Combustible Celluloid

Interview with Kevin Bacon

Raw Bacon

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

"It could have been potentially catastrophic," local hunk Benjamin Bratt says during a recent trip into the City. "You've got a real-life married couple coming together to play with some rather explosive material, and it could have gone either way. But they really pulled it off."

Bratt plays a small role in the controversial new film The Woodsman opening Friday in Bay Area theaters. In the film, Kevin Bacon stars as Walter, a child molester released from prison after twelve years and attempting to make a new start in the face of overwhelming prejudice and impossible odds.

Bacon received the script from a potential investor who merely wanted advice. Upon reading it, he saw something in the lead character, and specifically in the movie's most powerful scene, when Walter weakens and follows a young girl into a secluded park.

"I said to myself, 'I don't know if the whole movie's going to work, but I think I've got an idea about how to play that scene,'" Bacon says during a recent trip to San Francisco. "Sometimes you just sort of hear the voice. Specific moments in that scene just felt very clear to me. It was almost as if the movie felt like it would kind of spread out from there."

He later met with producer Lee Daniels, who suggested that Bacon's wife Kyra Sedgwick play the part of Vicki, a co-worker at a Philadelphia lumberyard who becomes friendly with the damaged lead character.

"In some ways it was the hardest acting job I've ever had to do, because I had to pretend that I didn't know my significant other," says Sedgwick, joining her husband of 16 years. "I wanted to make sure you didn't see it in my eyes."

During shooting, Sedgwick and Bacon stayed mostly apart, spending a great deal of time in separate rooms and only coming together to rehearse or shoot. "I think we both needed our own headspace," Sedgwick says.

Without a doubt Bacon's most difficult scene, took place in the park with the 12 year-old actress Hannah Pilkes.

"It's important to note that there was no trickery in terms of what was going on in that scene," Bacon says. "She knew what it was about. And I made it very clear to her that I wasn't that guy, and she wasn't that character, but that we were two actors working together and pretending to be these other people."

Bacon continues. "It was a hard day. I can't say that there was this amazing sense of relief, because I knew that there was just another scene waiting to be done the next day. Thinking, 'God I have to be in this guy's skin.' It's not a pleasant place to be."

"[This film] doesn't ask your sympathy, but it evokes your empathy," Bratt adds. "He's a human being, after all, underneath that sickness. When he comes to the realization that he is sick, we can relate to that."

December, 9 2004

This story also appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

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