Kevin Bacon danced his way to prominence in teen flick Footloose (1984) but has since built up a strong and diverse body of work. Key roles in JFK (1991), A Few Good Men (1992) and Apollo 13 (1995) established him as a talented ensemble player but his passion for keeping audiences on their toes has led to some unusual choices, such as children's film My Dog Skip (2000), playing an invisible killer in Hollow Man (2000) and a completely outrageous hairdresser named Jorge in Beauty Shop (2005). Of late, he's discovered a darker side in films such as The Woodsman (2004) and now Atom Egoyan's steamy thriller about a 50s double-act destroyed by murder, Where The Truth Lies (2005). Here he explains why the time may be right for a change and how his new film accurately reflects the pressures of celebrity...
After this and The Woodsman you seem to be going through your tough and intense period. Is this the kind of thing that you love to get your teeth into?
I think it's a lot easier to play a character that's written with some depth and interest rather than to try and make something out of nothing. There has been times when they expect you to fill in the blanks. I like to be as collaborative as possible and I like to explore as many aspects of a character's life as I can. But I'm not a writer so if something is meaty, then it's easier.
There's a bond of trust and familiarity in comic partnerships. How did you build that up with Colin Firth?
One of the challenges as an actor is to create something in a very short amount of time. We didn't know each other at all. We had admired each other's work and had a mutual friend who had said to me a number of times that I really should work with him. But you're thrown into a situation and within the course of a week you have to feel like you've been gigging together forever. I mean it's like a marriage for these guys; they're sharing women, drugs and the excitement while building this act.
Atom had left a lot of open questions in terms of what the act was going to be. A lot of the comedy was not already written. Musically, we hadn't really picked the songs until pretty much up to a couple of weeks before we started shooting. Colin's character was originally an Italian-American. But I think that it gave us a lot of pressure to come together which was ultimately kind of helpful.
Was there any aspect of your own life as an actor that you could bring into the role of Lanny?
Definitely. One of the things that really interested me about the film is the way it talks about celebrity. Some of the things that the journalist asks him about what it's like to relinquish his anonymity are true. When he responds that you kind of define yourself by your fame and are afraid that your fame is going to slip away, all that stuff is very, very true. I have rarely, if ever, got a chance to play a celebrity and yet it is something I live so it was interesting to tap into that side of it. I related to that.
Do you think that having a stable relationship with your wife, Kyra Sedgwick, has helped you to avoid some of the pitfalls that trap many celebrities?
First off, there's a lot more that's good about being famous than bad. I'd like to make that clear. People are very nice to you and you get a chance to live a very interesting and exciting life. But if you become an actor, it's one of the things that you're working for. You don't go into your room alone and act. You do it to be watched and to have people love you.
Eventually, as I have learned, you have to find something outside of your work that's going to give you strength and peace and is going to make you feel whole because the work and the celebrity will eventually let you down. It will not be enough. So when you look at a character like Lanny Morris, you see him as a young man who can go from woman to woman to woman and have a great time, do the drugs and perform and get that love back from the audience but tragically when you see him later on all that has waned a little bit. So you have to eventually get something else, whether its yoga or needlepoint, because it's never going to fill you up.
So is it like its own narcotic in that sense - if all you pursue is fame, it's ultimately destructive?
I think so. But it's also like a narcotic in that if you don't get it, or it seems like someone is about to take it away from you, you'll do anything to get it back. I've seen a lot of people rise and fall during my time as an actor. Sometimes you will see someone who will make their way back into the papers in a really objectionable way. But whether they are conscious of it or not, they are still reaching for the headlines. That's because you need it like a drug.
What was your reaction to the NC-17 certificate for the film in America?
The problem with the ratings board is that they don't actually tell you why they're giving you the NC-17. In some of the scenes he did as much cutting as he could and they still handed down a rating but in the final scene there was really no way to cut it.
But I think that there is a fairly puritan kind of wind that's blowing right now in the States. I'd like to think it will turn around.
Does it give the wrong message to the audience about what the film is about?
Absolutely. The movie's not a sex movie. If you're apprehensive about not wanting to see something that has over the top sexuality, then an NC-17 is definitely going to keep you at home. But if you go to the movie hoping that it's going to be soft-core porn they're going to be disappointed because there's not enough to merit that.
I read that you would like to play the hero who saves the day and gets the girl. Is this true?
Yes. The thing about the dark characters is that those are the ones that recently have been seen. I've always done them, as playing offbeat, unusual characters is always something that I've been drawn to. It's not like I was a leading man who all of a sudden found this other life. I've always thought of myself as a character actor.
Interestingly, I was up for a film recently where the character was going to be a nice guy who ends up being a killer. I didn't get the movie because the director and the producer said that if we put Kevin in it then everyone knows he's going to be the killer. That's an obvious thing. That's changed a lot from the days when people said "Wow, I can't believe you played the killer." So I think the time has come for me to turn it around the other way again.
Is directing something you are keen to develop?
I really enjoy it and I think it's a natural kind of progression for an actor. You spend so much time on the set putting yourself in someone else's hands that there is an element of being a puppet no matter how big a star you are. That being said, I think you have to find a story that you really want to tell because it does take a lot more time than acting and you have to really be willing to commit for at least a year, from pre-production and shooting through to post-production and marketing.
If you had a wish list of something you'd like to film what is it?
My passion right now is a movie based on a Japanese novel called Audition that was made into a brilliant Japanese film. Not to jump on the bandwagon of making American films out of Japanese films, but this is something that is a perfect kind of part for me to do at this point in my life. So I'm working on trying to get a screenplay out of that.
Where The Truth Lies is released in UK cinemas on Friday 2nd December 2005.