The Search for Kevin Bacon’s Most Obscure Co-Stars: Actors with the Highest Bacon Numbers

This is a trivia game whose name comes from the phrase “six degrees of separation.” The idea behind it is that anyone in the entertainment business can be linked to actor Kevin Bacon through their film roles in just six steps.

In other words, pick a random actor. Any actor. Now think of someone theyve ever been in a movie with. Now imagine a line of people like this, each of whom has been in a movie with a different person, until you reach someone who has been in a movie with Kevin Bacon. This will connect you to the man himself in as few steps as possible. George Clooney worked with Matt Damon in Ocean’s Eleven, Matt Damon worked with Jack Nicholson in The Departed, and Jack Nicholson worked with George Clooney in A Few Good Men. Kevin Bacon. Voilà.

Mathematicians have figured this out and given it a name: the “Bacon Number.” It sounds like one of those ridiculously high numbers that could be bad for the future of the universe, but it’s actually very low. In the above example, Clooney has a Bacon Number of 3, which means he is three degrees away from the person he wants to target. Damon has a Bacon Number of 2, and Nicholson has the lowest attainable Bacon Number of 1. Kevin Bacon, himself, has the unique Bacon Number of 0.

Every actor has a Bacon Number, even voice actors. note (For example, Kevin Bacon voiced the title character in Balto. Most players agree that only full-length movies should be allowed in the game, but some aren’t sure if animation or documentaries should be allowed.

There is a whole website, The Oracle of Bacon, dedicated to this that is found here. The site’s algorithms first used IMDb to find its web of links, then moved on to Wikipedia, and finally to The Movie Database (TMDB).

For film buffs, few parlor games are as engaging as calculating an actor’s “Bacon number” – the number of degrees separating them from prolific actor Kevin Bacon. Those closely connected to Bacon through joint projects have low Bacon numbers. But at the fringes of Hollywood reside enigmatic figures separated from Kevin Bacon by many degrees – the elusive high Bacon numbers. This article explores the quest to identify performers with the highest Bacon numbers and the surprising discoveries made along the way.

Introducing the Bacon Number

In 1994 students at Albright College hypothesized that any actor could be linked to Kevin Bacon via shared films given Bacon’s extensive credits. This concept of measuring an actor’s connections became known as their “Bacon number”

  • Kevin Bacon has a Bacon number of 0

  • Actors who worked directly with Bacon have a Bacon number of 1.

  • Actors who worked with Bacon’s co-stars but not Bacon directly have a Bacon number of 2.

And so on, extending outwards to more obscure actors. Soon the challenge emerged – who has the highest Bacon number, and just how far from Kevin Bacon can an actor get?

The Oracle of Bacon – Tracking Hollywood Connections

In 1996, computer scientist Brett Tjaden created The Oracle of Bacon website. It calculates Bacon numbers for any actor using data from the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).

The Oracle soon began receiving submissions of high Bacon numbers discovered by users. By 1999, it had found actors with Bacon numbers of 8, the highest conclusively verified at that time. The race was on to push Bacon numbers higher through more obscure connections.

Pushing Bacon Numbers Skyward: The Hall of Fame

To chronicle the quest for ever-higher Bacon numbers, The Oracle started a Hall of Fame. It honored users who discovered qualifying actors with Bacon numbers of 7 or above – an increasingly difficult challenge.

The Hall of Fame introduced a competitive element. Users employed creative searching strategies and spent hours of free time seeking high Bacon numbers. By early 2001, they had uncovered:

  • 5 actors with a Bacon number of 7
  • 7 actors with a Bacon number of 8
  • 11 actors with a Bacon number of 9
  • 1 actor with a Bacon number of 10
  • 1 legendary actor with a Bacon number of 11 – the highest verifiable Bacon number ever found.

Let’s look at some of these remarkable discoveries.

Notable Record Holders for High Bacon Numbers

In 1997, Mark Verschell became the first to find performers with the once-unthinkable Bacon number of 8. They were Australian actress Bettina Townsend and Filipino actor Ricky Renee.

In late 2000, many users independently discovered American character actor J.E. Freeman, whose early obscure films gave him an astonishing Bacon number of 11.

Other significant record holders include:

  • Ashley King: Found a Bacon number of 10 with Swedish actor Thure Lindhardt in 2000.

  • Jorge Souss: First to find a Bacon number of 9 with Puerto Rican actor Guillermo Irizarry in 2000.

  • Thomas Esser: Developed a computer program to systematically find all 9s, 10s and 11s in 2000.

Each discovery provoked excitement and speculation that even higher Bacon numbers lurked undiscovered. But the increased connectivity of the internet, proliferation of content creators, and IMDb’s expanding database increasingly foreclosed astronomically high Bacon numbers.

The End of the Hall of Fame – Taking Stock

In February 2001, with the upper limits of Bacon numbers seemingly reached, The Oracle of Bacon retired the Hall of Fame. But it had served its purpose – catalyzing a burst of creativity and obsession with illuminating Hollywood’s tangled web.

The Hall of Fame revealed several insights about performers with high Bacon numbers:

  • They were frequently foreign actors in overseas film industries.

  • Many came from the earliest eras of film when the industry was less networked.

  • Some connected via obscure foreign films classified as documentaries in databases.

  • Computer automation was required to find the highest numbers.

Though the Hall of Fame is closed, The Oracle of Bacon continues calculating Bacon numbers. The highest verified is 11, but could there still be a 12 or 13 awaiting discovery in Hollywood’s outer fringes?

The Allure of Discovering High Bacon Numbers

What drives the fascination with actors with high Bacon numbers? Some suggestions:

  • The appeal of solving a complex puzzle requiring creative insight.

  • The thrill of uncovering hidden connections in an industry.

  • The social rewards of being first to reach a milestone.

  • The fun of competing in a contest of obscure knowledge.

  • The predictive challenge of extrapolating to ever-higher degrees of separation.

Seeking high Bacon numbers may seem eccentric. But look closely, and it is really an exercise in exploring hidden linkages and testing the boundaries of connectivity – a very human impulse. Though the Hall of Fame is retired, its legacy is a tale of imagination, collaboration, and pushing the limits of possibility. That is something we can all find inspiring.

what actor has the highest bacon number

Center of the Hollywood UniverseWhisper it, but there isn’t really anything special (in this context) about Kevin Bacon — bar his name’s happy resemblance to the word “separation”.

Most likely, anyone who has lived in Hollywood for a while will be able to connect their own Ground Zero to a similar web of expanding links. A few important things stand out: acting in big groups or with people who have acted with a lot of other people is a quick way to make a lot of close connections. Long-term, featuring in a diverse range of productions will broaden the web of possible links.

Certainly, the most connected person in acting is not Mr Bacon. Research by people who found it important enough to do so discovered that the “Center of the Hollywood Universe” shifts over time — but typically it will be someone who has appeared in many, many films over a considerable period. During the latter part of his long life and prolific career, for instance, Christopher Lee was credited on IMDb as being this. As of July 2023, the center of the Hollywood universe has shifted to Samuel L. Jackson, who with a mean score of 2.89828 degrees of separation is fractionally more closely linked to everyone else on average than Eric Roberts is, by a mere 0.0041 degrees. Bacon himself isnt even all that high on the list, typically ranking among the top 600 centers of the Hollywood universe but a fair way behind the likes of, say, Christian Slater, Vinnie Jones, Gary Busey or Diane Keaton.

Fun fact: if someone acts with someone whose heyday is very different from their own, they will instantly be linked to a bunch of actors from decades before or after their own, with only one or two degrees of separation. In 1960, Buster Keaton starred in a late-life version of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” with child actress Patty McCormack. McCormack later starred with Nixon in “Frost/Nixon” 48 years later. Kevin Bacon, giving Keaton a Bacon Number of just 2. In 1989 Bacon starred in The Big Picture, in which he appeared with June Lockhart (b. 1925), who made her film debut in A Christmas Carol (1938), which featured Lionel Braham (b. 1879) as the Ghost of Christmas Present. note (Plus an uncredited Halliwell Hobbes, b. 1877. ) Lockharts most recent credited film role was in 2016; Brahams first was in 1915. Bacon played the father of 10-year-old Alexis Rae Forlenza in the 2023 movie Leave The World Behind. Forlenza was born in The New 10s, making her only three degrees of separation from actors born in the 1870s. !.

Average Bacon NumberResearchers have demonstrated (true story!) that almost everyone has a Bacon Number less than 10, due to Kevin Bacon at one point or another appearing in movies with people who’ve appeared in movies with people who’ve appeared in movies (… etc.) with people who’ve appeared in, mathematically speaking, almost every film on the planet. The Oracle of Bacon claims that 21 persons on TMDB have Bacon Numbers of 10, the highest listed, but does not say who they are.

The most interesting fact is that the average Bacon Number for every person in the database, no matter how unknown, is just under 3. 1. When you stop to think about it, though, it quickly becomes apparent why.

Since the beginning of his career many years ago, Kevin Bacon has been in over 2100 different movies with different co-stars, which means everyone who had even a small part in the movie. They all have a Bacon Number of 1, even if they’ve never shared a scene with him.

And those two thousand people are connected to two hundred thousand other actors who have worked in movies with at least one of them but not with Bacon himself. Each of these people has a Bacon Number of 2. Then at one step further removed, there are over 680,000 actors who have at some point appeared alongside one (or more) of those #2s although never alongside a #1 or Bacon himself, making a B. N. of 3 tremendously common.

Now heres the interesting bit. Beyond that, since the possible routes back to Bacon increase exponentially, the number of people with a B. N. of 4 immediately drops sharply to back around the 250,000 mark. and at a B. N. of 5 it drops to just 32,000, then to just over 5,000, and finally to less than a thousand people. Because naturally, once you’ve found about a million more actors with close ties and mapped out every path between them, it quickly becomes almost impossible for a movie actor to have never worked with anyone in the business who has ever worked with anyone who has worked with anyone who has worked with Kevin.

Ironically, Kevin Bacon did not have anything at all to do with the movie Six Degrees of Separation. Note: Donald Sutherland was in that movie, and he was also in Animal House with Kevin Bacon. This means that Six Degrees of Separation is only two degrees away from Kevin Bacon!

This is all just a silly game, of course. Yet those mathematics associated with it have genuine real-world implications — see the bottom of this page.

Kevin Bacon Plays “Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon”

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