'Hollow Man': Bacon's latest career turn

— Kevin Bacon has a speech impediment. He can't say no.

Think of all the roles he's done, from the lowest of sleaze ("The River Wild," "Sleepers") to the geekiest of geeks ("National Lampoon's Animal House") to the studliest of studs ("Footloose") to the most conniving of connivers ("Wild Things") to the most victimized of victims ("Murder in the First") to the smoothest of operators ("A Few Good Men," "Telling Lies in America") to the most conflicted of young men ("Diner," "She's Having a Baby") to the most heroic of heroes ("Apollo 13").

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AP Photo

Kevin Bacon, left, star of the film "Hollow Man," and his co-star Elizabeth Shue pose for photographers prior to the film's recent premiere in Los Angeles.

And that's just a partial list.

"I really have no trouble saying no," Bacon protests, flashing his trademark boyish grin.

Oh, yeah? OK. What project would be an automatic no for you then, Kevin?

Bacon takes his time considering what script would get a surefire thumbs down from the man whose ubiquitous screen presence has spawned an Internet game linking him with every other actor in filmdom.

"That's a good question," he says, finally. "I guess I don't have an automatic no. I really don't. That's the reason that I've been able to have a career where I can play a bunch of different parts. I have a formula: Don't make the decision based on the size of the part, the size of the salary, or the size of the budget of the film. Once you take those elements out of it, you end up making more movies. I want to make sure I can do my (thing), and I look very carefully at that. Will it be a waste of my time or be creatively fulfilling? Those are the questions I ask."

Villains and heroes

That Bacon formula, which ought to be more widely emulated, has landed Bacon a skein of juicy roles in flicks like "My Dog Skip" � "a neat little film," he calls it � and the upcoming Steve Martin vehicle, "Novocaine," in which he plays a small role that, he says, was extremely fun.

The formula also has brought Bacon more than his share of villainous characters to play, a situation that might frighten away a less self-assured actor.

"I'm not afraid of nasty guys," Bacon says. "I think there are actors who are afraid that somehow it's going to ruin their standing as America's hero. My image has never been an issue with me. I'm an actor, and to me, that means you play as many different kinds of parts as you can. I didn't want to become an actor to be the hero every time out of the gate."

That willingness to play devious characters has

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brought Bacon some memorable starring roles, such as the scientist who creeps out his colleagues by trying out the secret of invisibility on himself in "Hollow Man."

Is this Invisible Man stuff a sort of wish-fulfillment for a man whose face � and the face of his actress wife, Kyra Sedgwick � are instantly recognizable to millions of moviegoing Americans?

Why, yes.

Says Bacon: "The thing about it is, there's two kinds of actors � actors who want to be famous, and liars. I don't believe it when I hear an actor sitting around complaining how famous they are, and how they didn't want it, and they're really just a shy person. That being said, spending every day with no anonymity, it gets old. When it comes to going to the store and buying Preparation H, you know, it would be nice to not have to deal with fame."

Stretching it

Bacon has embraced fame to the point of making a foray into music-making as part of a touring folk-rock band, The Bacon Brothers, with brother Michael.

"When I look at a movie, there are so many elements that go into it that are totally out of my control," Bacon says. "With music, it's my songs. It's my brother's songs. We wrote them, we're singing them. It's a much more vulnerable, naked expression. In that way, it's frightening, but almost exhilarating when it does well."

With fame comes the mostly annoying prospect of other people defining your career. Still, Bacon bristles at being asked, at the age of 42, which of his many screen roles he'd most like to be remembered for.

"The whole thing I've been trying to do is not to be known for one character," Bacon says. "That's what it's all about � making an impact playing all different kinds of people as opposed to playing the same person. As far as performances go, I think, to date, my best performance is in 'Murder in the First.' It was what we call a stretch and it had a lot of stuff going on."

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