It’s good to know that the kids down at the University of Virginia Comp Sci department are working on important things. Things like The Oracle of Bacon at Virginia, which taps into the IMDb database to help us find out how many degrees separate any actor you can think of from Kevin Bacon.
Even more interesting is creator Patrick Reynolds’s discovery that Kevin Bacon is only the 1,049th-best connector on IMDb — still in the 99.9th percentile, but hardly at the top. The list of the 1,000 best centers has lots of people you’d expect up top — Dennis Hopper, Donald Sutherland, Harvey Keitel, Michael Kaine — but the top two, Rod Steiger and Christopher Lee, would never have entered my mind. Further down, I found names I’d never even heard, like Udo Kier (26), Vernon Dobtcheff (33) and Vrasta Vlana (837). Who would have thought to play Six Degrees of Vrasta Vlana?
I also noticed a preponderance of men, especially at the top of the list. The highest-ranked woman is Karen Black, who comes in at No. 21, sandwiched between Ernest Borgnine and Dean Stockwell (there’s an image to give you nightmares!). This suggests that women tend to have shorter acting careers than men, and that there are far fewer small roles for older women than for older men, making it harder for women to rack up the cameos.
In any case, here’s to Rod Steiger, the center of the Hollywood universe! (And, since Steiger passed away in 2002, here’s to Christopher Lee, the living heart of Tinseltown.)