Features: The 20 Greatest Philly Movies: Looking Back with Bacon

Philadelphia’s greatest film actor remembers the movies that inspired him

Kevin Bacon gets a lot of attention for the sheer number of movies he’s been in, but not nearly enough for the quality of his performances. With last year’s The Woodsman, and now a much-buzzed-about role opposite Colin Firth in Where the Truth Lies (opening this month), the 47-year-old Philly native has established himself as one of the best film actors of his generation. We asked the prolific Bacon—whose feature directing debut, Loverboy, starring his wife, Kyra Sedgwick, also gets released this fall, as does a new CD from his band, the Bacon Brothers—to talk about films and Philadelphia.

You grew up in Center City. What do you remember about going to the movies?

I started going with my friends after school, and I remember, depending on the rating of the movie, we would either be trying to pretend that we were under 13 so we could get the discount, or that we were over 17 so we could get in without a parent.

What did you see that you were too young too see?

Midnight Cowboy. Last Tango in Paris. And both of those movies were very important to me. I went to the movies because I was hoping to see some sex and some naked women, but especially Midnight Cowboy inspired me to become an actor.

What movie theaters did you go to?

The Sameric. And eventually, I’m not sure what year it was, there was an Eric on 19th and Chestnut. At the time, they had second runs for a dollar. And that was amazing, because you could always put a dollar together.

Were movies a big deal in your family?

No, they really weren’t. My parents never went to the movies, never took me to the movies. And you know, I didn’t really discover movies, honestly, until I was a teenager. Because before that, I was so into rock ’n’ roll and rock concerts, and I was lucky enough to have a really close friend whose dad was a rock-’n’-roll promoter and owned the Electric Factory.

Were you still in town when Rocky was being shot?

I left in the summer of ’76. I don’t remember it being shot. I do remember, of course, seeing it. It was great to see a movie taking place in Philly. I was a little disappointed that everybody had New York accents, but other than that, I thought it was a great use of the city.

What are some of your favorite Philadelphia movies?

Well, Rocky would definitely be up there.

How about The Philadelphia Story?

Great movie. Brilliant. I love that movie.

Blow Out?

Blow Out I thought was such an interesting and great use of the train station. And you know, I didn’t end up doing it, but [director] Brian De Palma actually offered me a part in that movie—a small part as a sailor who’s getting head in a phone booth in the train station.

Why did you turn it down?

It was some kind of scheduling thing. He only had one line, which was “Slower … oh shit.” So I ended up not doing it. And there’s Mummers in that movie, if I remember correctly. Which is something that’s important—that a Philadelphia movie have Mummers.

How about The Blob?

Oh yeah, it was shot in Phoenixville. My brother actually has a house not too far from Phoenixville. So when I was a kid I spent time there, and that was its claim to fame. It is a classic.

Steve McQueen was about 30 and still playing a teenager.

Well, I know what that’s like.

How did you get involved with The Woodsman?

I was in the Caribbean, walking on the beach, and this guy I know who’s a real estate developer from Philadelphia, Ron Rubin, said that he’d been asked to invest in a movie, and would I take a look at it and tell him if I thought it was a good investment. It had nothing to do with me playing the part. And I read it, and I was just stunned. I contacted Lee Daniels, who’s the producer and who’s a Philadelphian, and a year later we were at Sundance with it.
Lee Daniels’s thing was, we’re gonna make this movie in Philadelphia. And it was great—there were things about it that were very important to me. The movie is kind of about a guy who’s returning to his home. And here I was, walking down streets that I grew up on. And it was helpful for me to be there and to be experiencing those streets again.

What movies of your own are among your favorites?

Let’s see. I kind of make them and kiss them goodbye. But I guess off the top of my head I’d say Diner, I thought that was a good one. And Murder in the First. Stir of Echoes. Certainly The Woodsman. And Mystic River.

Any you’re not too fond of?

Oh yeah, I got a lot of them. But I’m not gonna put them down. I got a lot that I’m not fond of.

What do you look for now when you’re picking roles?

I did The Woodsman and Loverboy, a picture I directed, back to back. And they’re both decidedly independent kinds of films—dark, small. And I think you really need to balance those kinds of things with pictures that are more mainstream. So that’s really what I’m looking for now. Something either comedic or heroic or romantic.

You’ve walked an interesting path between being a character actor and still having star power.

Well, it’s kind of what I always dreamed of. Because I don’t want to just be the hero. It’s not interesting to me as a performer. But at the same time, I like to star in movies, you know? It’s great.