Alexandra Jacobs
October 18, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Oh, why, oh, why, do all cinematic roads lead to Kevin Bacon? After all, there are many actors of his rank out there: not quite able to carry a picture, but hardly unknown.

”We tried Kiefer Sutherland one night,” reflects Mike Ginelli, coauthor of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, ”but the root of the game is really Kevin Bacon. It’s not as much fun doing it with someone else.”

That ”game,” if you haven’t graced a college campus in recent years, is the craze of choice for those too shy to Macarena: Connect Kevin Bacon, apparent dead center of the entire entertainment playing field, to another celebrity (the more seemingly remote, the better) via their respective filmographies in six steps or less.

Though inventors Ginelli, Craig Fass, and Brian Turtle — all in their early 20s — confess a certain randomness to their selection (”It was, like, 3 o’clock in the morning after a fraternity party, and Footloose was on”), they also point to the unusual depth and breadth of the Bacon oeuvre. ”He’s been in a lot of cult classics,” says Ginelli with a practiced air. ”Tremors, Friday the 13th, Animal House…” Not to mention such large ensemble pieces as JFK, which, according to the book, experts ”generally try to stay away from…it’s just too easy.”

A less magnanimous actor might have cold-shouldered these high jinks, but Bacon, after an initial gingerliness — ”I honestly thought it was a joke at my expense” — eventually became something of a whole-hog enthusiast. Now he’s written an ”If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” introduction to Six Degrees. How did the trio score such a coup? ”Number one, we didn’t want to set ourselves up for a lawsuit, obviously, but, two, we thought the game involved Kevin Bacon as much as it did us. So we asked,” says Ginelli.

”As it grew in popularity,” Bacon explains from North Carolina, where he’s currently filming Digging to China, ”I began to feel a sense of propriety about it. Like, ‘Hey, this is my game.”’ Watch it, Kev — it’s also going to be a computer game and a board game. (It never would have been a book at all, claims Ginelli, if publishers hadn’t come calling.)

”They’re smart guys, and there’s an innocence with which they approach their assessment of the film industry that’s very refreshing. They’re sort of charmingly unsophisticated.” Bacon pauses. ”You know, all these magazines like EW didn’t exist when I was first starting out, with the public looking inside the industry. They’re sort of the opposite of that.” Does that mean we can’t play?

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