The Truth About Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon's Enduring 30-Year Marriage
Cindy Ord/Getty Images
So, chemistry? Check. A certain affinity for each other is obviously important. And shared priorities plus a commitment to seeing this thing through. The rest Sedgwick chalks up to luck and careful adherence to a few rules: "Keep the fights clean, and don't have sex with somebody else," she detailed to Good Housekeeping in 2010. "Monogamy is a given, like 'Put the toilet seat down.'"
Oddly, though, their union—which places them in the annals of history beside Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, the celebrity pairs who truly better never break up—wasn't a certainty in the beginning. When Sedgwick first laid eyes on Bacon on the set of the 1988 PBS remake of the play Lemon Sky, she kinda thought he was a jerk.
Well, actually, the first time they met she was a shy 12-year-old attempting to let the 19-year-old stage actor she was impressed with his work. He was grabbing some food at a deli post-performance and "a little girl was in there who had just seen the matinee, and her brother said, 'You liked that actor, go tell him you liked him,'" he recalled in a 2014 interview on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, "and it was Kyra."
By their second introduction in 1997 she was relatively grown up, all of 22 with appearances on soap opera Another World and an episode of Miami Vice under her belt, and he was the 29-year-old alum of Diner, Animal House and Footloose, fresh off a longterm relationship with Pollan. (Right around that time, incidentally, she herself was remaking the acquaintance of her former Family Ties boyfriend and future husband Fox. So, all's well that ends well.) Sedgwick first laid eyes on Bacon as he boarded the van to their Cambridge, Mass. set, his black Labrador bounding on ahead of him, she told Morgan, "And my first thought was, 'He's really cocky and he thinks he's so cool.'"
Her distaste registered, but Bacon was still besotted. "I found her, you know, really very beautiful and sexy and aloof," he said during his own appearance on Morgan's show. "And I was just immediately in love with her and she was just immediately put off by me."
But he was convinced in that instant she was the one ("I was right," he told Morgan) and so he was willing to put in the work.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
And the money. Proving himself the affable, giving type of movie star, he asked the whole cast to join him for dinner on a regular basis. "He was very friendly and sweet and every night after work he would say, ‘Who wants to go out to dinner?' And the whole cast would say yes except for me," she recalled to Conan O'Brien in 2012. "And later on he told me that the only person he wanted to say yes was me and I never said yes and he was always stuck with the check, poor guy."
Undeterred, he attempted a new tactic. As they filmed a scene that required him to massage oil into her back, "He said to me, 'You know you're really tight. Have you ever had a massage?'" she shared with O'Brien. "Worst line ever."
Learning she'd never indulged in the small luxury, he recommended the masseuse at his hotel: "He said, ‘You should make an appointment to go see her, and you know, it just so happens the massage room is in the gym and if I happen to be finished with my workout when you're finished with your massage, maybe we can get dinner?' And I'm thinking, ‘Yeah, sure, that's not going to happen. I'm not going to tell him when my massage is."
Fast forward to that weekend when Sedgwick stumbled out of the spa only to spy a sweaty Bacon wrapping up his StairMaster workout. "I completely bought it. I thought it was just a coincidence," she admitted. "Years later he told me he had actually called downstairs and asked when I was getting massaged, which is kind of creepy, but whatever."
Because...it worked. So, by whatever means necessary and all that. "I had no great role models in terms of healthy marriages," Sedgwick told Good Housekeeping, noting her venture capitalist dad and educator mom split when she was three, "but I knew in my heart and soul that he was the right person. It was an unquestionable truth of mine. I've never had anything like that before or after." By the holidays the duo—both born the youngest of six in bustling cities with Philadelphia-bred Bacon growing up just a couple hours from Sedgwick's New York City—were so confident in their pairing, the actor dropped an engagement ring into the toe of a stocking and proposed on Christmas Eve. "Shockingly," he told PopEater in 2010, "she said yes."
Sedgwick, too, sometimes marvels at their quick progression. "If someone had told me that at 22 I was going to meet the man I was going to marry and at 23 I would marry him and have a child, I would have told them they were out of their mind," she told Redbook in 2008. But, perhaps spurred on by Bacon's early proposal to just squeeze a couple of kids out, they were content to try a let's see what happens policy on their honeymoon and ended up as parents-to-be. "We were like, Let's just not use birth control," she recounted to More. "I didn't think it was going to happen so fast. I got pregnant in two weeks."
Son Travis Bacon arrived on June 23, 1989 and sister Sosie Bacon joining him on March 15, 1992 (they've both since enlisted in the family business with the 13 Reasons Why actress accepting a part in Mom's Lifetime movie Story of a Girl and her actor-composer sibling producing the music) and suddenly the newlyweds were juggling steady acting careers with a new marriage and two young toddlers.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Those early years were tough at times, Sedgwick has admitted. As she collected roles in 1989's Born on the Fourth of July, 1991's Pyrates (with Bacon) and 1992's Singles she struggled with the inevitable mom guilt. "Work was complicated for me," she told Good Housekeeping. "Every time I got a job, it was: Yay!—but kids, husband...what's going to happen? I was always fraught with guilt, and it's such a waste of an emotion. It keeps you out of the moment of being where you are, and I've had a lot of that over the years."
To deal, she dove headfirst into therapy. With Bacon as her rock, "I did some real digging, which was not pleasant. I went to some dark places." And, together, the couple put in the work on their marriage, agreeing early on that their union would be the main priority. Though they instituted candlelit family dinners—"It's our time to share one another's company—no electronics," Bacon noted to Good Housekeeping—kid-free date nights were also mandatory events.
"I feel the primary relationship has to be the mother and the father, and then it can be the kids," Sedgwick reasoned to Redbook. "Of course the kids come first in planning your life, but it's incredibly important to keep your relationship as a couple strong and make time for it. It's the foundation on which everything is built. Kids should know that your needs are important, because if they think your happiness lies only in them, that's a lot of pressure on them."
As young parents, they made it a point to line up a series of babysitters that would allow them to duck out for dinner or a show. "We were lucky that we had help and could go out on dates," she has said. "We could leave the kids at home and have that time alone together."
It was during that first decade of marriage that Sedgwick found her voice. Struggling with the quieter life afforded them at their rural Connecticut farmhouse, she was watching the Today show when she saw Katie Couric mention "that the mother is the emotional center of the family," she recalled to Good Housekeeping. And that's when it clicked—they simply had to move back to Manhattan.
"It was hard because I had grown up in a family where you do what the husband wants," she explained. "But it was very remote where we lived, and we didn't have a big social life. I needed the pulse of the city. My mental health was at stake...I was just like, 'I am going crazy and we have to move back.'"
Her admission launched one of the couple's rare fights, a battle they waged for some six months. But, she says, "We got through it just by knowing that no one was going anywhere." Eventually they landed on the city's Upper West Side, a move Bacon concedes was the right one.
Proving the best relationships really are a series of give and takes, she, in turn, accepted his need to add another line to his resume. He joined up with older sibling Michael Bacon to form The Bacon Brothers, a musical duo that's produced eight rock, soul, folk and Americana albums since 1997. Accepting he'd have another obligation dragging him away from the family on top of his film gigs was initially tough, she admits: "It was wonderful that he had [another] creative outlet. But it wasn't always like, 'Yay! I'm with the band.'"
These days, though, she's committed to full groupie status, digging the expression of pure joy her husband has when performing. Plus, of course, as she told Good Housekeeping, "He's sexy."
Thumbing their nose at the idea that couples shouldn't work together, the pair seem most content when they're doing just that, co-starring in Pyrates, Murder in the First, Loverboy, The Woodsman and more and even taking a stab at directing each other—an idea that sounds rife for conflict but suits them just fine.
But, as one might expect from a lasting relationship between two in-demand actors, they've also learned how to cope when projects keep them thousands of miles apart. It was Bacon, after all, who convinced his bride to accept one of her more career-defining gigs as strong-willed deputy police chief Brenda Leigh Johnson in TNT's The Closer, even though it meant spending six months out of the year in L.A., a prospect that simply crushed her. (A suggested move to the West Coast was shot down by the kids, teens at the time, within seconds.)
Cindy Ord/Getty Images
To assuage her fears, Bacon even offered to take a year off from his own career to make sure all remained quiet on the home front and they worked out a schedule that found her flying back home every other weekend. Still, she said, "It was heartbreaking. Half of me was in New York and half of me was in California. I missed stuff—events, performances—but we kept trusting that it was going to be okay. The good news is that Kevin was working less, and he was home during almost the entire school year. But it was really, really hard."
Bacon was also the one who let her know it was okay to be done after six long seasons of a cross-country commute. Her decision coming just a few years after they lost millions in disgraced stockbroker Bernie Madoff's elaborate Ponzi scheme, "Originally I thought it was irresponsible to leave," she told Redbook. "I thought I should do another season. One night Kevin and I were talking about it, and he must have sensed my ambivalence, because he said, "What about, just for tonight, you decide that you don't want to do another year?" And I realized that I felt so responsible for everybody else—people count on you for employment. That was weighing on me so much."
Somewhat ironically, she returned home to a fairly empty nest, their children having flown the coop as young adults tend to do. And while the though of having fewer voices at their nightly dinners brought on the expected amount of wistfulness—"It's like this job that you really love doing, like your number one job, and suddenly you're downsized," she told Good Housekeeping. "If you do your job right, they leave,"—it also meant more time with her man. "There's a lot more walking around the house naked," she admitted.
It's that cheeky passion that's helped pull them through the tough times, including, of course, that devastating day in 2008 when they learned the nest egg they'd been building together for two decades was all but gone thanks to Madoff's devious dealings. "When it first happened, Kevin and I talked about it," she told Redbook. "And we were like, 'We're not money people—we didn't get into this business for that.'" (Indeed, they're much more motivated by the opportunity to make a difference, say, through Sedgwick's work with the Natural Resources Defense Council, their joint efforts for the Food Bank for New York City and Bacon's clever Six Degrees charity, a riff on the popular parlor game that as the website explains, enables "people to become celebrities for their own causes.")
Jason Merritt/Getty Images
And while they were understandably upset, at the situation, at Madoff, a person Sedgwick has labeled "a sick man," they never once though to turn on each other. "I don't think there was a moment where it was like, that thing happened and then we got pissed at each other. It was sort of the opposite," Bacon recalled during a sit-down with GQ editor-at-large Michael Hainey at the GQ+A Powered by Montblanc. "We kind of went, 'Holy s--t. Let's...I don't know. Let's have sex or something. It's free!'"
So consider that tip one in the Bacon school of how not to fight with your wife. It's advice that goes right along with don't sweat the dumb things, like their discovery on PBS' Finding Your Roots that they're distant, super distant cousins. "I figured I was going to be related to Kevin Bacon—I mean, most white people are related, ultimately," she joked at the 2017 Television Critics Association's summer press tour.
Fundamentally, though, it's about keeping tiffs brief ("We're not one of those volatile, mercurial couples," noted Sedgwick. "We get cranky, but our fights usually don't last very long, and they're rare,") and going about them, Bacon explained to Good Housekeeping, "in a way that we can walk away from—and don't cause damage that's irreparable."
Because three decades deep—and three years after Bacon proved he's still working to charm the pants off his wife, dedicating a series of Instagram posts to their marriage that had lasted, at that point, 9,855 amazing days—they feel pretty confident in the commitment they've made. And they know that whatever conflict they may face in the moment, eventually, it will fade.
"We always knew that we were each other's 'one,'" Sedgwick told Redbook. "Both of us knew this was forever and we were going to work it out no matter what happens, so when we fight, it's not so scary. You can't be honest with someone if you think that they are going to leave."
So when you commit to forever, you should really be committing to forever. It's as simple—and at the same time as terribly difficult—as that.
That basic tenet that's held them together all of these years is so why-didn't-everyone-else-think-of-that obvious that it does irk her when people ask for advice. Why should people treat them as some sort of marriage savants when all they're doing is following through with those vows they made back on that September day?
"Everyone has marital struggles—I don't buy the 'Oh, it's so hard, actors being married,'" Sedgwick detailed to Redbook. "Man, marriage is hard for everyone. So when we're on the red carpet and we get the 'How do you guys do it? No one can stay together,' I get really irritated. I don't think our relationship is more or less difficult; I just think you both make the commitment and you make it work."
How's that for guidance?