Pulling double duty as actor and director in Loverboy
Kevin Bacon's feature directorial debut is a real family affair. Loverboy stars wife Kyra Sedgwick and their children, Sosie and Travis. The Bacon's have a rule about the kids performing, but decided to break it when the parts fit so well. Kevin and Kyra also worked together on their last film, The Woodsman. Both films are thematically very dark and put their younger characters into dangerous situations. Kevin comments on their recent choices and why it's more interesting to explore the dark side of human nature.
What was it like directing your wife and children?
Kevin Bacon: She's very easy to direct because she's so good. She comes so prepared. Essentially I just turn on the camera and let he do her thing. Obviously we have a bit of a shorthand from being married for so long. Directing the kids, it was a little bit different. It's weird to have your kids go to a darker, emotional place. It's something we vowed we would never do. They never showed any interest in it anyway. This is just a situation where for the part that Sosie [Bacon] played was kind of a no brainer. I put on my director's hat. The director overruled the father.
How comfortable do you feel wearing the director's hat?
Kevin Bacon: I don't think comfortable is a feeling you ever have as a director. I think fear, frustration, anxiety, overwhelmed, that's what comes to mind. I certainly would like to do it again sometime. It's a huge commitment both time wise and energy wise. It's got to be a story you really want to tell. I'm not one of these people who's dreamed of directing and looked at acting as a way to get behind the camera. It's something of a natural extension of being an actor and just finding a story I found interesting.
How did your acting background influence your directing?
Kevin Bacon: You learn a lot as an actor. I've spent most of my life, thirty years on movie sets. You learn as much from the good experiences with directors as the bad experiences. You know what qualities you want to bring and the ones you don't. You see what a day is, you know about call sheets, you know about lenses, and light, and sound, all these things, because you're so directly affected as an actor. There's a lot of things that aren't mysteries when you step into the director's chair. There was something that was new to me, and I found fascinating, was editing. I've never edited my own movies as an actor. I've certainly been on a set, had influence, and worked with people who were collaborative. I know how a scene is structured, but I'd never been in the editing room, except in The Woodsman to a certain extent.
How did you learn to edit?
Kevin Bacon: I walked in, said to the guys, "I don't know what the hell I'm doing here and where do we start." Okay, we'll start with this first scene. Here's the one you shot, here are the rough cuts. There's a bazillion combinations and possibilities that you can shape in the editing room. It's fun.
After learning the editing process, did you better understand why your scenes were cut as an actor in previous films?
Kevin Bacon: Yes, I definitely see that there are times when things are as good as they are, but they have to go. The only thing that's hard is that I know there were plenty of takes that I've done that were better than the ones in the movie. That's something that's kind of frustrating when you see that people don't go back and make a concerted effort to find the best possible moments from your actors. Sometimes people will err on the side of a shot that's more graceful, for me that's not the thing to focus on, certainly not for a movie like Loverboy. You have to keep going back to the performances.
You're shooting a film with your family and best friends. Did you ever have to take charge and put your foot down as the director?
Kevin Bacon: No, I look at it as a collaborative thing. I think there's a nice balance you have to find between letting people know there is a leader, but at the same time you listen, and be open, collaborate. I have this story I want to tell, whether it's a hundred million dollar film or a million dollar film. It's still a behemoth of stuff that has to get done. It's so complex. There are all these jobs that each person does. Each person is so good at that job; there is a complete focus. The prop man, he has thought a thousand times about how big the bottle of water should be. As a director, you can give it some thought, you can answer some questions, but that can't be your entire focus. When it comes to acting, I feel exactly the same way. Nobody knows as much about a character as the actor who's playing it. Because that's all they've been thinking about. Rarely can I tell a good actor something that he doesn't know about his character. I feel my job as a director is to create an environment where they come in ready to play.
At what point did you decide to play your character and act in the film?
Kevin Bacon: I didn't decide in the beginning, but I was fascinated by the parents' story. I felt like I'd never seen that in a movie, where the exclusivity of love between the parents was exclusional of the child. Usually you see a child suffering because the parents aren't getting along, or there is a divorce. To see that was something new, I knew that I wanted that to be a pretty important part of the movie. I didn't want to play any of the guys opposite Kyra because we'd run the risk of stunt casting and it would take us out of the movie. But at the same time, I knew when we were setting this up, even at the budget level we are at, our financier would love to have some names in it. Even with Kyra and me, they were still asking who could we get to be in the movie. I decided to play that part because it would kick things into gear to get the ball rolling, from a financial standpoint. Plus I thought it would be a fun part.
Who's the antagonist in this story? Is Emily (Kyra Sedgwick) the bad guy? Or are her parents to blame?
Kevin Bacon: Both as a director and an actor, I'm much more into gray than I am black and white. I think the black and white has its place in certain kinds of movies. I am the first person to cheer when the bad guy gets it. I've made movies and played those parts, good and bad, that really fit into that mold. With a film like this, the lead character is a perfect example. She is on her way to committing this heinous crime. Along the way, I wanted you to see the magical side of her, the funny side, the sexy side, the romantic side. She is in her own way a victim; a victim of her crumbling psyche and the pain she suffered as a child. Her parents are not the baddies. It's a lot more like life to me.
How close is the film to the book?
Kevin Bacon: It's very close to the book, but there are some differences. When I go back into the 70's, both times, I heightened that reality in the way that memory might. If I think about my life in the 70's, I hear music; I have a kind of glossed-over image of what it really was. That's more of a stylistic thing that I brought and isn't in the book. The main way it differs is that they [the parents] both live in the end of the book. It left too many questions up in the air. That's not something I wanted to leave an audience with. So I basically had them die, and constructed this idea that we see the kid later on and he's okay. There is a hopeful quality to it.
Production wrapped on this film two years ago. Why was it so hard to find distribution?
Kevin Bacon: It's tough out there. We had a hard time getting distribution for The Woodsman. We'd be out there, going from town to town, going from festival to festival, trying to get someone to put it out. In all markets, including mainstream and independents, there's always a question of commercial viability and whether someone sees it as something to make their money back. That's the bottom line. It was a long road, but worth it. I feel like on the few screens its on, people will have an opportunity to see it in the theater.
Will it find an audience in a summer with X3 and Superman?
Kevin Bacon: You can crunch all those numbers, and god knows the bean counters do it every day. They say this star means this much in this audience. They say we have a built-in audience because of the amount of books. Sometimes they're right; sometimes they're not right, as we've seen this summer. I don't know, I just make them and put it out there. If nobody sees it, it meant something to me. If a few people see it, that's great too.
Your last few choices have been fairly risqué, especially concerning the portrayal of children?
Kevin Bacon: Somebody else asked me about that, the thematic nature of doing movies where bad things happen to kids. That seems to always be coming up. I have to admit that I'm doing a movie where my son is murdered and I go on a killing spree. Honestly, it's not like I set out to do movies that push the limit sexually or movies that involve tragedy for children. The only thing I can guess is that I know when it comes to filmmaking, acting, or song writing for that matter, there is something therapeutic about it to me. I live a very normal sort of life, downright dull, my private life. I think that as a creative person, time and time again, we put our darkest fears, our most extreme thoughts, in our work. If I was a painter, I don't think people would question that as much, if the work is disturbing. Movies are sort of different. We tend to look at someone's work and relate it directly to who they are. He's a funny guy, or he's a romantic guy, to me it's just painting it the way I see it.
But you're not labeled or stereotyped like other actors...
Kevin Bacon: That's something I fought for a long time. The one thing I was really committed to as an actor was not to be put into one kind of category. Although, in terms of the genre of the pictures, a lot of them are pretty serious. I would be happy to explode that a little bit and do something more romantic or comedic, fantasy. Sometimes I look at it, read it, and see there's not enough there to really sink my teeth into. If I'm going to spend four months of my life, I don't want to just be there. A lot of times, the scripts that have the dark material are just deeper.
Are we going to see you do more comedy? You did a lot of great comedies early in your career.
Kevin Bacon: I'd really like to do some comedy. First off, they're hard to do and it's hard to find a really good one. I read one recently that just killed me, but I think I'm too old unfortunately. But there's also the "Catch 22" of people not seeing you in comedy now, so I don't get the comedies. I have to find that one gets me back in the door. I'd love to do something funny.
Anything new with your band?
Kevin Bacon: We put a new record out about four months ago. We'll tour in the summer.
What's the album name?
Kevin Bacon: "White Knuckles"
Any thought about making a movie about music?
Kevin Bacon: I have toyed around with it. The thing I don't want to do is cheapen either one just so I can combine the two. That doesn't make any sense to me. But there are elements of music that has interested me. I was talking to some writers recently about an idea I had surrounding a tour manager. I think that's a really interesting gig. We'll see.
What's the name of that movie you're doing now?
Kevin Bacon: "Death Sentence"