08/07/2013 12:59 BST | Updated 08/07/2013 13:44 BST

Kevin Bacon - Six Degrees Of Stardom - Why IS He The Most Connected Actor In Hollywood?

Kevin Bacon is the best-connected actor in Hollywood. Fact. How do we know? Because of the game that bears his name.

But how did he get to bear this mantle, that any working actor could trace their connection to Kevin Bacon in six steps or less? (A game, by the way, which he himself disliked intensely, until he saw a way of making good with it, a charity he founded called SixDegrees.org - a social network linking people and charities together, one more reason he's so beloved.)

He's done it in two ways - career longevity, and breadth of genre. As a teenage star turned versatile character actor who can do both lead role and scene-stealing support, he's never embarrassed himself on the big screen, and has now turned his attention to telly, in 'The Following'.

Now, to celebrate his 55th birthday today, here are just six of his biggest steps to a unique perch in Hollywood - but is there something else we SHOULD have included?

1. Footloose (1984)

Already an established teen star, Bacon let loose with this enduring favourite of a charismatic small town outsider, caught between a love for dance, and a love for the local vicar's daughter. The answer: to jump around in a warehouse and swing lots, before persuading everyone that the Lord would surely approve of such antics.

2. Flatliners (1990) (or we could have said 'Tremors' the same year)

Bacon held his own among an A-list cast including Julia Roberts, Keifer Sutherland and Billy Baldwin, as one of the medical students, intent on bringing themselves near death, hence the flatline of the title. And of course, things begin to go awry.

3. A Few Good Men (1992)

We could have mentioned 'JFK' the previous year, but 'A Few Good Men' gets the nod, because it brought Bacon into a cast including Tom Cruise, Demi Moore and Jack Nicholson. Cruise couldn't handle the truth, according to Nicholson's Colonel Jessup, but Bacon could handle Nicholson, AND a formidable crew cut. He wasn't one of the goodies, but he was good.

4. Apollo 13 (1995)

Leading man status, shared with Tom Hanks and Bill Paxton, for this big-budget, box office-gobbling blockbuster by Ron Howard, detailing the true 1970 exploits of three Apollo astronauts stranded in space when their oxygen and electricity supplies both fail. Nominated for nine Academy Awards and taking $355million in ticket sales, no one set a foot wrong.

5. Mystic River (2003)

Another ensemble class act - this time sharing the screen with Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and under the steady hand of director Clint Eastwood. Much glory for this dark Brooklyn tale of three boys, united from childhood, who end up on opposite sides of the law. Two Oscars handed out... to Messrs Penn and Robbins. What does Kevin Bacon have to do??

6. Taking Chance (2009)

Move to telly, that's what. Taking the lead role of military officer Michael Strobi, charged with escorting the body of fallen teenage soldier back to his hometown in Wyoming, brought Bacon a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor.