Kevin Bacon spent his ‘Animal House’ paycheck in a week and went back to waiting tables

Kevin Bacon spent his ‘Animal House’ paycheck in a week and went back to waiting tables
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Kevin Bacon Role Play interview.

Kevin Bacon was a rising 24-year-old actor when he decided to go back to high school.

Not for real, but for a part. To prepare for what would become his breakout role as new-kid high schooler Ren McCormack in the 1984 movie musical “Footloose,” Bacon went undercover as a transfer student at Payson High School in Payson, Utah.

He immediately felt out of place — not because he was actually an actor nearly a decade older than his fellow students, but simply because small-town high schoolers don’t like being friendly to the new kid.

And they really just thought he was the new kid. “There was a small part of me that thought maybe I would be recognized,” Bacon tells Business Insider, explaining that he’d had a few key roles under his belt in movies like “Animal House” and “Diner” by that point. “But there was nothing. I mean, nobody recognized me.”

Kevin Bacon in "Footloose."
Bacon broke through with his lead role in “Footloose.”

More than four decades later, it would be extremely difficult to say the same. Bacon has spent the ensuing years building a filmography so long and varied that counting how many degrees an actor is from Kevin Bacon has literally become its own parlour game.

And Bacon, 66, isn’t slowing down anytime soon. This summer, he appears in two buzzy films: He’s the villain opposite Eddie Murphy’s Axel Foley in Netflix’s long-awaited “Beverly Hills Cop” sequel, and the deliciously sleazy PI John Labat, who’s hot on the trail of Mia Goth’s fame-hungry former porn star in A24’s “MaXXXine,” the final chapter of Ti West’s acclaimed horror trilogy.

It might seem like Bacon has done just about everything, but he’s still hungry for more experiences.

“Listen, there’s only so many movies you can do in a lifetime,” he says. When filming wraps, he has a mantra: “I don’t say goodbye, I just say see you down the road and hope that our paths cross again.”

Thankfully, everyone is usually just a few degrees away.

For the latest interview in Business Insider’s “Role Play” series, Bacon reflects on waiting tables after being in “Animal House,” flubbing a meeting with the Coen brothers, and how he feels having children in the industry.

On signing photos of his dead characters and spending his ‘Animal House’ paycheck in a week

Kevin Bacon with a bloodied face in Maxxxine
Bacon got bloody in “MaXXXine.”

Your death scene in “MaXXXine” is iconic. But decades before that, you had another iconic horror movie death in one of your earliest roles in “Friday the 13th.” Which death scene do you prefer being remembered for: the arrow through the throat in the original “Friday the 13th,” or being crushed by the car in “MaXXXine”?

I’m ready to go with crushed by the car, just because arrow through the throat has been around for so many years.

When people meet me on the street or in an airport or something with photographs that they want signed, the number one photograph that I sign is still me with an arrow through my throat. Which is always a little bit disturbing because I think to myself, do you have a picture of me alive? I’d be happy to sign that too!

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What was worse for you, filming the arrow to the throat, or the paddling scene in “Animal House”?

I’d say the arrow through the throat was probably worse. I will say that I remember being there in my underwear being shown this paddle [on “Animal House”], and the prop guy said to me, “So, just so you see, this is made out of balsa wood. See, this is not going to hurt at all.”

Well, it doesn’t hurt if you get smacked once, but for some reason, John Landis just wanted to keep hitting me. I don’t know if he wanted more of a reaction or whatever. So Mark [Metcalf] just kept doing it. “Thank you, sir. May I have another?”

But it really wasn’t that bad.

kevin bacon animal house
Bacon’s first film was “National Lampoon’s Animal House.”

Is it true that you spent your “Animal House” paycheck in a week?

Absolutely true. Yeah. I mean, my “Animal House” paycheck would’ve been scale, whatever was scale for Screen Actors Guild back then, and it wasn’t much. I mean, it was more than I had ever seen, but I wasn’t — how can I put this? — good holding onto money. I didn’t really have the saving gene, so it went quick.

I read that you ended up having to go back to work at the restaurant where you were before getting cast in that movie, is that right?

I did, yeah. I was back waiting tables probably a month after I got back from doing “Animal House,” and then I went back to acting school for a little bit.

That was an interesting moment because I was supposed to finish up a two-year workshop and there was something about going back that felt like I was going backwards. And I went to an acting school that was really not very supportive. It was a good school, but it wasn’t very supportive of a professional career. And I knew that I wanted to make a living.

Yes, I put a lot of stuff on a pedestal with my work and taking it seriously and the process and the method and all those kinds of things, but by necessity, I wanted to make some money, and I felt like staying in school wasn’t going to work for me. So I continued to wait tables and started looking for an agent because I didn’t have an agent when I did “Animal House.”

On the rumor that he turned down Patrick Swayze’s role in ‘Ghost’ and what he learned from Jack Nicholson

There are some rumors that you turned down Patrick Swayze’s role in “Ghost,” but you’re shaking your head. Is that true?

No, I wish. I don’t think I would’ve turned it down. I mean, I have no memory of that. And by the way, the other piece of that is “Ghost” without Patrick Swayze — I don’t know. It could have gone nowhere.

Are there any roles that you really wanted and then narrowly missed out on yourself?

There are. And there still are. I mean, that never ends. Being an actor is a lifetime of rejection. It’s a lifetime of getting just close.

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I think the only one that pops into my head is “Raising Arizona.” And part of the reason is because I love the Coen brothers so much. They went on to make just so many incredible movies, and I had a meeting with them and completely fucked it up. So that’s the one that resonates with me.

Kevin Bacon and Tom Cruise in "A Few Good Men"
Bacon was part of an all-star ensemble in “A Few Good Men.”

You were part of this incredible ensemble of megastars in “A Few Good Men.” What was it like being in the room for Jack Nicholson’s “You can’t handle the truth” line? Did you have any sense while he was doing that it would become this iconic movie history moment?

We all did. You could see it. You could see that it was a swish. But it was also, to me, a great lesson and a great use of movie stardom. If you think about that scene, you had to shoot a wide shot, then you had to get a little closer, then you had to get a little closer, then you had to get a little closer, and that’s what you do when you’re making movies. And he had to do the speech again and again and again and again each time.

And then the camera had to turn around. And he didn’t have to, but Jack did the speech for Tom [Cruise] and to me and the jury and the whole thing. And he just kept doing it and just kept doing it and doing it again and again and again. Once he was off camera [in the scene], he was loosening up his Marines uniform — because those uniforms are just awful, I mean, they’re just so uncomfortable. And his hair was kind of messed up and he was a little bit disheveled, but he just kept doing that speech for us to react to.

When you have somebody who has that kind of stardom — keep in mind at the time, he was a bigger star than Tom — it was really inspirational.

I was super impressed and also super appreciative, and it gave me a good work ethic lesson. Because he could have done it a few times, and then once he was off camera, got in the car and driven away and had somebody else read the lines.

Is there any costar you’ve worked with before that you’re dying to work with again and haven’t yet?

Oh, wow. Well, of course, I’d like to do something with Meryl [Streep] again. She’s just one of my acting heroes.

There’s a lot of them, man. I was thinking the other day about the group that we had on “Mystic River,” which was Tim [Robbins] and Sean [Penn] and Laurence Fishburne, and we had so much fun making that, like fun off-screen, but also just fun as actors and being there with Clint [Eastwood]. I think that all of us, when we finished that movie, were hoping to bottle that group and move it to another situation, including with Eastwood at the helm.

On his scrapped kiss with Matt Dillon in ‘Wild Things’ and his thoughts on superhero movies

Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw and actress Zoe Kravitz as Angel Salvadore in a scene from 'X-Men: First Class'
Bacon made a foray into superhero movies with his “X-Men: First Class” role.

Is it true there would’ve been a sex scene between your character and Matt Dillon’s in “Wild Things” if Matt hadn’t nixed the idea?

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I don’t know if it had to do with Matt nixing the idea. I heard that story, but I never heard that it was Matt, so I can’t confirm that. My memory of it was that it wasn’t even a sex scene. It was just that the shower door would open, and then he would climb into the shower or something like that, and it would be sort of implied.

But listen, it’s a long time ago and my memory is sketchy. I thought it was a cool idea because the movie is all based on these outlandish surprises and twists. It fits right in. But yeah, it didn’t happen. I was down for it. I do remember thinking it was a cool idea.

You’ve acted in basically every genre, from erotic thrillers like “Wild Things” to superhero movies like “X-Men: First Class.” Would you ever do another superhero movie, or is that not your jam?

Yeah, I mean, I would, of course. I wouldn’t go in just to say, “Oh, I get to be part of the whatever universe.” That’s not a thing for me.

But if it’s a cool part and the movie is in that genre, of course. I don’t limit it myself, like, “Oh no, I don’t do romantic comedy.” It’s really about the roles and about the filmmakers and about the scripts and all the other stuff. I don’t pick it according to genre.

Sosie Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Kevin Bacon and Travis Bacon at the premiere of "MaXXXine" held at TCL Chinese Theatre on June 24, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.
Kevin Bacon’s wife, Kyra Sedgwick, and their kids, Sosie and Travis Bacon, accompanied him to the premiere of “MaXXXine.”

Your daughter, Sosie Bacon, has also followed in you and your wife Kyra Sedgwick’s footsteps in becoming an actor — she was incredible in “Smile” a few years ago. Given your own long and storied career, is there anything you wish that you had done differently that you advised her on while she was embarking on hers?

When she decided to be an actor — well, we didn’t think she was going to do that. I can’t think of anything specifically, but it was like suddenly, my experience and Kyra’s experience in this business that we’ve been in for so long became a value, and for both of my kids, because my son, who’s a musician, is also starting to make films.

Neither one of them were kids that came to us and asked for advice. So it’s cool now to be able to share some experience or some knowledge about the ins and outs of the industry.

Not just the technique of acting, because that’s something that you really have to learn along with how to learn lines and hit marks and do accents and cry on cue or the other stuff. You also have to learn what happens when you don’t like your agent, or [gestures to screen] how you handle a press junket.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

“MaXXXine” is now in theaters.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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