If you’re going to make a TV show called I Love Dick, you better make sure that you find a good Dick. Writer Jill Soloway, creator of Amazon Prime hit Transparent, knew exactly who she wanted for the job.
“It was an easy yes,” he says of taking on the role in I Love Dick.
“I was a big fan of Transparent, and [co-star] Kathryn Hahn was also attached,” Bacon explains. “She’s someone that, both comedically and dramatically, is really at the top of her game”.
His pride is certainly justified: I Love Dick is unlike anything else on TV at the moment. The dialogue is razor sharp and the cast is excellent, with Bacon and the incredible Kathryn Hahn centre stage.
Based, somewhat loosely, on Chris Kraus’ novel of the same name, the show is set in an artistic retreat in Marfa, Texas where Kraus (Hahn) arrives for an extended period with her husband Sylvere. Bacon plays the manly, horse-riding, cigarette-rolling artist Dick, the spiritual leader of a group of young creatives who seem to think a lot of themselves – and even more of him.
It’s obsession at first sight for Kraus, and this soon bleeds into every aspect of her life.
Dick is an enigmatic presence, intentionally ambiguous throughout the beginning of the series, and predominantly serving as a receptacle for the female gaze as seen through Kraus’s fantasies. But glimpses of some sort of existential crisis, seemingly enhanced by Kraus’s obsession, begin to bleed in after episode two. For Bacon, this level of character development was crucial.
“I had to trust that we were going to be able to see some other sides, other pieces of the character,” he says. “When you get to episode 6/7/8 you start to learn more about him. Not everything, but you start to get glimpses into his own state of questioning, and his own vulnerability.”
Is Dick beginning to question his masculinity?
“Partly, yeah. When you get to be my age… Dick’s age… you start questioning, ‘What have I done with the rest of my life to become a man?’ And, ‘Am I losing my power now? Am I losing my sexual power, my artistic power, my financial power?’ I think those are the things that he is dealing with.”
Bacon’s fame is complex. Undoubtedly a megastar, his film career, stretching back to the late 1970s, has seen him as an integral part of massive franchises (X-Men, Friday the 13th), certified classics (Footloose, A Few Good Men) and even the odd indie gem (personal favourite: The Woodsman, a dark turn as a mournful child molester attempting to rehabilitate himself and return to society). But somehow, in Britain, the millennial audience may know him best as ‘the guy from the EE adverts’.
I Love Dick will complicate things even further. The series marks his return to TV after a three-year run in The Following, a gritty drama from US network Fox which aired over here on Sky Atlantic until 2015.
Why the move from the big to the small screen?
“[My perception of TV] began to shift because I started to see that the things that were being talked about – for lack of a better word – by the water cooler or at a cocktail party were television shows. The Sopranos, Deadwood, Six Feet Under, The Wire…”
Even so, playing a small-time celebrity on the small screen is a brave role to take on. Is Bacon, now 57, experiencing the same existential dread that seems to be engulfing Dick? In the past, Bacon has been outspoken about having sought celebrity, seeing it as a measure of his success rather than a byproduct of it, and what Dick is struggling with seems to be intrinsically linked to public perception.
“I have no regrets about [fame]”, he says, “but there was no way to know what it would be like to always have people looking at you, to always have people hanging on your every word, judging you, either positively or negatively, every time you leave your house,” he says.
“There’s also times when you go, God I wish I could just sort of float through the world just for a second with a kind of anonymity”.
In the pilot of I love Dick, Dick says to Kraus, “Most films made by women aren’t that good. I think it’s really pretty rare for a woman to make a good film because they have to work from behind their oppression, which makes for some bummer movies”.
Does Bacon share Dick’s views on women in film? He flashes a knowing smirk that suggests it isn’t the first time he has been asked an awkward question about gender politics recently.
“It’s important to remember that that quote was written by women,” he says.
“I don’t think it’s impossible for a woman to make a good film; of course that’s not true. But I certainly do think that art is often created through pain and struggle, and women have struggled historically as second class citizens for many years, being objectified and used as sexual objects and working in unsafe work places.”
With Transparent and I Love Dick on Amazon to The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu, a new wave of women filmmakers have found their home in on demand television.
And, somewhat surprisingly, so has Kevin Bacon. With rumours swirling of a Tremors TV reboot in development with Amazon, Bacon seems more connected than ever.
When I mention the prospect of rebooting the cult classic as a series in 2017, the actor beams.
“It’s not dead yet!” he says. “It is the one part that I’ve done that I really want to play again. What happens to this guy 25 years later? That’s what we’re going to explore. I think it’s going to be good.”
I Love Dick Season 1 arrives on Amazon Prime Video on Friday 12 May.