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Kevin Bacon accepts Santa Barbara Riviera awards

KEVIN BACON takes SBIFF Riviera Award

“I hate my voice, and I’m ugly.

“And I can’t act.”

That’s what Kevin Bacon said about himself when he watched dailies of “Footloose.”

Clearly, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival doesn’t think so.

The actor/director got the Riviera Award Friday night.

Meant for an actor whose career has altered the landscape of American cinema, an artist whose work has enriched society as a whole.

It was presented by director Ivan Reitman, who, as producer, gave him his first film part (“National Lampoon’s Animal House.”)

“Loverboy,” the movie Bacon directed and acted in, starring wife Kyra Sedgwick, made its SBIFF debut to a sold-out crowd Saturday. An extra screening had to be arranged.

SBIFF Artistic Director Roger Durling called him “fearless” and “versatile,” with cross-generational appeal.

And he has a game in his name and a rock-n-roll band with his brother.

He’s also funny and personable.

In conversation with Leonard Maltin about a selection of the 50 films he’s been in, he apologized for his socks (light blue against an all-black outfit, including shirt and tie.)

“It was between socks that were black and really smelled horrible or socks that really didn’t work but we’d all be happier.”

He talked about the challenges of directing himself (“Loverboy”) and of acting opposite his wife (“The Woodsman.”) And how you can tell which film actors have a theatre background.

(Off-Broadway let him play Scottish 1950s, Glaswegian tough guys, junkies, male hookers, well-bred posh characters, southerners...)

And he also talked about the trust required between actors who, like in “a sped-up version of a love affair, have to cram everything in in a quick amount of time:”

“’Here’s Jim. He’s your father. Action!’

“I’ve met girls and 10 minutes later I’ve been in bed with them... And that’s happened in the movies, too!” Ha, ha.

Anecdotes about his first film, “National Lampoon’s Animal House:”

He had to fly out to Oregon, and “I haven’t flown that much, and never first class. I couldn’t believe that the booze was free. I took great advantage of it. (Amaretto, ‘cause I thought it was classy, like Courvoisier.) I was showing the script, hoping someone would think I’m powerful. At the end, I was asking stewardesses to my hotel.”

For the classic “Diner” (1983), Barry Levinson fostered camaraderie by sending the ensemble cast to Baltimore weeks early where they hung out in bars, strip clubs, the gym, breakfast joints.

When the togetherness started to dissolve a bit and the guys got “testy,” a “camaraderie camper” was put on set to keep them hanging out, Bacon said. Like anyone who’s seen the film, he said it worked.

“Footloose” in 1984 was a break-out role that got Bacon a lot of attention he wasn’t used to. “I got the opposite of what I dreamed of—to be a serious actor.” he said. “It was like I was a joke. I wasn’t, but it felt like that.”

He said he was very resistant to listening to guidance. “I had the young man’s curse. I knew everything about everything.”

Oliver Stone’s “JFK” was a sharp left turn, offering a strong character part -- “a gay, fascist sociopath,” Perry Russo, New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison’s witness in the John F. Kennedy conspiracy investigation.

“It gave me a little bit of identity, like what I was trying to do in the 70s in theater.”

He had a bad first day of rehearsal. Oliver Stone made him incredibly angry when he didn’t like Bacon’s reading and asked Kevin Costner to read in Russo’s voice.

Maybe Stone made him mad on purpose, Bacon said. In any case, he said he used the anger in his portrayal.

So the movie came out, and the phone started to ring.

Along came “A Few Good Men, “The River Wild,” “Apollo 13,” “Sleepers,” “Losing Chase” (director), “Wild Things,” “Hollow Man,” etc., etc.

Bacon said he doesn’t strategize his choices. He goes from gig to gig to gig with only one caveat: “not the same thing I just did.”

For instance, right now, since the release of “The Woodsman,” he’s not “looking for the next pedophile movie.”

About directors, he said there was a time when he thought a director was an acting teacher. But the times this has happened to him
are few. “The first vote of confidence they give you is choosing you for the part.”

The only thing Clint Eastwood (“Mystic River”) said was, “‘Talk faster.’”
“Mystic River” speaks for itself with six Academy Award nominations last year.
Kevin Bacon was a huge part of that success.
His voice is perfect. He is beautiful. And yes, Kevin Bacon can act.

by Marison Mull
Photos courtesy of Santa Barbara International Film Festival/Gary Lambert

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