|Six Degrees of Separation
||8 December 1993 (USA)
Six Degrees of Separation is a 1990 play by John Guare that was adapted into a 1993 film directed by Fred Schepisi and starring Stockard Channing, Donald Sutherland and Will Smith. It explores the existential premise that everyone in the world is connected to everyone else in the world by a chain of no more than 6 acquaintances (see six degrees of separation).
The plot of the play was inspired by the real-life story of David Hampton, a con man who managed to convince a number of people in the 1980s that he was the son of actor Sidney Poitier. After the play became a critical and financial success, Hampton was tried and acquitted for harassment of Guare; he felt he was due a share of the profits that he ultimately never received.
One of the most disturbing, yet provocative, themes in the play and the film is their assertion that the ultra-rich privileged members of American society, at least in New York, live right next to people who are dirt poor and frequently victims of violent crime. In order to forget about these unpleasant aspects of modern urban life, the rich concentrate their considerable free time on collecting and discussing art and show little to no interest in any of the millions of people living in their city who are not members of their privileged class. Equally disturbing is how easily Paul (the character based upon Hampton) is able to make his audience believe that he is the son of Sidney Poitier and, later, that they desperately want to earn the respect of their (ungrateful) children, or, more humorously, that they could so desperately want to have small roles in a film version of Cats.
The film features cameo appearances by a number of New York society types including Kitty Carlisle Hart and the artist Chuck Close.
- "I read somewhere that everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people. Six degrees of separation between us and everyone else on this planet. The President of the United States, a gondolier in Venice, just fill in the names. I find that extremely comforting, that we're so close, but I also find it like Chinese water torture that we're so close because you have to find the right six people to make the connection. It's not just big names -- it's anyone. A native in a rain forest, a Tierra del Fuegan, an Eskimo. I am bound -- you are bound -- to everyone on this planet by a trail of six people. It's a profound thought -- how Paul found us, how to find the man whose son he claims to be, or perhaps is, although I doubt it. How everyone is a new door, opening into other worlds."
- character Ouisa Kittredge
The play's original production opened at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center on November 8, 1990.
- Stockard Channing — Ouisa
- John Cunningham — Flan
- Courtney B. Vance — Paul
- Kelly Bishop — Kitty
- David Eigenberg — Hustler
- Brian Evers — Detective
- Evan Handler — Doug
- Philip LeStrange — Policeman; Eddie
- Peter Maloney — Larkin
- Robert Duncan McNeill — Rick
- John Cameron Mitchell — Trent
- Robin Morse — Tess
- Mari Nelson — Elizabeth
- Stephen Pearlman — Dr. Fine
- Anthony Rapp — Ben
- Gus Rogerson — Woody
- Sam Stoneburner — Geoffrey
Kelly Bishop moved into the lead role of Ouisa later in the show's run, and Laura Linney made her Broadway debut as a replacement for the role of Tess.
- Stockard Channing — Ouisa Kittredge
- Will Smith — Paul
- Donald Sutherland — Flan Kittredge
- Ian McKellen — Geoffrey Miller
- Mary Beth Hurt — Kitty
- Bruce Davison — Larkin
- Richard Masur — Dr. Fine
- Anthony Michael Hall — Trent Conway
- Heather Graham — Elizabeth
- Eric Thal — Rick
- Anthony Rapp — Ben
- Oz Perkins — Woodrow ('Woody') Kittredge (as Osgood Perkins)
- Catherine Kellner — Talbot ('Tess') Kittredge
- J.J. Abrams — Doug (as Jeffrey Abrams)
- Joe Pentangelo — Police Officer
- Small world phenomenon
- Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon (game)
- Erdős number
- 31 Days of Oscar, TCM's annual film festival, including information on a similar tactic used for the 2006 airing