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.