They/Them Star Kevin Bacon Is Happy To Run For His Life In Horror Movies [Interview]

We can all agree that Kevin Bacon is a likable actor. Whether he's playing good, evil, or somewhere in the gray, Bacon has always been a performer we like to watch. Without question, the actor's latest character, Owen Whistler, the head of a gay conversion camp in the Peacock horror movie "They/Them," is detestable, reprehensible, and basically a never-ending list of negative adjectives. He is a villain who writer/director John Logan ("Penny Dreadful) wisely cast with an actor people like, which, somehow, some way, makes Whistler all the more sinister. 

Horror is nothing new for Bacon. At this point in his career, there are few genres he hasn't tried. Within horror, though, he's been a part of more than a few classics, such as "Friday the 13th," "Stir of Echoes," and "Tremors." As he told us during a brief interview about "They/Them," he'd rather run and hide in a movie than sit down and eat a sandwich. 

'If you just keep saying it, certain things will occur to you'

Your introduction in "They/Them," that's a bit of a five minute speech. John Logan can be a very graceful writer, so did that speech just flow well for you?

It is. And therefore, shockingly, easy to learn, because he's thought so much so clearly about the flow, as you said. And the grace of the language. Things connect in a really good and organic kind of way. I love playing his lines.

How did you prepare for that introduction? What was some of the work you were doing beforehand?

Well, from the beginning, I read the script. The first thing that really starts happening is John and I start talking about the guy, and ideas that I had, ideas that he has, backstory. Which then translates into the look, the clothes, the feeling, the vibe. I mean, all of this keeping in mind that he didn't see anything that I was going to do, actually, until it came out of my mouth. I walked out of that place and started talking. I mean, that's a tremendous amount of trust for a director to put in an actor.

We've known each other for quite some time, although we'd never worked together. I really was grateful that he entrusted this character and these words to me. I just started to hunker down and learn it, and keep saying it as much as possible. You'd be surprised how important that really can become. If you just keep saying it, certain things will occur to you. Also, in the playing of a scene like that, people talk about the risk of it becoming stale, because you've done it too many times. But to me, if it really is ingrained in you, then you can relax enough to let something occur to you, to play something slightly different. Or also leave yourself open to a detail that the director may hear and want to adjust, but you can only really do that if it's really in your skin. It was a fun day.

Al Pacino talks a lot about that — that only when you learn something cold, can you feel comfortable exploring.

I think he's absolutely right. Al is someone that I admire greatly, and I was just talking about him a couple of days ago. I'm glad to hear that, that's what he said.

In that opening, the character presents this terrifying facade of a "salt of the Earth" kind of guy. How was it charting him slowly revealing his true self?

Well, I think that he's a manipulator, for one thing. He knows that group of people, they're not there — maybe a couple of them are there because they kind of want to be there. I guess maybe the Stu character kind of wants to become more macho or whatever, but they're also, at the very least, terrified to be there. He's going to try to put them at ease as much as possible, and then see an opening, and then come in with the terror of it he ends up coming in with.

It's also a good exercise, because it means that if it gives me as a character development, a place to go, when you start to see just a little hint of the darkness, the anger, the fear, the dangerous nature of this character, when you see you can just put a little hint in there. And then just add a little bit more, a little bit later, and then just have it explode. It's a fun place to go.

'There's a time and place for mustache twirling'

With villains, obviously there's a tendency to go big, which there's a time and place for, but here, did you find the more restraint at times, the scarier he'd be?

Yes. I think there's a time and place for mustache twirling. It depends on the tone of the movie a lot of times. I've got this movie "Toxic Avenger” coming out, and that's also a bad guy, but a completely different tone of the movie, and a completely different kind of guy. Because the movie is a lot more sort of tongue in cheek, there's the opportunity to fit into that a little bit more and go there. But that's not what this movie is.

You've done quite a few classic horror movies now such as "Tremors," "Friday the 13th," and "Stir of Echoes." What are some of the joys and challenges you associate with the genre?

Well, the joy is that the stakes are so high. It's good stuff for me to play. If you're running for your life, or you're trying to destroy some kind of evil force, or stabbing somebody or getting stabbed, whatever that happens to be, that's just good stuff. That's just stuff that you want to play.

I'd rather be doing that than sitting around, having a conversation and eating a sandwich. Also, sometimes in horror, there's a lot of physical stuff, which I also really like to get into. There's not so much in "They/Them." But it's also, the challenge is different levels of fear because, especially if you're a lead and you have to go through this step by step, to try to find a new way to be scared every day is really — that can be a lot of work.

"They/Them" will be available to stream on Peacock starting August 5, 2022.