Kevin Bacon on the Psychological Thrills of ‘You Should Have Left’ and What Truly Scares Him

For Kevin Bacon, what matters is a good character. This is what he seeks when making a film no matter the genre. But he admits he has a soft spot for popcorn thrills. In the latest Blumhouse offering, “You Should Have Left,” Bacon gets to dabble in a thriller that is about suspense and character. He plays Theo Conroy, a rich man married to a younger actor named Susanna (Amanda Seyfried) with whom he has a young daughter, Ella (Avery Tiiu Essex). A quietly jealous man, Theo keeps in check any doubts he has about Susanna’s loyalty, but he also has a cloud hanging over him from public scrutiny surrounding the death of his first wife. When Susanna needs to shoot a new movie in the UK Theo decides to take the family to vacation at a lavish home in the Welsh countryside. Soon enough they all get the sense this is not a regular house. It indeed hides a terrifying secret.

“You Should Have Left” reunites Bacon with director Davie Koepp, who is also one of the most successful of modern screenwriters, 21 years after they made the supernatural thriller “Stir of Echoes.” Bacon spoke with Entertainment Voice about the fun and thrills of working again with Koepp.

“It was great to reunite with David, but it almost didn’t feel like a reunion,” said Bacon. “As soon as we said ‘wrap’ on ‘Stir of Echoes,’ I had begged David to make another movie with me, and another scary movie. It just took 20 years to convince him. He’s a friend, we have a very, very good working relationship. He’s a great collaborator. The gap felt like an eternity. But when the wheels started turning on an idea for us to do together it moved relatively fast. I’ve tried to get a lot of movies off the ground in the course of my career, some more successfully than others, and this one was fairly quick and very exciting.”

Two decades after a first collaboration can mean Bacon and Koepp have grown since as artists. “We’ve certainly learned a lot about filmmaking. He had only directed a couple of times when we did ‘Stir of Echoes,’ he’s done a whole bunch of other movies since then. I have done more directing and producing since then, and growing up and living life and getting married and having children. All these kinds of things have an impact on what the process is.” Bacon respects how Koepp has found a way to remain a collaborative director even after finding massive success with screenplays for movies like “Jurassic Park” and “Spider-Man.”  “One thing I will say that was true about David then and is true now, is he is a great collaborator. As brilliant as he is, and for the amount of success he’s had, when you put together the billions of dollars together of what he’s written it’s remarkable, he is someone who is really interested in the input of other people. Does he have opinions? Yeah, sure, but he loves that filmmaking is a collaborative effort.”

In “You Should Have Left” Bacon is given an opportunity to descend into a darker zone as Theo slowly reveals his paranoia about Susanna while being plagued by strange dreams seeming to take place in their vacation home. Ella also begins to inquire with young naïve curiosity while her dad has such a dark reputation with other people. “There’s a lot of stuff going on there. Not only is his wife kind of too young for him, he’s also a bit too old to be having a new child (laughs). Yet he adores her and has a love as deep as it could possibly run. It’s a movie about standing up and taking consequences and being honest, to the point where he can be honest even with his daughter. Avery Essex was fantastic especially considering it’s her first movie. It’s quite a performance.”

Bacon has a list of roles where even the supporting ones have achieved legendary status, from “Footloose” to “Apollo 13,” he has left a mark on various genres. But Bacon has also excelled in horror/thrillers going back to his role in 1980’s “Friday the 13th” and later in “Hollow Man.” What appeals to him in a film like “You Should Have Left” is the psychological challenges of such a role. “I’ve got a lot of all the genres. I’ve bounced around so many movies. I’m drawn to character more to genre. If there’s a great character in a romance, comedy or historical movie that’s what I want to do. That’s why I’ve ended up in horror many times. It presents a lot of acting challenges. There’s emotional stuff and having to modulate different levels of fear. I’m certainly more of a fan of psychological horror than slasher movies. I was in ‘Friday the 13th’ not because it was something I loved doing but because I was a theater actor trying to pay the rent.”

Bacon’s role as Theo has something akin to roles like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining,” where a lone man with a family begins losing his senses because of a strange environment he has been placed in. The Welsh house with its slick surfaces and confined halls takes on a personality of its own. Theo begins to lose touch with reality it seems, having deadly visions possibly related to the death of his first wife, or portents of a fatal future for his daughter. “The house itself was an interesting journey. David was very specific that we not use a typical haunted house with creaky antiques or covered in ivy. He also wanted to be in Wales. The idea that we would find an isolated, modern house in Wales was a slim chance. But sure enough we saw this thing and it worked out much to our excitement. When we scouted it it was so great. The closest thing that I’ve compared it to is the house in ‘Parasite,’ which had its own character and was shot by Bong Joon-ho in such a fantastic way. Although one difference between this and ‘Stir of Echoes’ is that it’s brightly lit. Making scary movies when things are light is hard to do, there’s some dark stuff too but there’s a lot that’s kind of creepy even when the lights are on.”

While Bacon admits he has never seen a ghost or had any experiences that would convince him as of yet of supernatural forces being real, he does harbor one particular fear. “Dead mice. I don’t like dead mice. If there is a dead mouse my wife has to remove it. I’m embarrassed to say that but it’s true.”

You Should Have Left” premieres June 18 on VOD.