Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

11 Conversations

Kevin Bacon - What a star!

It's a small world, and the Kevin Bacon game is designed to prove just that.

Take an actor, any actor, and the Kevin Bacon game will prove that this actor is one tiny interconnected cog in a thespian universe that revolves around The Man Himself: the great and powerful Bacon. The inventors of the game set out to prove that by connecting actors via the films they have been in together, you can form a chain which will lead you, in six links or less, to Kevin Bacon.

The idea that everyone in the world is connected to everyone else by six or less associations was developed in John Guare's play Six Degrees of Separation1. In 1994, three college students - Craig Fass, Brian Turtle, and Mike Ginelli - at Albright College, Pennsylvania, noticed that 'Kevin Bacon' contains the same number of syllables as 'Separation', and this sign of Bacon's cosmic significance (in the acting world, at least), led them to develop the game they called 'Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon'.

Why Kevin Bacon? What distinguishes Bacon from any other actor? Actually, nothing. The students' point was that he is in many ways an 'average' actor - innocuous, moderately prolific, successful enough to be in a variety of films (significantly, often with ensemble casts) over a respectable amount of time. Kevin Bacon fans should not be offended by this. He is a talented actor who will always be remembered, especially by many women of a certain generation, for his good looks and dance moves in Footloose (1984).

The Game

Proof of the theory is easy to come by. Think of an unlikely and un-Hollywood actor - for example, the British TV presenter and actor Keith Chegwin2.

  • Keith Chegwin was in House! (2000) with Miriam Margolyes.

  • Miriam Margolyes was in Balto (1995) with Kevin Bacon.

Thus, Keith Chegwin has a 'Bacon number' of just two.

Or, to go further back into cinematic history, try this: George Formby (who made his last feature film in 1946) can be linked to Kevin Bacon (who made no film appearances before 1978) in two moves.

  • George was in I See Ice (1938) with (a very young) Roddy McDowall.

  • Roddy was in The Big Picture (1989) with... Kevin Bacon!

Many important individuals not best known for their cinematic achievements have low Bacon numbers. Adolf Hitler and the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky came from opposite ends of the political spectrum, but one thing they share is a Bacon number of three:

  • Hitler was in Rio Rita (1942) with Tom Conway.

  • Tom Conway was in Prince Valiant (1954) with Robert Wagner.

  • Robert Wagner was in Wild Things (1998) with Kevin Bacon.

  • Trotsky was in The Movie Album (1931) with Mae Marsh.

  • Mae Marsh was in Titanic (1953) with Robert Wagner.

  • Robert Wagner was in Wild Things (1998) with Kevin Bacon.

Here's an example illustrating surprising connections in the world of popular music. John Lennon has a Bacon number of two, and his connection to Kevin is none other than the singing, drumming and occasionally acting star of many a mellowed-out middle-aged rocker's record collection: Phil Collins3.

  • John Lennon was in A Hard Day's Night (1964) with Phil Collins.
  • Phil Collins was in Balto (1995) with Kevin Bacon.

Another great British example: you might think that Albert Square, the fictional location for the BBC soap EastEnders, and Hollywood Boulevard were worlds apart. But even EastEnders star Barbara Windsor4 can be linked to Bacon in less than six moves.

  • Barbara Windsor was in Comrades (1987) with Robert Stephens.

  • Robert Stephens was in Chaplin (1992) with Diane Lane.

  • Diane Lane was in My Dog Skip (2000) with Kevin Bacon!

But of course, this is not the only route from Barbara to Bacon. Finding increasingly obscure links is half the fun of the game. The other half is trying to link your chosen thespians in as few moves as possible - a Bacon number of one being that of an actor actually in a film with the man himself.

Steve Martin, for example, was in Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) with Kevin, and so has a Bacon number of one. In fact, trying to find an actor with a Bacon number greater than six is the true challenge. Unless you have a memory stuffed full of the names of obscure actors, finding anyone with a number higher than four is difficult.

Where to Find More Bacon

Those with a casual interest in the game can visit The Oracle of Bacon, a website set up by two students at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science. These possibly under-employed boffins have created a database that will instantly give you the links between Bacon and any other actor you care to enter. As an added bonus, you can follow links to spin-offs such as the Elvis Presley and Arnie Schwarzernegger games.

Speaking of games, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon has been turned into a board game.

The Boost website offers a thorough scientific analysis of the maths behind the theory, and explains in detail why the game works, though non-mathematicians may have difficulty understanding some parts of the explanation.

If you want to brush up on your Bacon, a full filmography for Kevin can be found, along with a brief Bacon biography, at The Internet Movie Database.

Finally, true devotees of the game might feel that using 'The Oracle of Bacon' is cheating. In which case, they might prefer to purchase Fass, Turtle & Ginelli's book Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon (1996). It sets out the rules of the game as they were first established, and then suggests variations to try.

It also features a foreword written by none other than Kevin Bacon.

1 Subsequently a 1993 film starring Donald Sutherland, Stockard Channing and Will Smith.2Chegwin has had a long career in British television as a presenter on light entertainment shows including Cheggers Plays Pop, Multi-Coloured Swap Shop, The Big Breakfast and It's a Knockout. He hit the headlines in 2000 when he appeared nude as presenter of the naturist game show Naked Jungle. 3The three other ex-Beatles: Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, also have Bacon numbers of two via more recent films than A Hard Day's Night - though, in Paul McCartney's case, Phil Collins is again the link. McCartney was in The Magic Years, Vol 1 (1987) with Collins. George Harrison and Ringo Starr were both in Water (1985) with Bill Bailey. Collins and Bailey were both in Balto (1995) with Kevin Bacon.4Previously best known for her roles in the Carry On... series of comedy films, Windsor has more recently portrayed Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders.

Bookmark on your Personal Space

Edited Entry


Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry

Categorised In:

Written by

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more