Most Hollywood stars rely on their agents, managers or personal psychics to find their next film part, but Kevin Bacon discovered his latest project, The Woodsman, by taking a stroll on the beach.

"My family and I were in the British West Indies [last] Christmas," the 46-year-old actor remembers. "It was Christmas Eve and I was walking along the beach and I saw this guy who I knew peripherally. He said to me, 'Someone sent me this script and asked me to invest in it. Would you read it and tell me if you think it would be a good investment?'"

"Normally, I would never take a screenplay under those conditions," Bacon continues. "You'd spend your whole life reading scripts if you took them from people on beaches. But I got home in early January and the script was sitting there. I picked it up and read it and went on this ride of feelings. I put it down and knew that it was probably going to be my next movie."

Not even the film's dark subject matter could dampen Bacon's enthusiasm for signing on. Based on a play by Steven Fechter, The Woodsman revolves around Walter (Bacon), a convicted pedophile who has just been released from prison. In an attempt to begin a new life, Walter gets a job, an apartment and even starts a tentative relationship with his co-worker, Vickie (played by Bacon's real-life wife, Kyra Sedgwick). But Walter soon realizes that his past is more difficult to escape than he thought.

For Bacon, the film's appeal lay in the character's journey towards self-realization. "At first, Walter mistakenly feels like he's done the crime and done the time and this is all behind him," he explains. "What happens over the course of the movie is that he starts to come to terms with the fact that he has done terrible, maybe irreparable damage to some of the people he's come in contact with and that this is something he's going to live with for the rest of his life. I think that realization is a hopeful one — maybe he will continue to seek out the help he needs."

The fact that Bacon is a father himself was another challenge in taking on the role, but the Footloose star says he's always been able to keep his personal and professional lives separate. "I feel like my parenting is my parenting and my work is my work. I take parenting very seriously; I put a lot of time into it and it is very important. But if I only picked movies I thought were nice for my kids to see, you could eliminate most of the movies I've done. I can't do My Dog Skip every time."

Bacon's next role is behind the camera; he just finished directing his wife in the film Loverboy, which will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January. He's also got a small part in the Queen Latifah comedy Beauty Shop as a flamboyant stylist named Jorge. Meanwhile, if he's afraid that his Woodsman role might attract controversy, he doesn't show it.

"I'm about character first," Bacon says. "If the film ends up being controversial for some reason or brings up some issues, that's interesting. But I'm not on a soapbox. I just don't want to play the same guy I played last time."