis and all those guys for giving me that part. They came to my acting school and I didn’t have an agent, I didn’t have a pot to piss in. When the movie came out I was still a waiter — I had to ask for the night off in order to go to the premiere. So that was a huge movie in my life, but it didn’t change my life, really, other than I thought, “OK, now I’ve actually worked and got paid to be an actor.” But it certainly didn’t put me on the map. It was still a struggle to try and get an agent. It was still a struggle to make ends meet; I ended up waiting tables for quite a few years after the movie came out.
DEADLINE: Why did it take you so long time to come to television with The Following?
BACON: TV has undergone a renaissance, but when I started that just was not the perception. So it was a very difficult decision. Most of it was clouded by my own snobbery. There was a directive amongst my representation to never, ever come to me with a television show because I would perceive that as a vote of no confidence, and it would anger me. And then my focus started to shift. I started to think about all the shows that I was watching and consuming over an entire weekend – The Sopranos, The Wire, Dexter, Six Feet Under. I was seeing iconic performances, not the least of which with [his wife] Kyra [Sedgwick] and seeing her life in the seven years she was on [The Closer]. I went, “Why am I being such an asshole? Why not? What I really love to do is act. Why not put yourself in a situation where you have a greater chance and more time in front of the camera, over the course of months — years, if you’re lucky?” I threw my hat into the ring and said, “OK, I’m open to the idea now.” In the next two weeks I read three or four of the best scripts I’d ever read. Pilots. And I thought, I really have been missing out.
Matt Webb Mitovich is an AwardsLine contributor.
He has traveled to the moon, survived Alcatraz, put a few good men on trial and, yes, once almost got arrested for dancing. But in the course of more than 35 years of acting, one of the few things Kevin Bacon never explored was a TV role in a regular series—until Fox’s The Following invited him to hunt down a clever killer. Now, his turn as troubled FBI consultant Ryan Hardy could cop him his first Emmy nomination since the HBO miniseries Taking Chance.
AwardsLine: What exactly was it that led you to your first series regular TV role?
Bacon: You have to keep in mind that it was a different world when I started out. There was a real dividing line between being a television actor and being a film actor. But when (wife) Kyra (Sedgwick) got offered The Closer, it started to open up a new world to me, second hand. I saw the satisfaction she was getting, peeling back layers week after week. Simultaneously, I was catching up on a lot of TV—The Sopranos, The Wire, Dexter. The second I made the call, “OK, I’m interested in looking at television,” I was reading all of this great stuff. I simultaneously started developing (projects at Showtime and HBO), and after a few years of that, The Following came along.
AwardsLine: Having inhabited a variety of roles over your career, what’s the challenge of playing a hero versus the colorful bad guy?
Bacon: I’ll speak just to this character: It has to be small, it has to have subtlety, it has to be a lot about what’s not said and what’s not shown, and you have to trust that people will come to him without him saying, “Please love me.” But if I’m playing someone who is more of a villain, I’m going to try and find what the humanity is—maybe it’s a sense of humor, a charm or a swagger, or a sexuality, so it’s not just, “He’s so bad.” Conversely, with a heroic character, I want us to find out, “What’s damaged about him? How does he fuck up?” With The Following, we talked a lot about how I don’t want him to be infallible—here he goes again, kicking ass and taking no names.
Fox‘s new thriller series from Kevin Williamson and Warner Bros TV stars Kevin Bacon as an ex-FBI agent recruited to recapture an escaped serial killer played by James Purefoy. Anna Parisse plays an FBI specialist assigned to the case in which the killer has cultivated a group of dedicated …
UPDATE 6:45 PM: No comedy pilots remain in contention at Fox as the network has passed on Rebounding, El Jefe, Prodigy Bully, Little Brother, Let It Go, Like Father and Living Loaded. Rebounding and El Jefe are being shopped to other networks. On the drama side, the only pilot still alive is the Cuba Gooding Jr legal drama Guilty, which was a strong contender for a series pickup. I hear the network brass decided to take a few weeks before making a decision on it, so we won’t hear right away.
UPDATE 5:30 PM: Here it is — the series pickup of the heavily favored Kevin Williamson drama pilot starring Kevin Bacon, now titled The Following (I hope Fox changes that). Because Bacon committed to only doing 15 episodes a season, the order for the Williamson project will likely be for midseason. The project, from Warner Bros TV, is a thriller about ex-FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Bacon) who leads the search to catch diabolical serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) who has created a cult of serial killers. Marcos Siega directed the pilot, which co-starred Shawn Ashmore, Natalie Zea, Valorie Curry, Jeananne Goossen, Nico Tortorella, Adan Canto, Billy Brown.
UPDATE 5:15 PM: Fox started its new drama series pickups with the Josh Berman/Robert Wright drama starring Jordana Spiro as a young female thoracic surgeon with Bridgeport roots who juggles two worlds as she juggles her career and her lifelong debt to the South Chicago mob. The series, now titled The Mob Doctor, is produced by Sony TV and executive produced by Berman, Wright and Michael Dinner who directed the pilot. The pickup of Mob Doctor assures a continuation of the medical drama genre on Fox whose veteran series House departs this month. I’m still waiting to get confirmation on the Kevin Williamson powerhouse drama pilot, with Guilty also in strong contention.
The Mindy Kaling single-camera comedy, now titled It’s Messy, was created by and stars The Office standout as a Young Bridget-Jones type doctor trying to navigate both her personal and professional lives. Fox picked up the project in a turnaround when NBC passed on the script, and the pilot has been a favorite of Fox’s brass from the script stage. It is earmarked as a potential companion for the network’s freshman breakout New Girl. Along with Kaling, Serving as an executive producer on the pilot was her Office co-star BJ Novak. The pickup continues Universal TV’s presence on Fox — the studio also produces the network’s departing drama House. However, House was sold by Universal before its merger with NBC, so this marks the first series order for the recently-revamped Universal TV at Fox or any non-NBC network.
EXCLUSIVE: Kevin Bacon is headed to primetime. In a big casting coup, I’ve learned that the feature actor is set to topline Kevin Williamson’s Fox drama pilot. This marks the first major series role for Bacon who had been heavily pursued by broadcast and cable networks for years. But in a twist, I hear that Bacon has committed to doing 15 episodes a season vs. the standard 22 for a broadcast series. That lightens the load on the actor who can continue to do multiple features a year and spend time with his family. It also plays into Fox’s strategy of exploring new ways for airing shows, something Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly talked about at TCA last month. The high quality of many cable drama series is being attributed in part to shorter seasons that allows for tighter, more compelling storytelling.
The untitled Kevin Williamson project, from Warner Bros TV and Williamson’s studio-based Outerbanks Entertainment, is described as an edge-of-the-seat thriller about a diabolical serial killer who uses technology to create a cult of serial killers, and a retired FBI profiler (Bacon) who finds himself in the middle of it. The genre of the project and the casting of Bacon is reminiscent of Fox’s signature thriller 24, which also tapped a feature actor, Kiefer Sutherland, for its lead. Marcos Siega recently signed on to direct the pilot, written and executive produced by Williamson, creator of Dawson’s Creek, the hit Scream horror movie franchise and co-creator/executive producer of the CW’s Vampire Diaries and Secret Circle.
Paramount Pictures has released its second trailer for the Craig Brewer-directed reboot of Footloose. The first trailer featured scenes that were very similar to the original film and the response from Deadline readers was less than enthusiastic. This trailer seems to have a bit …
EXCLUSIVE: HBO has bought Valentine, a half-hour comedy script from writer Bryan Sipe and producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald, with Kevin Bacon attached to executive produce and potentially star. Additionally, Sipe has signed on to do a re-write on the Parkes/MacDonald-produced feature The Kid Who Knew Too Much for Paramount, a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1934 and 1956 movies.
Valentine, which Sipe wrote on spec, centers on Johnny Valentine, the role that would be played by Bacon. With three ex wives and his glory days behind him, Johnny Valentine is the new voice of talk radio. He’s not on the left, the right, or the middle, he’s on the bottom. Sipe is executive producing with Parkes/MacDonald Prods.’ Parkes, MacDonald and Ted Gold as well as Bacon and his manager David Schiff.
Paramount Pictures has released a trailer for Footloose, the remake of the 1984 film that launched Kevin Bacon’s career. The film, directed by Craig Brewer and starring Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough and Dennis Quaid, will be released Oct. 14. In the trailer, I recognized many of the plot beats and …
Billy Bob Thornton has set Robert Duvall, John Hurt, Kevin Bacon, Robert Patrick and Ray Stevenson to star with Thornton in Jayne Mansfield’s Car, the first dramatic feature that Thornton has directed since 2001′s Daddy and Them. The film is being funded by AR Films, whose principal, Alexander Rodnyansky, will produce with Media Talent Group’s Geyer Kosinski. Production begins June 22 in Georgia.
Thornton, who co-wrote the script with frequent collaborator Tom Epperson, has been mobilizing the picture for a while and just locked his final cast. He has also set John Patrick Amedori to play a lead in the film. A comedy with dramatic overtone, it revolves around the culture clash of two families, from different continents, in 1969.
Rodnyansky is the founder of the Ukrainian TV channel 1+1 and former CEO of CTC Media when it became the biggest independent publicly traded media conglomerate in Russia with five channels in three countries. He has produced over 20 TV series and 30 films including Elena, which received the Special Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard category at Cannes last month. “I’ve started to look for opportunities in America, and this is definitely not a single picture strategy,” he told me. “When I read that script, I fell in love with it. I was a fan of Sling Blade and Billy Bob’s other movies. No matter where you are making movies, it’s all about the script.”
EXCLUSIVE: HBO is developing a single-camera comedy series based on Clint McCown’s 1995 book The Member-Guest. Feature writer-producer Steve Pink (High Fidelity) is writing the script. Kevin Bacon is executive producing with an eye towards starring in the project, about a burned-out golf pro of a 9-hole course who just wants one more shot at the tour. His comeback is constantly sidelined as he deals with the needs of the members of the Middle-American country club who are grappling with dashed dreams of their own. Pink is executive producing along with Aaron Kaplan of Kapital Entertainment and Tom Mangan, with McCown serving as a consultant.
I’m told that Kevin Bacon has the offer and is negotiating to play the villain role in X-Men: First Class. Not sure of his character, and they have to make his deal, but Bacon would line up nicely alongside James McAvoy …