Movie buffs in need of new challenge

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers

Whenever a game night arrives, I look through the closet and wonder what I should bring. Monopoly? Simpsons trivia? Then I see the game that time forgot: The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

It’s based on the six degrees of separation theory. If you know 100 people, and they know 100 people, and so on, you’ll be connected in six steps to 1 trillion people. Since there are only 6 billion people, the theory is you’re connected to anybody in the world if you connect to the right people.

Take that theory and apply it to Kevin Bacon. Take everybody he’s ever been in a movie with, then take everybody they’ve been in a movie with. Connect the right films, and anybody’s linked to Bacon in six steps or less.

While other college students drank and made social contacts that would help them land lucrative careers, my friend Brad and I would stave off sleep with rounds of the game. Back then, I’d find refuge in 1992’s “A Few Good Men,” so then I had five steps left to connect any actor or actress to Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Jack Nicholson, Kevin Pollak, Kiefer Sutherland, or Cuba Gooding Jr.

As Hollywood relied more on the profitability of ensemble cast movies, actor connections got more frequent and Bacon got a little bit too easy.

Thanks to “Oceans Eleven” and its two sequels, Julia Roberts (Bacon’s co-star in “Sleepers”) connects to George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Al Pacino, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Bernie Mac.

And thanks to “The Usual Suspects,” Pollak can be linked to Benicio Del Toro, Chazz Palminteri, Gabriel Byrne and Kevin Spacey.
And thanks to the comedy “Rat Race,” Gooding can be linked to John Cleese (Monty Python references abound), Whoopi Goldberg, Kathy Bates, Jon Lovitz, Amy Smart and Breckin Meyer.

And thanks to a cameo appearance by Cruise in the third Austin Powers film, we’re also linked to Mike Myers, Robert Wagner, Beyonce Knowles and Michael Caine.

Even if Kevin Bacon retired back in 1992, the passage of time would make him easy to link. But he took even more fun out of the game by acting in “Mystic River” (with Tim Robbins, Sean Penn and Laurence Fishburne) and “The River Wild” (with Meryl Streep) and 31 other movies without “River” in the title.

That’s 30 recognizable actors in less than two links to Bacon. That’s without noting Nicholson’s 72 films or the ensemble casts with Spacey in “American Beauty” and “A Time to Kill.” I haven’t pulled the Bacon board game out lately; now it feels like Candy Land, only simpler.

Brad and I are back in touch, and we’ve decided we need a new Kevin Bacon.

I thought, maybe it could be Seth Green, an underrated sitcom actor. No sale, Brad says, because Green was in “Rat Race” and that makes him an easy link.

Brad suggested professional wrestlers. No sale, I says, because The Rock was in “The Rundown” with Christopher Walken, and Walken limits his acting choices to whatever the casting director is offering that day.

We’re still looking for a game challenging enough to survive our encyclopedic memories of movie casts, so once in a while we can be losers at a movie game.

You know, instead of a loser that passes nights by talking about Seth Green and professional wrestlers.

Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. He can be reached at:
kevin_wilson@link.freedom.com