Kevin Bacon is happy to be the subject of female sexual fixation in his new Amazon series, I Love Dick, writes Esther McCarthy
SEXUAL politics and obsession are married to delightfully comedic and revealing effect in I Love Dick, the edgy new series about to debut on Amazon.
Set among an arts community in West Texas, the series charts the lustful thoughts and actions of Chris (Kathryn Hahn) who is married to the intellectual Sylvere (Griffin Dunne) but is fixated with the smouldering and upfront Dick (Kevin Bacon) from when they first meet.
Adapted from the cult classic novel by US artist and author Chris Kraus, the new series explores the author’s psycho-sexual obsession with Dick and the sometimes-surprising manner in which it impacts on her marriage to Sylvere, which has grown stale in recent times.
It was an ideal role for top US actor Bacon, who has forged a successful screen career from bringing an edge and sense of tension to the men we think we know. But he embraced the opportunity, thanks to some smart storytelling and writing, to be more than a conduit.
“He will continue to fill that function, to be an object of her desire. Sometimes we see things from her point of view in a very specific way, in a kind of fantasy way. And that’s kind of fun and it’s cool,” he says.
“But I had a conversation with Jill Soloway [creator and producer] early on and said: ‘If that’s all it’s going to be then I don’t think you’re going to want me because I won’t be able to do my thing, you know? There’s probably someone else that’s going to be better at being that. Someone that’s better looking, in better shape, taller or whatever.
‘If we want to see some struggle, humanity, sensitivity, something else, some tenderness that we don’t see in the beginning, then I would love to help tell that story’.”
Bacon brings all of that and more to the series about sexuality and the politics of sex, which is sure to become a talking point. The series embraces the so-called ‘Female Gaze’ and features a women team of writers and directors.
“I think these women wrote both Griffin’s character and Dick’s as very very interesting, complex characters, who feel very decidedly male to me. There’s an episode where Griffin and I sit down and basically get drunk together and have a pretty long talk, about life and about women, and sex and work and art, all these things. It rings very true to me.”
Now aged 58, Bacon has been married to fellow actor Kyra Sedgwick for almost 30 years. The Philadelphia-raised son of a teacher and an architect, he moved to New York while still in his teens and forged a successful theatre career.
Film roles in National Lampoon’s Animal House and Barry Levinson’s fondly received Diner followed, but it was his role in 1984’s smash hit Footloose that turned him into a superstar, and ironically placed him at the beginning of a crossroads in his career.
In the years that followed, Bacon, a committed character actor, was a box-office success but sometimes struggled to find the roles that most inspired him. A supporting stint in Oliver Stone’s JFK in 1991 sparked a hugely productive period, followed by a run that included A Few Good Men, The River Wild, Apollo 13 and Sleepers. Does he regard this as a turning point?
“That’s absolutely correct. When I started out, I was very reluctant to take any kind of advice from anybody in the industry, because I felt like I knew everything that there was to know about the business and acting,” he laughed.
“I would sit in acting classes and pretend I was soaking it all up but really I was thinking to myself: ‘I don’t really need this’. I studied a lot, but I always kind of felt like I knew better than anyone, and when it came to career, my agents would learn pretty quickly that I was going to do it my own way and that I thought I knew everything.
“But after Footloose, it was the first time when I went to an agent and said: ‘I don’t know what to do here, I’ve kind of fu**ed this up. What do I do?’ And she said to me: ‘I knew your work from when you were on the stage in New York in the late seventies and early Eighties and what you did was character parts. You’re a character actor and you need to do that again, and do it in the movies this time’.
“Then I did JFK. But when that movie came out I felt the wind shift, and pretty much right away, things just started rolling in, and they were good, interesting, edgy roles. It made me redefine what it was that I was going for.”
In the decades since, Bacon has remained one of cinema’s most respected and versatile actors, consistently mixing the indie with the mainstream.
He pops up in memorable supporting roles in films like Crazy, Stupid, Love and X-Men: First Class. He takes risks, too, most notably in 2004’s The Woodsman, in which he played a convicted child molester being reintegrated into the community.
The film caused a huge amount of controversy on release. Was he aware that would happen and was he cautioned against taking on the role?
“Yeah, both things were true. Even Lee Daniels, who was one of the producers on the movie, said to me: ‘Man you’re crazy to take this! If I was your agent I’d tell you to undo it’. I would have had to be an idiot not to realise that that was going to be a hot-button topic. What was surprising to me was how many people just couldn’t bring themselves to watch it.
“I’ll give you an example: During the awards season, you send out the DVDs to members of the Academy and the Screen Actors’ Guild. And numerous people that I knew who were either in the SAG or the Academy told me honestly that they just couldn’t push play.
“I hadn’t really anticipated that. I thought for sure that it would be controversial and that it would be difficult. But I’m still glad I made it because I feel like, the thing about sexual abuse, and we’re seeing it now in another kind of scandal in private schools in the (US) East Coast, that’s very reminiscent of what happened in the Catholic Church.
“If we keep sweeping it under the rug and you keep relocating teachers or priests to different parishes or different schools, it’s never going to go away is it? There’s a real cycle there, and I think that The Woodsman at least kind of dealt with it head on.”
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