Kevin Bacon plays a dad who's pushed into taking revenge for his son's murder in the dramatic action thriller, Death Sentence. Directed by James Wan (Saw, Dead Silence), the film follows Bacon as he goes from being a happily married husband and father into a revenge-seeking reluctant action hero. At the 2007 San Diego Comic Con, Bacon sat down with a group of journalists to talk about getting into character and tackling this action-heavy role.
What was the particular challenge in taking on this character?
“Well, you know, actors really like transitions. You like to take a character from point A to point B. He starts out as a nerdy, suburban run of the mill kind of guy, nothing really extraordinary about him. And has to transform in the course of the film into someone who is able to take another man’s life, quite a few at that – quite a few men’s lives. It’s a physical transformation as well as an emotional one. You know, you look at some scripts and you go, ‘Well, it’s going to be emotionally taxing.’ And you look at some scripts and you go, ‘Well it’ll probably be physically very difficult to get through,’ and this is a movie that kind of had both. There’s about five minutes in the movie where I’m happy.”
At the beginning?
“Yeah, at the very beginning. Then from that point on it’s various levels of fear and anguish and sorrow and hatred and physical violence. So, you know, that’s the challenge.”
Was it fun to play?
“I like to act so things that are deep and give me a lot to play are fun in terms of that. It’s not really like maybe doing a comedy where you got to work and everybody’s laughing and it’s a big yuckfest on the set. Now that being said, in the last section of the film, which has a lot of gunplay and a lot of cars and fights and stuff like that, that stuff is really fun. It’s fun because it’s challenging to see how we’re going to script things and rig things and, you know, what we’re going to do in terms of the guns.
James Wan is incredible in terms of his placement of camera and I was always amazed to see what kind of rigs he was going to do. One of the things I’m really very proud about in terms of the film, I’m proud of James’ work and the stunt team and the special effects team is with the…in this day and age most action films are really driven by a lot of CG, by a lot of digital effects. And there’s none in the Death Sentence. So everything that’s there is real and it’s kind of like, in a way, going back to the way films were made in the early [days], Bronson’s days or Peckinpah, you know? I think it’s definitely got that vibe.”
Is this a throwback to Bronson’s Death Wish?
“Yeah. Death Wish was actually a novel and it is the same novelist. This is another book that the guy wrote. I went back and looked at the first Death Wish - I didn’t make it through all eight of them - which I knew very well as a young man but I had not seen it in a long time. The thing that’s really different about Death Wish is that Death Wish is a movie about a guy who takes the law into his own hands, becomes a vigilante and goes after all criminals. In fact, Bronson doesn’t even go after the guys who hurt his family. He just doesn’t even focus on them. He just puts himself into situations where he knows he’s going to get mugged and, you know, turns around and smashes ‘em in the head or shoots ‘em or whatever.
And in Death Sentence it’s much more of a revenge movie than a vigilante movie. True, the guy does go outside the law and makes that terrible fatal mistake. But it’s really more about this cycle of violence that he unfortunately creates and that he is then focused on this one gang and seeking revenge.”
Would you say the physical demands of this film are the greatest that you’ve faced on a movie set?
“You know really the hardest thing physically I ever did was Hollow Man because I was invisible but I was covered in this green suit or a mask glued onto my face or whatever. I thought that it was going to be the easiest gig in the world because I was invisible and that I would just float in. But in fact it was physically demanding, mostly from the standpoint of just claustrophobia and a lot of time in the makeup trailer and all that kind of stuff.”
How hard is it to shake off a character like this, somebody who’s this intense?
“Well what I find is that shaking it off on Friday is difficult because you know that you’re going to have to get back into it on Monday. It affects your thoughts, it affects my dreams. I feel a strong need to get back in touch with my family and see my kids and kind of reaffirm that they’re okay because I’m spending all this time with, you know, the opposite. And of course using them, which I have to use them, for my own kind of memories - if there’s such a thing. Connecting with my wife… I tended to sort of get a little bit dark probably while making a movie like this. At the end of the film it’s pretty easy for me to say goodbye to it.
I did a movie called Murder in the First which was really hard and I lost a whole bunch of weight. I was in shackles and there were like bugs crawling on me. It was a really tortuous kind of character. But I’ve got a picture of myself on a beach in Hawaii holding my daughter who at that point was about maybe six months or a year. I’m emaciated and my head is shaved but you can see in my face that the guy is gone. This is maybe two days after we finished filming, that I’m able to just put them away and kind of say goodbye once the shooting is over.”
How violent is this movie?
“It’s violent. It’s an R. I think it’s an R, yeah, so it’s definitely violent. I mean it’s not like horror violence…there’s no torture.”