It’s a movie truism like Sean Bean dying in almost everything he does — Kevin Bacon has worked with so many other actors that you could link any one of them to Bacon in six or less steps. But like how the math says that Sean Bean actually hasn’t died more times than all other actors, the statistics say that there are much better candidates for the six degrees of separation game.
You’d have an easier time playing Six Degrees of Eric Roberts.
The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game — like the cultural meme that all humans are connected by six or less acquaintances — was supposedly created in 1994 by snowed-in Albright College students stumbling onto a Bacon double-feature. Bacon was a great candidate at the time, having appeared in dozens of movies with thousands of other actors. The “Bacon Number” then, is how many actors it takes to get from a starting name to Bacon, connected by films.
For example, Kevin Spacey has a Bacon Number of 2 because he was in Working Girl with Oliver Pratt who was in X-Men: First Class with Kevin Bacon.
But in the 20 years since the Bacon Number was invented, many more movies have been made and much more powerful computers have come out. That intrigued data guru Randal S. Olson — the man who calculated the fastest path to figure out where Waldo is. Is Kevin Bacon really the center of the movieverse?
It turns out that Kevin Bacon doesn’t even make it in the top 400 on a list of the most “central” actors out of the 1.91 million listed on IMDB. While Bacon does have a respectable number of 3, the list is topped by actor Eric Roberts, with 379 movie and TV credits and on-screen appearances with 8,398 other actors to give him an average Bacon Number of 2.83. When Olson plotted out the relationships, he found that “98% of the 1.91 million actors on IMDb are within 3 degrees of separation from Eric Roberts.”
Following behind Roberts are actors Michael Madsen, Harvey Keitel, Danny Trejo, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Udo Kier, Donald Sutherland, Martin Sheen, and Malcolm McDowell rounding out the top ten.
The Six Degrees of Eric Roberts game…now that’s a roadtrip time vortex.
Read the full analysis over at Randal Olson’s blog.
IMAGES: Randal S. Olson