The star of What's Cooking? admits she doesn't know her way around a kitchen, but the home Kyra Sedgwick shares with Kevin Bacon and their two children is hallowed ground
October 30, 2000
By Julian Rubinstein
Photograph by Mary Ellen Mark
Photo Editor Kathryn McCarver
Early Riser: Sedgwick, photographed in September, had started a career and a family by age 23. “I had no idea what I was doing.”
In her new film, What's Cooking?, about four families' eventful Thanksgiving Day feasts, Kyra Sedgwick manages to baste a turkey without causing a disaster. But don't assume that the actress knows anything about cooking. She once tried to make a pumpkin pie using six packets of Sweet 'n Low instead of sugar. "It was inedible," she recalls. "I can't cook. They don't teach that in acting school."
The closest Sedgwick gets to a stove on most days is a table at a restaurant that specializes in home‑style cooking, just around the corner from her apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Often, after dropping off her kids -Travis, 11; and Sosie Ruth, 8 ‑ at school, karate class or arts and crafts, Sedgwick plops down in her favorite booth, beneath a hanging quilt and porcelain jars marked SUGAR and SALT, and orders herbal tea.
Today, with the kids off and her husband Of 12 years, actor Kevin Bacon, at home reading scripts, Sedgwick is in her usual spot. Dressed in striped cotton pants and a tight white shirt and with her curly blond hair loose around her face, Sedgwick, at 35, still looks young enough to pass for the high school girlfriend of Tom Cruise in Oliver Stone's 1989 film Born on the Fourth of July, her first starring role in a major movie. Over the course of her career, she's done nearly 30 films, including Phenomenon (with John Travolta) and Something to Talk About (with Julia Roberts), which earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Last spring she was, for three weeks, the star of her own sitcom, Talk to Me, on ABC. But she's the first to say that her roles haven't all been memorable. "I have trouble when I'm writing my bio," she says. "I always think I'm forgetting something."
Sedgwick is not one to hide her feelings. At the moment she's down and says that despite a blessed life ‑ a strong marriage, healthy children, enough money to hire a cook to prepare family meals- her career has been a disappointment. "I thought things would be easier," she says. "I did. I did. I thought it would be easier." Then, smacking an open hand on the table, she continues, "But you know, I can't live there. What a bitter, annoying person I would be."
Sedgwick feels like she has been an actress all her life. She was born in New York to Harry Sedgwick, a venture capitalist, and Patricia Heller, a speech therapist, who had six children. After her parents split up, she and her three brothers and two sisters moved with their mother to a new apartment. She bounced in and out of several private schools because, she says, she believed school should be fun and she was never having enough of it. At age 12, she joined the Town School's production of Fiddler on the Roof and found she loved acting. She went to a drama summer camp and appeared in an off-Broadway play in 1981. By 16, she'd landed a recurring role as a brash, trashy novel writer on the soap opera Another World. After graduating from Manhattan's Friends Seminary high school, she enrolled at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, but, impatient to become a movie star, dropped out after one semester to head for Hollywood.
Over the next year and a half, Sedgwick went on hundreds of auditions but never landed a role. She lost weight, didn't talk to anyone and returned to New York defeated and severely depressed. "I knew the moment I came back from L.A. that my vision of the world had become skewed," she says. "I told my mom I was a failure. And that's not OK, you know . You're still discovering yourself." To this day, Sedgwick loathes Los Angeles, describing the city as "death," even turning down roles to avoid going there.
Back living with her family in New York, she finally started winning parts. On the Boston set of the 1987 PBS television movie Lemon Sky, she met her future husband. She was 21 and playing a supporting role; Bacon, already the well‑known star of Footloose, was 29 and the leading man. "I thought he was so arrogant," she says. "But he was so good as an actor. And honestly, he was so damn persistent."
They were married a year later, on September 4, 1988, at Bacon's farmhouse in Connecticut, where they lived for six years and still visit on weekends. The following year, at age 23, she had Travis, and two years later, Sosie Ruth. "I look back at pictures of myself with Travis and I had no idea what I was doing" Sedgwick says. "But then again, I look at pictures from two years ago and I had no idea what I was doing."
It was around that time, though, that Sedgwick discovered her lighter side while playing the part of Olivia in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night on Broadway. "I'd always thought of myself as this serious actor, and here I was goofing all over the place," she says. "I felt so joyous, I was like, I just want to do comedy."
She had her chance when ABC approached her last year about doing her own sitcom. "I loved it," she says. But the show didn't do well in the ratings and was canceled. "I sat down on the floor and started weeping," she says of getting the news. "Kevin held me and we both cried."
Sedgwick and Bacon have a pact that they will never go longer than two weeks without seeing each other or their children. She's staying close to home now, doing an off‑Broadway play, Stranger. "It was difficult during the filming of Hollow Man," she says of Bacon's most recent film, "because it dragged on, and he was flying back and forth from L.A. on the weekends." They make it a priority to be with their families on holidays like Thanksgiving, which means going first to her mother's midtown apartment for a midday feast (attended by about 25 members of her extended family) and then back to their own apartment in the late afternoon to host a second meal for Bacon's clan (about 20 people, including his brother and four sisters). "It's a lot of food and a lot of stress," she says. "But it's worth it."
What made What's Cooking?, out November 3, worth it was the chance to act with Julianna Margulies, who plays her lesbian lover and whom Sedgwick had admired from afar for years. "I could see us together," she says. "Unfortunately, [the sex] was low‑key, but we were both into it." What does her husband think of this? "Oh, he hasn't seen it yet, but I think it will turn him on."
Indeed Bacon, who waltzes in later, confirms this. "I was hoping to be on the set, but it didn't work out," he says. Bacon's long hair is artfully disheveled, and he wears a black shirt unbuttoned halfway down his chest, a look that screams L.A. Sedgwick adores him: "I think he's the hottest guy I've ever seen in my life," she says, smiling and resting her arm on his shoulder. "He and Marlon Brando in Streetcar, and that's it."
The two have no plans for the day; she jokes that they'll probably "just drop some acid and look at the stars." "I missed out on a lot," she says as Bacon takes her hand. "And there's so much pain in what I do. I've been told I gave the best reading on something but they can't use me because of box office or whatever. I just have to believe my road is my road. And, you know, it's been a great road. I mean, really, a great road."