Rarely can it be said that an actor is so recognized and of such prominence that a game can be played by connecting him to just about any other celebrity simply through referencing his resumé. Any film buff has most likely participated in a round of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, and it's likely that if their opponent was an avid cinephile they came out on the losing end of the match. This should come as no surprise, considering Bacon's extensive and diverse body of work.
Born in Philadelphia, PA, in 1958, Bacon received his education at The Circle in the Square (where he became the youngest student to appear in a production) and Manning Street Actor's Theater after leaving home at the age of 18. Two years later, Bacon made his feature debut as the smarmy Chip Diller in director John Landis' beloved frat-house epic Animal House. Following in the next few years with minor roles in such seemingly forgettable films as Hero at Large and Friday the 13th (both 1980), Bacon would re-create his off-Broadway role of a drug-addicted male prostitute in Forty Deuce the same year that he made a memorable appearance as the troubled Timothy Fenwick in Barry Levinson's Diner (1982). Though he had appeared in a few major films and displayed an intriguing range of abilities, it was 1984's Footloose that brought Bacon his breakthrough role. As the big-city boy crusading against the puritanical constraints against dancing imposed by a well-meaning but overbearing fundamentalist minister, Bacon became a teen icon -- an image that, though it propelled him to stardom, would prove difficult to shed. Following Footloose's success with a series of curious failures such as Quicksilver (1986) and White Water Summer (1987), it was on the set of Lemon Sky (also 1987) that Bacon would meet future wife Kyra Sedgwick; the couple exchanged wedding vows the following year. Though he would appear in a few other failed-but-interesting, audience-pleasing thrillers such as Tremors (1989) and Flatliners (1990) in the following years, it was with his role in conspiracy theorist Oliver Stone's JFK (1991) that Bacon found his career revived and began to shed his heartthrob image. Narrowly escaping the Brat Pack trappings of his '80s contemporaries, subsequent roles after JFK may not have all scored direct hits at the box office for Bacon, but audiences were now well aware of his talents and thirsted for more. Bacon would again prove his substantial range in the true story of a brutalized prison inmate opposite Gary Oldman in 1995's Murder in the First. His performance as the disillusioned and broken prisoner, accentuated by his famished and frail skeletal figure, was followed by an equally challenging reality-based role as a member of the troubled Apollo 13 (1995) lunar mission team in director Ron Howard's widely praised film.
Proving that he could play sleaze as successfully as slice-of-life, Bacon took a turn for the worse as the sadistic reform-school guard responsible for the rape of a trio of young boys in Sleepers (1996) and as a cop investigating accusations of rape in director John McNaughton's raunchy sex-thriller Wild Things. Bacon's entertaining turn as a receptive father tangled in a mind-bending murder mystery in Stir of Echoes (1999) gained positive reviews, though the intelligent and subtle shocker withered in the shadow of another similarly themed thriller, The Sixth Sense. Though he wasn't visible for the majority of the film, Bacon fell into psychotic territory as the malicious genius consumed by his discovery of the key to invisibility in Paul Verhoeven's sadistic Hollow Man (2000). After an uncredited supporting role in the independent comedy Novocaine, Bacon once again went for the throat in Trapped; and though audiences were generally entertained by the film, it ultimately fell victim to a quick death at the box office due to poor timing (numerous stories of child abductions had been making headlines at the time Trapped was released). Of course with an actor such as Bacon, it was only a matter of time before he once again tackled a substantial dramatic role, and with the release of Mystic River in 2003 audiences found him doing just that. Adapted from the novel of the same name by author Dennis Lehane and directed by Clint Eastwood, Mystic River provided audiences with a brutal, slow-burning study in the effects of violence and the nature of revenge, withBacon's turn as a sympathetic detective playing pitch perfect opposite a mournful performance by Sean Penn. That same year, Bacon showed up in an uncredited role in the Jane Campion thriller In the Cut before taking the lead in the emotional drama The Woodsman.
Bacon would continue to work on a variety of projects over the coming years, appearing in everything from the tense period thriller Where the Truth Lies to the ensemble rom-com Crazy, Stupid, Love, to the superhero flick X-Men: First Class. Soon however, the actor found himself hungry for a more substantial project, and he found it with the Billy Bob Thornton directed drama Jane Mansfield's Car in 2012, which found him acting alongside heavyweights like Robert Duvall and John Hurt. In 2013, Bacon turned to television, headlining Fox's drama The Following.