The veteran actor is honored with SIFF’s Career Achievement in Acting Award.
It’s an interesting thing, these tributes, Kevin Bacon was saying.
“To this day, you never feel like, ‘I’ve made it. Now I’m good. Now I’m solid. I can sit back and breathe a sigh of relief.’
“That’s not what the life of an actor is,” he said. “We are freelance and also filled with a lot of self-doubt.”
An Evening with Kevin Bacon
8 p.m. Wednesday, May 27, at SIFF Egyptian Cinema, 805 E. Pine St., Seattle; $125.
SIFF is also showing a host of other Kevin Bacon films. For more information and tickets, visit siff.net.
The Philadelphia-born actor, who has been active in film since his 1978 debut in “Animal House,” is on the phone from his home in Los Angeles, talking about his May 27 appearance in Seattle, where he will receive the Seattle International Film Festival’s (SIFF) Career Achievement in Acting Award.
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The night before, SIFF will screen his signature, feel-good film from 1984, “Footloose,” as well as 1982’s ensemble piece “Diner.”
The May 27 event will include an onstage Q&A with Bacon and a screening of his new movie, “Cop Car,” in which he stars as a corrupt sheriff whose cruiser is commandeered by two boys who find it abandoned in the woods.
The night will force Bacon, now 56, to look back — something he rarely does.
“It’s like I don’t have a rearview mirror in my car,” he said. “I’m just headed down the road. But it’s not the worst thing to stop every once in a while and say, ‘You’ve done some stuff, you’ve made some films that affected people.’ It’s nice.
“But I wouldn’t want to do that all the time because I am focused on what’s left and what’s in the future. I like to think that my best is in front of me. I’m not tired, I have a tremendous amount of energy, and I’m really excited about what could be happening down the road.”
Bacon’s gift is in his ability to be a dramatic shape-shifter. With the slightest turn, his long Irish face can go from comedic to mischievous to malevolent to competent to romantic, all the while maintaining a certain kinetic energy.
But what doesn’t change is his command of the screen.
It has served him well, most notably in Oliver Stone’s star-packed, 1991 film, “JFK,” in which he played Willie O’ Keefe, an animated gay hustler who had information on Lee Harvey Oswald. He was only on the screen for a few minutes, but he stood out from heavyweights like Jack Lemmon, Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones and Joe Pesci.
Bacon acted in high school, and performed in a summer arts program on the advice of his guidance counselors.
At 17, he moved to New York, where he waited tables and went on auditions. He got screen time in 1978’s “Animal House,” playing a young pledge, but then failed to launch.
He was next up for Barry Levinson’s 1982 period piece “Diner,” and told to pick two characters he wanted to play. He picked the main character of Boogie (a role that would go to Mickey Rourke) “because he was cool,” and Billy (which went to Tim Daly), “because he was the one that got the girls.”
On the day of his audition, Bacon was fighting a 103-degree fever. Levinson told him to read for Fenwick, a part he hadn’t even considered, “Because he had less lines and that was back in the days when I judged how good a part was based on the number of lines I had.”
He won the part — despite being sick and having less dialogue. The character had a depth Bacon hadn’t considered.
“Serendipitously, Fenwick is a low-level drunk for the entire movie,” he said. “That’s who he is. He’s a drunk. When you start to realize it, there’s something tragic about that. But it worked. And I learned how to play him from that.”
His first starring role, “Footloose,” came two years later, in 1984. To celebrate its 25th anniversary a few years back, producers released a commemorative DVD that included Bacon’s screen test.
“I looked at it, and it gave me real insight and memory into who that kid was, and the depths of the hunger that was there,” Bacon recalled. “The hunger to get that part, to make it. And the confidence and cockiness and know-it-all nature.
“What I have learned is that the more I have worked, the more I know how much I have to learn.”
When he was younger, Bacon said, he thought he knew a lot. Now that he’s older, he feels like he has a long way to go.
“Learning is fun and working is fun,” he said. “I love being an actor. With all the things that you hear about how hard it is, the emotionally difficult and the physically difficult … everything I do is to have that time between ‘action’ and ‘cut,’ to stand in front of a camera or on a stage, to say the words and walk into another person’s shoes.
“I love that now, as much or more than I did from the first day I tried to do it.”
He has good memories of Seattle. He has been here with his band, The Bacon Brothers. His sister, Kira, has a house on Vashon Island. His son, Travis (now 25), graduated from The Evergreen State College in Olympia in 2011.
He also spent time in the city when his wife, Kyra Sedgwick, was filming “Singles” with director Cameron Crowe.
They were new parents then and living in an apartment downtown.
“I was Mr. Momming it,” Bacon said, remembering hanging out at Seattle Center and the Pike Place Market and stopping at coffee carts.
“People were making coffee and espresso right on the street,” he remembered. “It was kind of the birth of a revolution, while Cameron Crowe” — the director of “Singles” — “was part of the birth of a whole new music scene.”
To have been a working actor then, and to still be one today, is not something Bacon takes for granted. His endurance — not only in winning parts, but after losing much of his fortune to the corrupt hands of Bernie Madoff — is never too far from his mind.
“I have seen a lot of good people come and go just because of the winds of the industry,” he said. “But also not being able to make it. And losing friends and colleagues to all kinds of issues. Just fading away and dying.
“So to be still standing after how many years, professionally? I feel lucky.”
A previous version of this story misstated the release year of “Animal House.” It has been updated.