Kevin Bacon: My Life in 10 Movies - Rolling Stone
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Kevin Bacon: My Life in 10 Movies

‘Cop Car’ star on ‘Spinal Tap,’ ‘Last Waltz’ and the movie that made him become an actor

Kevin Bacon

Kevin Bacon in 'Cop Car.'


There are two things you notice about Kevin Bacon when he's pacing in a conference room, staring intently into his smartphone and sipping on tea. One is that the guy looks incredibly fit, and not just for a 57-year-old. In fact, other than a few telltale signs of age, he still looks a lot like that kid who danced away small-town tyranny in Footloose, the dude who debated the merits of gravy on fries with his Diner cohorts and the handyman who grappled with "graboids" in Tremors. The second thing that you notice is that the most distinguishing aspect of his latest role — a corrupt sheriff chasing down kids on a joyride with his cruiser in the fun little indie-exploitation nugget Cop Car — is nowhere to be found. "Oh, you mean the 'stache?" he asks, referring to the incredible, vintage-Burt-Reynolds-ish facial hair he sports for his sociopathic law-enforcement officer. "It's doing press a few rooms over. You'll definitely want to ask it a few questions about the movie as well."

Actually, we want to quiz the prolific movie star/musician about a few of his favorite films — the ones that hit him right in that formative sweet spot when he was growing up, that made him want to become an actor, that he's dug recently and that he keeps going back to again and again. Here's Kevin Bacon's life in 10 movies, according to the man himself. Everybody, prepare to cut loose.


‘This Is Spinal Tap’ (1984)

"It's my favorite movie by far. And one of the great things about Spinal Tap is that, you see it and think it's over-the-top ridiculous. Then you put your own band together [The Bacon Brothers] and all of a sudden, you're completely living it! [Laughs] You're living that 'The Boston gig has been cancelled, but don't worry…it's not a big college town' moment. I have to take that line and put it in a song, you know what I mean? It's so hilarious to me.

"I got to work with Christopher Guest a few years after he made Spinal Tap, in this movie called The Big Picture (1989) about a guy trying to make a low-budget independent movie. Someone was interviewing [director] Jon Watts and me yesterday, and they asked him what his favorite movie of mine was. He answered 'The Big Picture,' and I just had to laugh. I said, 'Of course it is! That's your Spinal Tap. You're living that movie right now!'"


‘Midnight Cowboy’ (1969)

"A really influential movie on me; it was a big part of why I wanted to become an actor. We had one of those dollar theaters in the neighborhood, the kind that ran films on a second or third run. I saw it after it had been out for a while, and I remember thinking 'Wow, how did they get this homeless guy to show up to make the movie? And isn't that cool that this cowboy was also in it.' [Laughs] And then a little later, I see The Graduate and I see Coming Home and I go, 'So this is what an actor does.' So Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight were like really, really super influential on me in terms of what I want to do with my life. It was like, 'Okay, I get it now. This is the kind of actor I want to be.'"


‘Rebel Without a Cause’ (1955)

"I met this kid and we sort of struck up this friendship when I was in high school. His dad somehow got a hold of an early video player — it was probably not VHS, some earlier format or another. And he had some videos of all of these old movies and turned me onto the movies of Brando, Montgomery Clift, James Dean, all those guys. Rebel Without a Cause was a big onethere was something about that movie that just felt edgier to me. All the 'classic' movie stars of that era, the Clark Gables and Cary Grants and Jimmy Stewarts, I loved watching them. But when those guys came along and did that that sort of humbling approach to American acting…even seeing them long after the fact, it felt new to me. East of Eden, the same thing. I really started to get into those types of actors and those kinds of performances after I saw those two films."


‘Serpico’ (1973)

"I always pine for what I’ve looked at as sort of the Golden Age of Movies in the Seventies — you know, here comes Serpico and Dog Day, The French Connection and Mean Streets, just on and on and on! That kind of early Seventies gritty, urban film. Even a movie like Death Wish, which is way more commercial than the movies I just mentioned, you look at something like that and think, that was what Hollywood was putting out then? Everybody saw those movies and thought, 'I'm not going anywhere near New York City, no way!' I saw them and thought, 'Oh man, I have to get to New York City!' You know what I mean?

"But Serpico was the one that really kind of hooked me…that Pacino walk he does is just so cool, right? When he started to go undercover and that whole transformation that he went through, that bullet hold in the side of his face? The crazy hats? Then there was the girl with no bra… [Pause] Yeah, everything about it was good to me."


‘Animal House’ (1978)

"It's fun that I've had the chance to be in some sort of genre-defining movies — but no one knew Animal House was going to end being anything like that at all. All I was doing was picking up the phone and saying, "Yes" when they offered me a job [laughs]. I just went out there as a teenager and got to experience those five weeks in Eugene, Oregon and everything that came with that. It was a life-changing experience.

"I remember walking onto the set for the first time and it's like… I think one of the first things I ever did was the parade sequence at the end of the film. So imagine your first day on set and seeing the crane and all those extras and the parade and the floats… It's like if you were filming what the inside of my head looked like, you'd have one of those circular dollies spinning around me as I looked 360-degrees — just like pure wonder and spinning out of control. That was the movie that immediately made me fall in love with the making of movies. Not just the looking at movies, but the actual making of them."


‘Touch of Evil’ (1958)

"This was the Orson Welles movie that didn't make any money, right? [Laughs] I remember seeing this around the time I was doing Animal House, and it just blew me away. It's considered a classic now, but when I saw it, my first thought was: 'Why have I never heard of this?!' That opening shot, where the camera is tracking along with [Charlton] Heston as they walk along the Mexican border, with the bomb…it's a landmark shot of its type. You see stuff like that a lot now, with those long takes, but back then…revolutionary."


‘Apocalypse Now’ (1979)

"Going to the Ziegfeld here on 54th street, opening day of Apocalypse Now — big, big moment for me. I remember hearing the helicopters come from behind my head and…I didn’t even know what to think. It was like stereophonic sound where they put some speakers in the back of the theater, and it felt like the choppers were coming over me. From the very first moment, you weren't watching it. You were in it.

"And another thing about that movie — this just occurred to me — it was probably the one moment that laid the ground work for this idea that I eventually came to embrace. Mainly, that a career path was not necessarily getting your name to above the title and working to keep it there above all else. You could go and do smaller parts, be part of an ensemble and deliver some cool little thing. And that's what was kind of going on between all those guys, between Marty [Sheen] and Bobby [Duvall] you know, [Laurence] Fishburne and Brando. It’s a group thing. It's a company.

"I was just talking to somebody about this the other day, and he was telling me, Kevin, you really have to see the full director's cut. Somehow, out of the many times I've seen it, I've never seen this longer cut. Apparently it gets even trippier, which, you know…it was pretty trippy as it was [laughs]."


‘The Last Waltz’ (1978)

"Speaking of the Ziegfeld…I got to see a screening of this there when Martin Scorsese and Robbie Robertson got a hold of the original tracks and remixed it — I think it for a reissue of it or an anniversary. Completely mind-blowing. That theater has the best sound system. I'm a music lover so, obviously, I'm a huge fan of the Band. But even if you're not a fan, it's pretty much the best concert movie ever."


‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (2014)

"I love Guardians of the Galaxy…and not just because I'm in it. [Chris Pratt's Star-Lord refers to Bacon several times in the movie, mostly as a mighty hero from "the legend of Footloose."] It's my idea of a perfect pop-culture movie, because it is funny and exciting and really, really well acted, really well written…I don't think that I've talked to anyone that didn't like it. I was just discussing this with someone, how numb I am to CGI effects. I'm sort of over it. So when you can do what this movie does, at that sort of blockbuster level — it's that much more impressive. Totally dig it."


‘Cop Car’ (2015)

"I'm just so happy with how it turned out — a nice little B picture, which is tough to do these days. I read the script, I saw that it could be the equivalent of a real page-turner, and I thought all right, if the director can deliver what I think I'm seeing here, then this could be really wonderful. It was a leap of faith, and Jon did it; honestly, what you saw on the page is what you see up there on the screen. Even the mustache [laughs]. You know how people talk about the way films can get ruined or messed up in that period between the end of shooting and the end of editing? Many people let it slip. He didn't, and it means a lot to me that I still get to be projects like this. This is where I'm at now. It makes it worthwhile."

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