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Kevin Bacon: From ECHOES to HOLLOW MAN
Fresh off HOLLOW MAN, actor discusses his overlooked thriller.
By Steve Biodrowski
January 18, 2000
Kevin Bacon has been in films as diverse as FOOTLOOSE and JFK, but there are also a fair number of genre pics in his filmography, including TREMORS, FLATLINERS, the upcoming THE HOLLOW MANand he starred in one of last year's most under-appreciated efforts, STIR OF ECHOES, which will be arriving on videotape and DVD February 1. Unfortunately, the film opened last fall, it was widely dismissed as a low-budget version of the summer blockbuster, THE SIXTH SENSE, even though ECHOES is based on a Richard Matheson novel written three decades ago. In writer-director David Koepp's adaptation, Bacon plays a working class father whose son is visited by the ghost of a murdered girl; the father starts to share his son's visions after being hypnotized at a party, leading to an obsessive search to unearth the source of the haunting.
Ironically, STIR OF ECHOES was finished and ready to go months before the release of its big-budget competition; it was even screened for the press in the spring. (I'm probably one of the few people in the world whose first thought, upon seeing the SIXTH SENSE trailer, was, 'Looks like STIR OF ECHOES.') Does Bacon think his film got a fair shake from critics who saw the film after SIXTH SENSE?
'Look, all's fair in love and movies,' says the actor. 'What I think is that it probably was not a good idea to wait until after THE SIXTH SENSE came out, to release it. We did have a shot at going out earlier, and for whatever reason the studio decided not to. Marketing hindsight is always twenty-twenty, but I think that that was probably a mistake. I don't think that STIR OF ECHOES ever would have done the kind of business that SIXTH SENSE did, but I do think that when it came out, there was so much comparison to it that while people were still into seeing more scary moviesfor instance STIGMATA did really well, came out the same weekend we did and did $12-million or something like thatpeople were still into seeing that, but they didn't want to see SIXTH SENSE again, because there was such a love affair with that movie at that point. If they were going to see SIXTH SENSE again, they were going to see SIXTH SENSE again; they weren't going to see what was perceived as another version of it: THE SEVENTH SENSE. That kind of shit happens all the time. I mean, I get myself all crazy about it, but it's so not my job.'
Fortunately, being overlooked is not a fate likely to befall Bacon's next film, the big-budget science fiction effort THE HOLLOW MAN. The actor finally finished shooting his role on Sunday, January 9, after months of delays (some caused by an injury to co-star Elizabeth Shue) pushed the wrap date back from last fall. Bacon stars as a scientist who achieves invisibility, and is corrupted by the newfound power this affords him. Paul Verhoeven's approach required Bacon to play the role on set, even when the character was invisible. For this purpose, Bacon played much of the role dressed and painted totally in either green or black, which makes it easier for the special effects team to work their digital magic in postproduction.
Says Bacon, 'It's the hardest thing I've ever done, definitely. But I don't think it's even so much from a physical standpoint, because I've done a lot of physical movies, and I know what it's like to get banged around. The hardest part for me is that, for months, I haven't really felt like an actor, so that creatively it's a little bit difficult to go home and say, 'I did a good day's work that day,' when really all I did was like a puppet, basically. I'm a painted puppet that will be replaced. That's what difficult. I love to act; that's what I do, and I enjoy doing it. I enjoy the feeling of 'maybe we work fourteen hours, sixteen hours, but at least I feel like in that moment I really...looked sad,' or whatever! But I haven't really felt that way on this picture for a long, long time. One of the reasons for that is we had the luxury of shooting in sequence, because of the set,' he explains. 'The main part of the film takes place in the lab. The laboratory set is one complete unit; it's not a bunch of individual sets. You can just walk down the halls and go all over, so as the scenes would move we'd just move up the hall and shoot the next scene. We shot totally in sequence for a long time, which is totally cool from an actor's standpoint; from a director's standpoint, it's great, because you know where you at, as opposed to going back and constantly checking. The fact that it's been done in sequence means that once I started to become invisible and especially when I slipped into the deeper kind of 'monster' qualities of the character, the acting has been very little what I would call 'performance.''
Then why have the actor play the invisible scenes, instead of replacing him with a stuntman? The reason has to do with the title: the character isn't always completely invisible; sometimes, his silhouette is outlined by smoke, paint, or water, making him look like a 'Hollow Man.' Explains the actor, 'From the technical standpoint, it's difficult to use a stunt man. The reason is that a digital man was built completely from my specifications. I've had countless cyberscans of my head, of my body, tons of digital video, tons of photos taken standing in front of a graphI even had a graph painted on my bodymeasurements, a whole body cast mold. All this information was then loaded into the computer, and the man that was built was just to my specifications. So for instance when I do something in green or in black, they take the black out; they replace it with the digital man, building from the skeleton up, based on my skeleton. Then, what I'm going to become in the pool sequence is a bubbleBubble Man. Whatever the stunt guy was to do, it doesn't line up quite as well. For instance, if his forearm is a little fatter than mine, there's going to be some 'bleed' on the sides, and it makes it a lot more difficult; it makes the process slower and harder. Plus, Paul kind of feels there's a lot of movement that's specific to me in the performance.'