Cop Car, a new indie film about two young boys who steal what appears to be an abandoned cop car from a crooked local sheriff (Kevin Bacon), is the kind of film that usually needs a big push to get any kind of attention. After its premiere at Sundance, Cop Car was heralded for its tension and action presented on the lowest of low budgets. As it turns out, Cop Car is getting A LOT of attention because its director and co-writer, Jon Watts, just happens to now be directing the next Spider-Man movie… which is all very fortunate for Cop Car, and Watts is just fine with that.
Kevin Bacon – whose Sheriff Kretzer relentlessly terrorizes the two young thieves pretty much from start to finish in an effort to reclaim his cop car – points out that if you want to direct a Marvel movie some day, well, you better get on board with Kevin Bacon. Because between Cop Car and James Gunn’s Super, that’s two indie films in a row that have led to that director’s next project being a Marvel film. This is all just more proof that the world really does revolve around Kevin Bacon, and even Kevin Bacon knows this.
Ahead, we speak to Bacon and Watts about Cop Car, Watts’ Spider-Man movie, and Bacon shares the truth about why the key to success starts with Kevin Bacon.
I’ve had your version of the “first draft” of “Fun, Fun, Fun” stuck in my head since Friday’s Fallon.
Kevin Bacon: Cool. It’s a catchy little tune, eh? It was hilarious. I love the Bob Seger one, too.
Cop Car is getting probably more attention because of another movie coming up…
Jon Watts: Because Kevin is in Black Mass?
Jon Watts: [Laughs] I know, it’s really helping us out.
But with Spider-Man, I hope that doesn’t bug you. Anything is good to help get the word out, right?
Jon Watts: It’s really awesome for Cop Car. Any sort of attention on a low-budget, independent film like this is so invaluable.
Even the kids just stealing the cop car at the beginning of the movie stressed me out, and it’s maybe the least stressful act in this movie.
Jon Watts: Yeah, it was all based on a stress dream that I’ve had since I was a little kid. I’ve had this dream since I was about 10 years old where I’m 10 and in the passenger seat of my mom’s car, and my friend is driving the car around. No one is stopping it and we’re not getting in trouble, but I’m worried we’re going to get caught and he’s going faster and faster. Then I wake up. It’s a dream I’ve had since I was a kid. So, I transferred some of that stress onto you.
I would love to watch Kevin Bacon’s face as he reads the script, as the movie shifts from two little scamp kids stealing a car to the movie violently escalating.
Kevin Bacon: Yeah, well, I didn’t really know anything about the movie. I didn’t get much of a heads up other than, “Here’s this movie we think is kind of cool. It’s called Cop Car.” And reading it was pretty close to the experience of watching it, for me. It’s one of those scripts that read the way it plays. When I got to the end of the hour and 15 minutes or so that it took me to read it, I felt like I had seen the movie – that I had already experienced it. And that’s a really unusual thing to come across in a screenplay. A lot of time, you are sort of saying, “Well, I wonder how it will be shot,” or, “I wonder who else is going to be in it.” There was something that was in the writing of that, that I thought, “Well, if these guys and this filmmaker can put this up on screen, then I will enjoy this ride, whether I’m in it or not.”
You’ve been in a lot of movies. How often does that happen?
Kevin Bacon: Not that often, honestly. A lot of times, you start asking the questions and you start filling in the blanks and you start hypothesizing about ways that it could go or be edited, or whatever. With this one, I really got it from the beginning.
How far can you go with the violence? I saw this back at Sundance when I had zero idea what this movie is about, and it was shocking how violent it gets, especially with kids involved.
Jon Watts: It’s a very fine line you have to walk. And it is still a little bit of a taboo thing, putting kids in danger. It’s great that you had no idea what was going to happen walking into it.
I knew Kevin Bacon was in it and I knew a cop car was involved.
Jon Watts: That’s the perfect way to see it.
You mention the kids being taboo, have you gotten any heat?
Jon Watts: I mean, not really. I think, by the end of the movie, it really is open to interpretation how they get through it. Surprisingly, I think it really just makes people care about these kids and hope that they get through okay… and how far you can you really go? Could you just have the kids die in the back of a cop car at the end of it? You still have to tell a story with a beginning and a middle and an end.
In a perfect world, I imagine while filming Cop Car, Kevin Bacon goes to see Guardians of the Galaxy. And after all the references in that movie about Kevin Bacon, he then tells you, “These Marvel people seem great. You should do one of those.”
Jon Watts: [Laughs] Is that how it happened, Kevin?
Kevin Bacon: That’s pretty much it, Jon.
Jon Watts: I didn’t know!
Kevin Bacon: You have me to thank for everything from this point on in your life.
Jon Watts: Pulling the strings.
Kevin Bacon: I am a great hero, as we know. A hero of a galaxy.
Jon Watts: Well, thank you. I want to thank you personally, Kevin.
Unless I’m told differently, I am going to choose to believe this is how it went down.
Jon Watts: I like to hear it that way, too. Because I don’t know how it happened, personally, so I’m just going to imagine it’s that.
You’ve been very modest.
Jon Watts: Well, I haven’t done anything yet.
You made Cop Car.
Jon Watts: Yeah, I’m very proud of Cop Car. I mean, it’s really exciting. I’m not exactly sure what the conversations were to get to Spider-Man, but I’m really excited to be doing it.
Kevin Bacon: Let me say, from my point of view, people have said to me, “So, was that a surprise?” I can tell you there was no part of me that was surprised that Jon got this. Because when you look at the movie – and his previous movie, Clown — what you see is someone who has a great vision and knows where to put the camera. He casts well, tells the story, delivers – most importantly – tension and release and tension and release. And in any kind of genre, these are the things that you need from a film director to make a good film. The size is not really the issue, it’s the construction and the good storytelling and performances and all that stuff.
This is a good point because, in big budget movies, the stakes are always “the world” or “the universe.” Here, the stakes come from a stolen cop car and it feels more urgent than the universe being threatened.
Kevin Bacon: Well, you know, I’ve sat in a theater and you can go to a giant blockbuster and watch the universe blow up, or watch the most incredible sequences you’ve ever seen that are created digitally. But when you sit in an audience watching Cop Car and that car catches a little bit of air, which probably goes down as the world’s easiest car stunt – it’s right up there with coming to stop at a stop sign – the audience goes, “Whoaaaaaaa.” The only reason they’re going “whoa” is because they feel an emotional connection to what’s going on inside the car.
Also, you did your turn in X-Men: First Class, so you know how those kind of movies are made, so that has to be a nice endorsement for Jon to hear?
Kevin Bacon: Well, listen, the other piece of it is: If you noticed, the last little movie that James Gunn did, I was in. So, for all you young directors out there who want to direct a Marvel movie, you just have to make tiny, tiny budget film and convince me to be in it. And then chances are, your next movie will be a blockbuster.
Jon Watts: [Laughs] I hope you’re connecting the dots. This is how it works. This is the blueprint.
Speaking of Super, there’s another film that gets quite a reaction in a theater.
Kevin Bacon: Yeah, really! Right?
Well, based on all that, Kevin Bacon needs to join you in Spider-Man then, right? Chris Evans switched from a Fox Marvel movie to Marvel Studios, so there’s precedent.
Kevin Bacon: What’s a Fox Marvel movie compared to a regular Marvel movie?
Fox owns X-Men, Fantastic Four and Deadpool, and Marvel owns almost everything else…
Jon Watts: But Spider-Man is a Sony Marvel movie.
Right, Sony and Marvel are working together on the next Spider-Man, which Jon obviously knows more about than I do…
Jon Watts: And we are just starting to write the script. One thing at a time.
But you heard what Kevin Bacon said, it all comes back to Kevin Bacon.
Jon Watts: Yeah, well…
Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.