In my late teens, I worked as a Medical Record Scanning Operative, a job which consisted of pushing bits of paper into a scanner for eight hours a day and questioning all of the life choices which had led me to this sucking pit of tedium. The one thing that kept me sane was the fact that I worked with several of my friends from school (it was a small town, there weren’t that many places to earn a crust) and we’d while away the hours, talking crap and occasionally playing our own take on the “Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon” game.
If you’ve never played, it’s pretty simple. You pick any actor and then work out how they’re connected to Kevin Bacon. The number of degrees of separation gives you that actor’s Bacon Number. For example, Charlie Sheen has a Bacon Number of 2, as he once starred in Scary Movie 3 with Denise Richards, who herself has a Bacon Number of 1, having worked alongside Kevin “centre of the known acting universe” Bacon in Wild Things.
Bear in mind, we were doing this without Google, using nothing but the search engine of memory. The thing is, it got too easy. Kevin Bacon really has put out a hell of a body of work over the years and there are a few films he’s starred in which instantly offer a massive range of possible connections. Hell, Sleepers gives you Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro and Brad Pitt and if you can’t branch off from them and do it in under six, i’d be both flabbersmacked and gobgasted.
Yearning for greater challenge, we started playing our own twist on the game wherein someone would suggest two actors who, on the face of things, were worlds apart. We would then spend our entire shift racking our brains, swearing profusely and occasionally sobbing as we tried to link them. I remember a particularly enjoyable evening where someone said seven words which would haunt my dreams for the next several nights. “Fred Astaire. Nick Cage. Suck on that.” I can’t remember now how I did it, but I bloody did it.
That was then and this is now, of course. I’ve not really thought about our little timewaster sessions for a while, but recently the memories bubbled to the surface, like a suspicious lump in an unpleasant soup. Like a fool, I decided to bring it up during an evening gaming session with my regular squad, mentioning a vague notion I had of turning it into a blog series.
My very best friends unsurprisingly proceeded to try to break my brain. Several pairs of actors were thrown at me and I stammered my way through the connections, eventually ending the night with two actors names that I promised to attempt to link together for this blog. Without further ado, I give you…
Arnold Schwarzenegger to Anthony Perkins. Yeah. When this was first thrown at me, I struggled to think of any moves I could make, but as it turns out this is easy. In fact, you can do it with just two links in between, in a couple of different ways.
Schwarzenegger has, of course, starred in hundreds of movies over the years, with a wide range of actors. Countless names sprung to mind when trying to start from this end, but I was struggling to make links, so I decided to start from Anthony Perkins and work back to Arnie.
First thought, Psycho. The 1960 Hitchcock classic starred Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates and features arguably one of the most famous scenes in cinematic history. Yes, it’s THAT shower scene. You know, the one with the reeee, reeee, reeeee and the dun dun and the bloody drain. The classic scene stars Janet Leigh as Marion, the poor sod who meets a nasty end at the hands of Bates. Or does it?
Both Leigh and Hitchcock were asked during interviews whether or not it was Leighs body we see on camera during the scene and both stated that it absolutely was, but it seems that’s not quite true. In fact, Marli Renfro (a Las Vegas showgirl and one of the original Playboy Bunnies) was payed $500 to act as Leigh’s body double for the scene. In an awful, but Hitchcock-worthy twist, it was reported that Renfro had been assaulted and murdered, something which later turned out to be untrue. Sadly, a woman named Myra Davis had been killed. The confusion arose as Davis was also attached to Psycho, having worked as Janet Leigh’s stand-in during lighting tests. The whole story is pretty bizarre.*
Gruesome side-story notwithstanding, Janet Leigh did play Bates’ victim, even if there was some Hollywood jiggerypokery at play during the shower scene. In later years, Janet Leigh would star in yet another horror movie alongside her real life daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis. That film was Halloween: H20 and although it’s far from the best entry in the franchise, it did feature a beautiful nod to Leigh’s Psycho role in the scene below.**
Recognise the car? This is just about the perfect link, now I really think about it. We’ve gone from Perkins to Leigh, who features in this clip which not only stars our next link, but also has that beautiful old car from Psycho. Oh what a tangled web I weave.
Moving on, it’s got to be fairly obvious where i’m headed next. Jamie Lee-Curtis, wonderful star of countless fantastic movies, once played the unsuspecting Helen Tasker, wife of Harry Tasker, who had no idea that her husband was not the computer salesman he claimed to be but was in actual fact a secret agent for a government counter terrorism unit. The film? True Lies. The actor who played Harry Tasker? Yup, you guessed it, Arnie.
Semi-relevant sidenote. Janet Leigh opted to cover up in Psycho and bring in a body double, but Jamie Lee-Curtis chose to do her own body work in True Lies. During a scene in which she performs a striptease for her screen husband (although she doesn’t know it’s him at the time and in all honesty, the whole thing is a little creepy now I really think about it…) Jamie Lee-Curtis slips while spinning around the bedpost and thuds to the floor. I won’t post a clip because it’s pretty sexually charged and I don’t want to draw complaints, but if you remember the scene or track it down on Youtube, you’ll notice a very convincing reaction from Arnie. That’s because the fall was apparently unscripted and he was genuinely checking to make sure his co-star was OK.***
I think that’s the best link I can come up with. There’s also Perkins to Albert Finney (Murder On The Orient Express, 1974) to George Clooney (Finney had an uncredited role in Ocean’s Twelve, 2004) to Arnie (bloody Batman and Robin, 1997) but that’s not nearly as much fun, especially as it would mean having to think about the worst Batman film ever made and as i’m writing this at 2am, I don’t have the strength.
That’s it for the first edition of Six Degrees, folks! I really enjoy**** doing these, so if you fancy challenging me, just send me any two actors names and i’ll give them a whirl in a future entry. You can get hold of me on Twitter (@ThatSofaGuy and use the hashtag #6Degrees) or drop me an email.
* The entire story is sad, but fascinating. It’s also not something that I dragged from the depths of my memory. You can read more in this article from the Guardian.
** Shamelessly pilfered from MovieClips, curators of a fantastic library of film snippets with whom I am not affiliated and who have not paid me one bean to say these nice words.
*** No, I didn’t have this little gem tucked away in the brain bank either. I make all of the links using only my own knowledge, then I poke around online for trivia. Mostly, I use IMDB.
**** Unless i’m forced to remember Batman and Robin, of course.