The Game of ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon’
We movie addicts are our own special breed. And as different groups have different games that spring from their interests, such as “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock”, “World of Warcraft” or others, we movie buffs have our own games. We’re awesome at those actor or movie answers on crosswords. We own you in Scene It.
And, of course, then there’s Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
I was first introduced to the concept of the game by one of my high school English teachers (who was also a massive film geek like me). He was telling me how over the weekend, one of his buddies had stumped him with a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon problem.
“What’s Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon?” I remember asking.
He was shocked. “You’re a movie fan and you don’t know what Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is?” He then proceeded to explain how it worked, and before long, we were giving each other challenges to complete.
For those not in the know, let me explain. It comes from the basic idea what any two people in the world can be connected in six steps or less. Because Kevin Bacon is one of those actors who seems to have been in more films than you realize (R.I.P.D. anyone?) and has a wide breadth of past co-stars to call from, then you can connect anyone in Hollywood to him in six steps or less. My teacher and I even managed to get from Charlie Chaplin to Kevin Bacon in five (although with a few more releases in the last ten years, it’s now more like two steps).
Let’s do one for fun. With The Winter Soldier coming out, Chris Evans would be a fun one to do. Chris Evans was in a film called Street Kings with Jay Mohr. Jay Mohr was in Picture Perfect with Kevin Bacon. Two steps.
Let’s do another one. Morgan Freeman. Morgan Freeman was in Invictus with Matt Damon, Matt Damon was in Oceans Eleven with Brad Pitt, Brad Pitt was in Mr. and Mrs. Smith with Angelina Jolie. She was in The Bone Collector with Denzel Washington. Denzel was in Safe House with Ryan Reynolds, and Ryan was in R.I.P.D. with Kevin Bacon. A full six steps.
Or, like the saying goes, “There’s an app for that”. According to one of the many Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon apps, Morgan Freeman was in Evan Almighty with Kimberly Evan, who was in R.I.P.D. with Kevin Bacon. That’s only two. (I don’t know my minor actors well enough to even try that).
The key is to know the core movies of Kevin Bacon’s career. There are the ones where he played with other actors who are also in everything (Robert Duvall comes to mind), and there are the movies where the cast is massive (JFK is a great movie to have in your back pocket; it has Jack Lemmon, Gary Oldman, Kevin Costner, Sissy Spacek, Joe Pesci, Tommy Lee Jones, John Candy and more). Same thing with a flick like Mystic River: you’ve got Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Laura Linney, Lawrence Fishburne and others.
Apparently the famous Mr. Bacon wasn’t a fan of the game at the time, which was the brainchild of Brian Turtle and his roommates back in 1992. Mr. Bacon apparently thought that it was some kind of joke and that people were secretly laughing at him. Once he understood the idea though and saw how harmless it was, he embraced it. He even started a charity called SixDegrees, which encourages celebrities to use their star power to draw attention to charities in need.
Who knew a game like this could develop around one guy, simply because that guy happens to have worked with almost everyone in Hollywood? It’s a fun game to play, but it can get pretty addicting after a while. Which reminds me, we could also connect Morgan Freeman to Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption, then Robbins to Kevin Bacon in Mystic River. That’s a two stepper too.
See what I mean?