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Footloose? Not Quite

NEWSDAY

Kevin Bacon fastens his seat belt. This is hardly an unusual habit for a married father of two, but Bacon, who made his name as a rebel teen in “Footloose,” has a little maverick thing going on.

A vague air of menace. Coiled tension. Cute but cold: the anti-Hugh Grant. Maybe it’s the clothes: black boots, blue jeans, black shirt. He doesn’t own a golf shirt. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s so skinny, he barely makes a dent in the limo upholstery: 5-foot-11, 155 pounds.

Whatever it is, it’s appealing. At 41, Bacon still reminds you of the guy you had a crush on in high school. The one your parents said was no good.

Bacon can’t explain the fact that girls scream at him occasionally. “I think sometimes women scream at everything.”

But he’s an actor. He can take his mystique and use it.

“Yeah, I could have just stayed here last night, closed the place down,” he says, now sitting in an orange upholstered chair in the freaky gothic interior of SoHo’s Spy Bar, where the limo brought him a few minutes ago. “I was here until 4, 5 a.m. Drinking, picking up chicks, free-basing. . . .”

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Bacon is just messing with us. He spent much of the past night watching videos at home on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, preparing for a round of publicity chores. At Spy Bar, he’s introducing VH1’s “Top 10,” playing his guitar and doing interviews, all with an eye to promoting his new movie, the supernatural thriller “Stir of Echoes,” which opened last week, and his upcoming CD, “Getting There.” (In its opening weekend, “‘Stir of Echoes,” finished No. 3 at the box office, taking in $5.8 million.)

Bacon the Multimedia Artist

So what looks like a bad boy in a downtown club is actually a middle-aged multimedia artist. Bacon acts: “Apollo 13,’ “The River Wild,” “Diner” and “A Few Good Men,” to name a few of his two dozen or so movies. He directs: “Losing Chase,” which aired on Showtime and netted two Golden Globe nominations in 1996. He sings: with his brother Michael in their family group, the Bacon Brothers.

And he does publicity--politely, if not exuberantly. “It’s not the way I’d choose to spend a day,” he says.

Still, he’s charming--to the VH1 gals who are sitting around the Spy Bar in their black dresses, making sure the room looks like something from “The Addams Family,” to the crew, to the assorted hangers-on who watch him wolf down chicken wraps and a few radishes (he likes spicy vegetables) from the catered spread.

Coiled menace? Don’t think so. Family man is more like it. Kevin and Michael sing a song from the new CD. It’s a tribute to Bacon’s marriage to actress Kyra Sedgwick, written during their 10th-anniversary trip to Mexico when they ran into a hurricane.

“So we spent pretty much the whole time inside, which is good for two things, one of which is writing songs,” he says.

Bacon loves to talk about his life as a “homebody,” eating supper every night with Kyra and their two children.

So why does he still project that “bad boy” persona?

“Everybody has demons under the surface, and as an actor you have to keep them bubbling. You only have so many compartments in your life, in your soul, that you can stuff things in.” He laughs.

“Anyway,” he says, “that’s the theory of the day.”

Trademark Character in ‘Stir of Echoes’

In reality, Bacon is a serious student of his craft. “Part of acting is to lose yourself in a moment, to let the chaos or the muse come and just enter and happen organically,” he says. “But another part of acting is technique. . . . It’s not just me up there living and the camera happens to be on. I don’t have to have intense psychotic episodes to play them.”

He has a few psychotic episodes in “Stir of Echoes,” in which he plays a character increasingly becoming a Bacon trademark: the scruffy but good-hearted blue-collar Kevin. He’s a husband and father who, after being hypnotized by his sister-in-law (Illeana Douglas), finds all the doors in his mind have opened to, well, everything. Teeth and nails are pulled, guns are fired and there’s a ghost sighting that may cause you to jump out of your seat, if not your skin. (The film, written and directed by well-known screenwriter David Koepp, received mostly positive reviews.)

As Bacon’s character deteriorates, he becomes progressively sweatier and scarier, until he stabilizes about halfway through the movie. It’s a testament to Bacon’s intensity that he can make this character credible, and to his physical gifts that he makes him so real. Bacon seems like the kind of actor who would change his eye color if a part called for it.

He cannot, however, control his hair. “This is a disaster,” he says, ruffling an auburn mop with dark roots, a look he’s sporting for his new film. “This is their hair, not mine.” He’s in the middle of filming “Hollow Man,” another sci-fi thriller, this one with Elisabeth Shue. But Shue tore her Achilles tendon a few weeks ago, stopping production and freeing up Bacon.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to do all this fun publicity if Elisabeth hadn’t done that.”

This brings us to “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” the cult computer game that links everybody in show biz to Bacon in six steps or fewer.

“Six Degrees” is a testament to Bacon’s busy career and his longevity in the business. The game is something he’s made his peace with. “It grew on me like a fungus,” he jokes.

Still, Bacon knows not to mess with a good thing.

“A lot of people have a misconception. They come up to me on the street and say, “I’m one degree now, right?’ And I just say, ‘Sure.’ ”


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