Kevin Bacon, who stars in the new Amazon pilot I Love Dick, isn’t just another actor. He’s the center of the Hollywood universe, at least when you play “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” Over two decades after the game was created by three Albright College students in 1994, it remains popular. That’s because nearly everyone who has ever appeared in an English-language movie has some link to Bacon. You can even find silent movie stars who have a “Bacon number” of 2 or 3.
Bacon has had a love-hate relationship with the game, although he’s embraced it as a joke even he’s referenced in movies and commercials. Here’s a look at the history of the game and what Bacon himself thinks about it.
1. The Game Was Created in 1994 After Three College Students After Watching ‘Footloose’
Every story centering on Bacon should include Footloose at some point, and the history of “6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon” starts right off with that ’80s classic. The story goes that Albright College students Craig Fass, Brian Turtle, and Mike Ginelli were watching Footloose. The next movie was The Air Up There, another Bacon-starring film. They began to wonder how many other people he’s worked with.
The game quickly gained attention after the students appeared on The Jon Stewart Show and The Howard Stern Show with the actor himself. In 1996, they also published a book called 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
2. Even Silent Movie Stars Like Harold Lloyd & Charlie Chaplin Have Bacon Numbers of ‘2’
The ‘Bacon Number’ is the number of steps it takes to get to Bacon. The actor himself has a number of 0 and anyone who has directly worked with Bacon has a 1. For example, his Apollo 13 co-star Tom Hanks has a Bacon Number of 1, as does A Few Good Men co-star Tom Cruise.
However, Bacon can be seen as a link to Hollywood’s great past. In 2012, he appeared in Billy Bob Thornton’s Jayne Mansfield’s Car, which also starred Tippi Hedren. Thanks to that movie, Charlie Chaplin’s Bacon Number is only 2, since Hedren starred in Chaplin’s last movie, The Countess of Hong Kong.
Other Bacon Numbers can be difficult to define and might be larger or smaller depending on your personal set of rules. If you include comedy compilation movies, Harold Lloyd’s Bacon Number is 2 because he appeared in a clip in Slapstick, Too, which also included a clip with Eli Wallach, Bacon’s Mystic River co-star. However, if you don’t include compliations, Lloyd’s Bacon Number is 3, according to The Oracle of Bacon.
Buster Keaton’s Bacon Number is 2 without a compilation. Patty McCormack appeared in 1960’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with the great silent comedian and 2008’s Frost/Nixon with Bacon.
In case you are wondering, Bacon’s wife, Kyra Sedgwick, has a Bacon Number of 1. They both starred in 1988’s Lemon Sky and six other movies.
3. Bacon Said People Used to Touch Him to Say They are ‘One Degree’ From Bacon
In 2014, as the game marked its 20th anniversary, Bacon said at SXSW that he was first “horrified” by the game. “I appreciate it now. But I was very resistant to it (at first),” he said, notes CNN.
Tuttle was also at Bacon’s SXSW talk, calling the game a “one of those lightbulb moments,” as they realized he is the “center of the entertainment universe.”
“I started to kind of hear about it in strange ways,” the 58-year-old Bacon said. “People would come up to me and touch me and say, ‘I’m one degree!’ I didn’t really know what was going on.”
Bacon said that he didn’t think the game was a “great testament to my ability” as an actor, but just a result of his movies being on TV a lot. However, it is proof that he is one of Hollywood’s most reliable actors, even if his work doesn’t get awards attention. He only has a Golden Globe for the 2009 TV movie Taking Chance.
4. Bacon Even Named His Charity, SixDegrees.org, After the Game
Bacon has embraced the game so much that he even created the charity SixDegrees.org, a nonprofit that helps connect celebrities with causes to support. Anyone can drop a suggestion at the site or share their story to connect with a celebrity who also shares an interest in the cause.
“We find fun and interesting ways to incorporate causes into everyday celebrity life,” the group’s mission statement reads. “Whether you have two minutes to grab a bite to eat tomorrow or a few months for us to plan you a cause-related birthday party, drop us a line and we’ll craft an experience that will be the talk of the town!”
According to the organization, Bacon was inspired to use his celebrity for good after seeing Paul Newman’s face on the Newman’s Own tomato sauce. He decided to call his charity SixDegrees.org and it was launched at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.
5. You Can Find a Bacon Number Using Google or The Oracle of Bacon Site
There’s two very quick ways to find a Bacon Number. Since 2012, Google has an Easter egg, where all you have to do is type an actor’s name and “bacon number” after it and the number comes up. You can also use The Oracle of Bacon, which also has an app of course, so you an find a Bacon Number on the go.
When Bacon was on The Late Late Show with James Corden in August 2015, he said he often uses Google’s Bacon Number trick to figure out if he’s worked with someone before.
“If I’m about to go to work with someone, I’ll check their name on the call sheet and then I’ll go to Google and you can put in their name plus Bacon Number and that will tell you how many degrees of separation there are. It’ll tell you if I’ve worked with them,” Bacon said. “That way, when I walk into the trailer, I can say, ‘Hey, good to see you again,’ as opposed to ‘Nice to meet you.'”