Kevin Bacon Talks About Death Sentence

Kevin Bacon Travels to San Diego to Promote Death Sentence at the '07 Comic Con

Kevin Bacon in Death Sentence. © 20th Century Fox

Kevin Bacon plays a dad who's pushed into taking revenge for his son's murder in the dramatic action thriller, Death Sentence. Directed by James Wan (Saw, Dead Silence), the film follows Bacon as he goes from being a happily married husband and father into a revenge-seeking reluctant action hero. At the 2007 San Diego Comic Con, Bacon sat down with a group of journalists to talk about getting into character and tackling this action-heavy role.

What was the particular challenge in taking on this character?
“Well, you know, actors really like transitions. You like to take a character from point A to point B. He starts out as a nerdy, suburban run of the mill kind of guy, nothing really extraordinary about him. And has to transform in the course of the film into someone who is able to take another man’s life, quite a few at that – quite a few men’s lives. It’s a physical transformation as well as an emotional one. You know, you look at some scripts and you go, ‘Well, it’s going to be emotionally taxing.’ And you look at some scripts and you go, ‘Well it’ll probably be physically very difficult to get through,’ and this is a movie that kind of had both. There’s about five minutes in the movie where I’m happy.”

At the beginning?
“Yeah, at the very beginning. Then from that point on it’s various levels of fear and anguish and sorrow and hatred and physical violence.

So, you know, that’s the challenge.”

Was it fun to play?
“I like to act so things that are deep and give me a lot to play are fun in terms of that. It’s not really like maybe doing a comedy where you got to work and everybody’s laughing and it’s a big yuckfest on the set. Now that being said, in the last section of the film, which has a lot of gunplay and a lot of cars and fights and stuff like that, that stuff is really fun.

It’s fun because it’s challenging to see how we’re going to script things and rig things and, you know, what we’re going to do in terms of the guns.

James Wan is incredible in terms of his placement of camera and I was always amazed to see what kind of rigs he was going to do. One of the things I’m really very proud about in terms of the film, I’m proud of James’ work and the stunt team and the special effects team is with the…in this day and age most action films are really driven by a lot of CG, by a lot of digital effects. And there’s none in the Death Sentence. So everything that’s there is real and it’s kind of like, in a way, going back to the way films were made in the early [days], Bronson’s days or Peckinpah, you know? I think it’s definitely got that vibe.”

Is this a throwback to Bronson’s Death Wish?
“Yeah. Death Wish was actually a novel and it is the same novelist. This is another book that the guy wrote. I went back and looked at the first Death Wish - I didn’t make it through all eight of them - which I knew very well as a young man but I had not seen it in a long time. The thing that’s really different about Death Wish is that Death Wish is a movie about a guy who takes the law into his own hands, becomes a vigilante and goes after all criminals.

In fact, Bronson doesn’t even go after the guys who hurt his family. He just doesn’t even focus on them. He just puts himself into situations where he knows he’s going to get mugged and, you know, turns around and smashes ‘em in the head or shoots ‘em or whatever.

And in Death Sentence it’s much more of a revenge movie than a vigilante movie. True, the guy does go outside the law and makes that terrible fatal mistake. But it’s really more about this cycle of violence that he unfortunately creates and that he is then focused on this one gang and seeking revenge.”

Would you say the physical demands of this film are the greatest that you’ve faced on a movie set?
“You know really the hardest thing physically I ever did was Hollow Man because I was invisible but I was covered in this green suit or a mask glued onto my face or whatever.

I thought that it was going to be the easiest gig in the world because I was invisible and that I would just float in. But in fact it was physically demanding, mostly from the standpoint of just claustrophobia and a lot of time in the makeup trailer and all that kind of stuff.”

How hard is it to shake off a character like this, somebody who’s this intense?
“Well what I find is that shaking it off on Friday is difficult because you know that you’re going to have to get back into it on Monday. It affects your thoughts, it affects my dreams. I feel a strong need to get back in touch with my family and see my kids and kind of reaffirm that they’re okay because I’m spending all this time with, you know, the opposite. And of course using them, which I have to use them, for my own kind of memories - if there’s such a thing. Connecting with my wife… I tended to sort of get a little bit dark probably while making a movie like this. At the end of the film it’s pretty easy for me to say goodbye to it.

I did a movie called Murder in the First which was really hard and I lost a whole bunch of weight. I was in shackles and there were like bugs crawling on me. It was a really tortuous kind of character. But I’ve got a picture of myself on a beach in Hawaii holding my daughter who at that point was about maybe six months or a year. I’m emaciated and my head is shaved but you can see in my face that the guy is gone. This is maybe two days after we finished filming, that I’m able to just put them away and kind of say goodbye once the shooting is over.”

How violent is this movie?
“It’s violent. It’s an R. I think it’s an R, yeah, so it’s definitely violent. I mean it’s not like horror violence…there’s no torture.”

Page 2: On Stunts, Revenge Films, and the Footloose Remake

Page 2

Did you do your own stunts?
“I did a lot of them. I mean I did as much of – my feeling about stunts is if I can do it I’ll do it. I don’t like to push it for two reasons: one is that I am a father and I don’t want to go anywhere. I want to stick around. And the other is that I don’t want to get injured so that we shut down and the movie takes nine months as opposed to two. But that being said, I like to try to get in there if I can and make it look good.

It’s always a discussion and a balancing act about how much they let me do, basically.”

What’s it like as a parent approaching a movie like this. Is it a hard place to go?
“Yeah. Definitely. I mean that’s the worst thing you could possibly imagine is something happening to your kids, or someone doing something to your kids. And so yeah, I mean when I look at just my face in this film, there’s a tremendous amount of stress I think on this character and that all has to do with putting those feelings that you have for your kids in your gut and hoping that it comes out through your face.”

Did that challenge draw you to the picture?
“It did. I think that I certainly felt like I could relate to that piece of it. I mean I pick it up and it says Death Sentence. You think about that title and you go, ‘Death Sentence?’ And you start to read it and I’m sort of thinking, ‘Well I’ll read it but I don’t know if it’s really like …’ I didn’t know if there was going to be enough from a character’s standpoint for me because while I really like horror and I really like action and I really like genre movies as a filmgoer, sometimes I feel like the actual character – they’re a little bit light on character development.

They just kind of say, ‘Well he’s the guy,’ you know? Whatever. And as I started to read Death Sentence I felt like, ‘Wow. This is really, even if you took the action out of it, this is really a compelling kind of drama.’ So that’s what really drew me to it.”

Have you been looking for a revenge film because weren’t you supposed to do Dolan’s Cadillac?
“Well Dolan’s was quite some time ago and I did like that script a lot.

I wasn’t so much looking for a ‘revenge’ film but I was looking for a film where I could kick some ass. I felt like, you know, after these very emotional movies, Mystic River and Woodsman and , again just very kind of emotional drama, I was looking for something to, I don’t know, just to kind of get a little bit more kind of physical. And also while I’ve been in thriller kind of things before with Trapped and River Wild, I was bad guys in both of them, so it’s kind of nice to not be the bad guy.”

Is it also important to kind of broaden your appeal because those other movies you mentioned in a lot of ways are smallish films that get a limited release?
“Yeah, ‘One for the meal, one for the reel.’ You know, you can say that but it’s always a roll of the dice about whether people are going to see it or not. There’s no guarantees even if you say, ‘Well I think maybe this movie feels more commercial/less commercial.’ Who knows? It’s the same thing with the small movies. Sometimes they break out and based on how much they cost, they have a tremendous upside that you don’t really expect. So it’s not so much the reason to do it.”

Do you find it strange that they’re remaking Footloose?
“No. I mean I think I’m right about this.

What they’re remaking is the musical that was made from the movie.”

Like Hairspray.
“Exactly. I think it feels like the same kind of idea of Hairspray. You know, John Waters makes a movie which – is it a musical? I forget. No. Then they do a Broadway musical of it and then they remake the movie as well. And so I think it’s a similar kind of thing. So it sort of feels like it’s one degree of separation, if you will.”

There’s a great Footloose montage in the upcoming movie Hot Rod.
“Yeah, somebody’s told me that. I look forward to that”

Hot Rod star Andy Samberg said a lot of babies were born because of Footloose.
“Oh yeah? Cool. I was very disappointed… I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it. There’s a YouTube video, one that’s gotten maybe the most hits of almost any YouTube video ever, which is called something like ‘The Evolution of Dance’.

It’s just a guy who dances and they skipped Footloose and I was heartbroken. Because I mean I really felt like sending this guy a letter because he went right from Saturday Night Fever then jumped to Michael Jackson – Billy Jean. And it hurt.”

Will you be directing again?
“I’d like to do it, yeah. There’s a script that I really like that I keep reading and we keep talking about looking for a director. I keep thinking, ‘Mmm, maybe I should bite the bullet.’ But, you know, it’s like I would be in every scene and it’s kind of the next wackiest challenge, would be to do that. To try to do what Clint [Eastwood] did so seamlessly all those times. It’s almost impossible to imagine, you know, having directed a film, what it would be like to take on all that and take on a role but I don’t know. We’ll see. Having worked with James [Wan] I got really kind of excited about the idea of directing something with a little bit of action in it just because it was so much fun to see the way that he would put those pieces together.

I know that the next time that I direct a film that I want it to be a more guy-oriented film because I’ve done a couple of things that are very, very female driven. But I just did another episode this year of The Closer. I did one last year and they gave me a chance to do another one. It was great because it actually had an action sequence in it and I was coming off of Death Sentence and I was like, ‘Great!’ ‘You know, whatever – think about ways to shoot this,’ and I was really inspired to do that.”