Dressed in custom dark skinny jeans by 3×1, a gray thermal, scuffed Fiorentini + Baker boots, and with his black leather jacket slightly draped over his legs like a rock star security blanket, Kevin Bacon—who was born in Philadelphia but now splits his time between NYC, L.A. and Sharon, CT—commands the room. As I meet up with the actor-musician at one of his local breakfast spots, Machiavelli, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, he is sitting at a booth all the way in the back of the Italian restaurant. Sending a text message, he stands out amongst the murals and heavy red velvet curtains. It’s cliché to say, but true—he has that star quality about him that can’t go unnoticed. Even if you’ve never seen one of his movies (which is pretty much impossible), you know he’s someone important.
As I approach the table, I see on the 57-year-old’s face that it’s unclear to him whether I’m about to interview him or if I’m just another fan who feels comfortable enough to say hi and ask him to pose for a selfie. “You never know,” he later says, after ordering his breakfast of poached eggs and bacon (yes, he chooses bacon over sausage).
Considering his impressive résumé—A Few Good Men, Apollo 13, Mystic River, and X-Men: First Class, to name just a few—he’s clearly been approached frequently over his 37 years in showbiz. He’s now promoting back-to-back movies that are total opposites: The first, Cop Car (out August 7), is an indie thriller executive produced by Bacon and filmed on a shoestring budget; it centers around two young boys who steal an unattended cop car and the corrupt sheriff they stole it from (Bacon).
“I like that the movie gives the audience the benefit of the doubt to figure out who this guy is,” explains Bacon, between sips of French-pressed coffee. “Not based on a big back story, but letting them see clues: He’s living in a house that a family clearly once lived in, but now doesn’t; the piece-of-junk truck he drives; that he’s a sheriff who’s flushing drugs down the toilet.”
Black Mass (out September 18), on the other hand, is a big production with the likes of Johnny Depp and Benedict Cumberbatch that revolves around the mob activities of Whitey Bulger, one of the most violent criminals in the history of South Boston, and the FBI team that eventually takes him down. Bacon plays an amalgamation of the various heads of the FBI field office over three decades, and describes his character, Charles McGuire, as the “moral compass” of the film.
He admits the part was a wake-up call to how he’s viewed in Hollywood these days. “In cop or FBI movies, there’s always the chief, who’s like [puts on a tough guy voice], ‘What the hell are you guys doing out there? If you don’t do your fuckin’ job, I’m going to…’ I thought I’d never be that guy, but the guy he’s yelling at. Then all of a sudden, I was that guy: the old chief. It was an adjustment.”
Bacon filmed both movies—along with supernatural horror flick 6 Miranda Drive—while on hiatus from his now canceled TV drama, The Following. Why take on so much work? “Because even after everything that I’ve done, people super-associate you with that one character, whether it’s an old one they love or whatever you’re currently doing,” says Bacon, taking time to choose his words carefully. “So I think it’s important to remind the world and the industry that you can do something else.” Now that the series, which followed an FBI agent set on putting serial killers behind bars, wrapped after three seasons, Bacon is somewhat relieved even though he loved his character and the cast and crew. “It was time,” he admits, wiping his mouth with his napkin. “I didn’t like the fact that we were limping along [in the ratings].”
While a canceled show might be a major disappointment for an up-and-coming actor, for a seasoned vet like Bacon, it’s all par for the course. “Throughout my career, I’ve seen a lot of people kind of fall off,” says Bacon with a somber look on his face. “Sometimes they fall off because of work, other times because of drugs and alcohol. You have to be able to be in it for the long haul. That’s the closest I’ve come to having any kind of secret to my success.”
He sits up, then continues: “I’ve always worked really hard and never took anything for granted. I never was just trying this out for awhile. If I go into something, I’m in it. It’s not a temporary, frivolous exploration. I’m going to give it my best shot.” He’s talking about his career, but the same could be said about his marriage to Kyra Sedgwick (the power couple are parents to son Travis, 26, and daughter Sosie, 23, and celebrate their 27th year of marriage this month). Bacon says the key to wedded bliss is simple: “We like each other’s company,” he explains. “We enjoy doing things together, sharing our lives, cooking, laughing—and she’s hot.”
Bacon says Kyra and he are “really active, exercise junkies” who try to eat well. And as much as he loves city life, he’s been sneaking away “to the sticks,” aka his Sharon, CT, home, since he bought it in 1983 for a respite from the city. “When Kyra and I are there, the only time we leave the house is to go out to hike.” As proof, he says he knows every square inch of the Appalachian Trail in Sharon and the Macedonia State Park in Kent. And he and Kyra will probably be seeing more of those as they’re now empty-nesters: Sosie is in Silverlake (an outskirt of L.A.) pursuing her dream of acting, while Travis lives in Brooklyn, when he’s not touring the world with his metal band, White Widows Pact.
But don’t expect Bacon to slow down soon. He just wrapped a tour with his brother Michael and their band, The Bacon Brothers (including a June performance at the Ridgefield Playhouse), which they formed 20 years ago. He is currently looking over possible TV projects and contemplating his next movie move. Acting has always been in his DNA, says Bacon. “From the time I was a little kid, I remember walking into a room and wanting people to look at me, respond to me, laugh at me, see me. That’s the essence of being an actor.”
“I’ve played cops, FBI agents, state troopers, Marines—all things I would never be able to do in real life,” adds Bacon. “I’d never make it through boot camp; I would never put myself in front of a speeding bullet. It’s acting.” And while he says some of his contemporaries are considering retirement, there’s no golf in his near future. “I feel as energized about work and life as ever,” says Bacon. “I am restless, and have a vagabond lifestyle, where my suitcases are always packed and I’m ready to move on.” Now the only question for him to answer is: Where to next?