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Spacey at a shindigBluntly Speaking | Kevin Spacey

 

 



 

Hello Mr. Charming. RRRRRR. It's a known fact I simply adore this man. Sure, Kevin Spacey is a real card-carrying moviestar. But he’s also a generous, and creative man, who impresses me each time his name pops up in the "what are they doing now" RSS. But, his feeds of intrusions are not filled with sad stories of self destruction, and the rich gone wild. His mother would be so proud. Kevin's continually giving back and using his fame and "luck," to help others.

Tween two cities now, Kev's now running the gorgeous and mythical theater, The Old Vic in London. He and the new regime there, have taken the old girl (and theater with it) back into the glory days.

But, off the floodlights, Spacey is known for his rather “evil” characters. And in the new Superman Returns, Spacey plays the notoriously clever Lex Luthor. He clothes the maniacal villain with a smirk and intelligence; his audience has grown to love. Lex and Spacey work so well he almost steals the film.

Of course it helps that the man behind the power-hungry genius is himself, smart – though not power hungry, more experience hungry, Spacey likes to test himself with projects and companies.

His TriggerStreet Productions is still going strong, though business partner Dana Brunetti is now firmly at the helm, as Kevin’s focused on The Old Vic

Kevin stopped to talk about the new film, and his first love, the theater.
After the hellos began the beguine...
----

EMILY: DO YOU HAVE AN INSIGHT TOWARD EVIL?

SPACEY: Uh. No, I mean I guess Lex has always been a character really
almost from the beginning who's always been a capitalist. And for him,
it's always about land, it's always been about land. I always loved the,
in the script, in the writing, there's that scene where he finally just
sort of crystallizes his whole philosophy, which is I just want my cut.
[laughs] Capitalism at its soul. I don't know, it's a hard question to
answer, why doesn't he, because then he wouldn't be Lex Luthor, I guess.
But I mean, in terms of analyzing the character, I really didn't spend that
much time doing it. I think I was so - I was so impressed with what the
writers had been able to do in terms of developing the story of it, and
also the fact that it is such a long period of time since we've had a
Superman movie, that I was just delighted by the way in which I think that
they wrote a story line that in many ways, I think, pays homage to the
Donner films and certainly to the fan base, which I think to some degree
what some people expect are one, and they're Superman, but also because
it's Bryan, Bryan has always been so interested in character, and so
interested in what motivates character, in whatever genre he's been working
in. But I was just delighted that the arc of it seemed to take some twists
and turns that were that kind of thing you expect from Bryan. But it was
also just so much fun, I mean, it was just a complete lark to play this
part.

EMILY: DON'T YOU THINK YOUR CHARACTER, LEX LUTHOR COULD MAKE A LOT MORE MONEY JUST RUNNING A CORPORATION?

SPACEY: I'm sorry, I thought that was a question for George Bush.

EMILY: CAN YOU TALK ABOUT DEALING WITH KATE AGAIN?
SPACEY: Well it was great, and an entirely different circumstance. You
know, it was very different to play a character that was as tough on her in
this film, as opposed to as loving as their relationship was in 'Beyond the
Sea.' I was very, very pleased when Bryan first - when Bryan saw 'Beyond
the Sea,' and then he called me a couple of days later and said, you know,
what was it like to work with Kate [Bosworth]? And you know, I could talk
endlessly about what a great experience it was, because she was - she
really trusted me, and I said Bryan, it's like in any case with an actor,
if you can get them actually to trust you, they'll go anywhere you want to
go. And I said Kate is incredibly dedicated, I mean, she was always on
time, she never held me up on that film, and we had very little time to
shoot it. And I said I think she's a very, very, very good actress, and I
think that she's been growing and she's making good choices, and I think
she's terrific. And then he met her and the next thing I heard he called
me and said I think I'm gonna make her Lois Lane, and I said yeah, that's
great.

EMILY: ARE BAD GUYS DRIVEN BY EGO? IN YOUR OPINION?

SPACEY: Oh, I think in Lex's case, he just - I think there must be
something about him that loves a challenge, and it's that - you know, I
think he says it at one point, a form of it, which is it's mind over
matter, it's intelligence over brawn. But you know, when you play a
character, you're right, you don't know - like you'd be playing Iago in
Othello, you're not thinking oh I'm playing this villain, this evil
character, you're trying to play what each scene is about and what the
character's trying to get. I think that it's fun for an audience I think
to be able to categorize. But as an actor I think you have to be quite
careful about it, because otherwise you'll just be twisting your mustache.
And I had no hair to twist.

EMILY: WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO PLAY BALD?

SPACEY: It's the easiest job in the world, they'd just shave my head every
day. I mean, it really is, they make it look better than it actually looks
without make up. But yeah, it was the easiest thing in the world, and it's
actually kind of fun, because you can't stop touching your head. It's sort of weird, you can't stop touching your head, and then this other thing happens, it takes about a week to get used to, is that it's very hot. Because you know, when you put your hand on your head and you have hair, you don't feel it, but suddenly when you have
no hair, it's like my head, am I sick? No, it's just the heat of my hand
on my head. No, it was easy, and I also think that Louise [Mingenbach] did
a great job with the costumes, you know. Really made him - really took him
sort of a step up, from I think the way that he'd been dressed in the past,
in a sense, has grown up with time. He's a smooth operator now.

EMILY: THIS IS YOUR FIRST VILLAIN SINCE 'A BUG'S LIFE.' DID YOU
INTENTIONALLY STAY AWAY FROM THEM? WAS IT FUN TO BE BACK?

SPACEY: Well as I've said, you know, it's a funny thing, because in any of
the characters that I've played, going back to I'd even say 'Swimming with
Sharks,' which a lot of people looked at as a very dark, very kind of
villainous character. You just don't think of them that way, so to me
they're just incredibly complex and interesting roles to play. And there
was certainly a period of time where I felt that that was the way I was
being thought of, and I was definitely not interested in being slotted in a
particular category. I think that what happens if you allow that to
happen, is that you start to be thought of that way, and then in terms of
how directors think of you or how casting directors think of you, or
studios think of you, or independent people think of you, oh he'd be good
in that part, as opposed to something that might be more challenging. So I
definitely started to take a turn in different directions. I don't know if
it was after 'Bug's Life' or not, but somewhere in that period, I wanted to
start to in a sense just expand my own tools, and to keep waking up in the
morning and not feeling like I was doing the same thing.

EMILY: COULDN'T YOU EVEN START WITH 'WISEGUY?'
{Spacey T.V role Mel Profit}

SPACEY: Yeah, but that was - God, again, that was such a fun character.
You can't poo poo a part if it's really well done, I mean, obviously I
tried to not play these kind of characters if I felt they were just
versions of something else. After I did 'Seven' I was offered a lot of
scripts that were like really bad versions of 'Seven.' And I didn't do
them, because I figured once you've done that, why do a lesser version?

EMILY: HOW DIFFERENT WAS IT TO WORK WITH DIRECTOR BRYAN SINGER THIS TIME? SAME GUY?

SPACEY: It is the same guy. It was like a day hadn't gone by, for both of
us. I mean, he had obviously more money and more tools at his disposal,
and more toys to play with, but he's the same guy he was ten years ago, and
for us, it was a great joy, because it wasn't just Bryan and me, but his
cinematographer, costume designer, John Ottman the editor, and composer, so
it felt like the family was coming back together. {they all worked on The Usual Suspects film – which launched Spacey career to stardom)


EMILY: HOW DID YOU FEEL PLAYING A CHARACTER MADE FAMOUS BY SOMEONE ELSE?

SPACEY: Well, you know, I guess I kind of come at it from a perspective of
how many actors have played Hamlet, or how many actors have played Iago. I
think there is something great about audiences being able to see different
actors do the same role, and come at it in a different way. I mean, I've
seen countless productions of plays by different actors, and they're
different by virtue of the fact that it's a different director, it's a
different time, sometimes you see a modern production of the play, so in my
mind, in terms of these kind of parts, I feel the same way that I do about
those kind of roles, which is that no single actor owns the part. We sort
of rent it for a little while, and get a chance to explore it. And there's
been great actors that have played Lex Luthor in the past, and obviously
great actors have played Superman.

EMILY: DID YOU CONCENTRATE ON NOT DOING A GENE HACKMAN LIKE PERFORMANCE?

SPACEY: Well I didn't watch them, in terms of the respect for the Donner
movies, I figured Bryan was gonna take care of that completely, because he
does so admire it, and he has such respect for the genre. I mean, Bryan
unlike me grew up loving the comic book and stuff, and I never was into
that when I was a kid. But I sort of avoided seeing it, because in all the
discussions I've had with Bryan - because also, I accepted the movie before
I saw the script. And that's because I trust Bryan completely. But he'd
given me a sort of shape and idea, and the thing he kept saying was, this
is going to be a much darker, a much more bitter, a much more seeking
revenge Lex Luthor than we've seen before. And so I thought well, it's
probably best I don't get another performance in my head, so I just kind of
avoided seeing it.

EMILY: DO YOU THINK IT MAY HAVE AFFECTED YOUR PERFORMANCE?

SPACEY: I think yeah, I mean, look, I just did Richard II in London, and
there are film versions of Richard II, taped versions of other actors, or
recordings of other actors, Gielgud's famous Richard II. And I
deliberately avoided listening or watching them, because I think you can't
help if something's really good, you can't help try to steal it, and I
think I just - you just have to sort of say, I'm gonna trust the director,
I'm gonna trust whatever my own instincts are about this and allow myself
to be shaped by somebody who has a vision, and the thing that you've gotta
know about Bryan, is that his vision is so absolutely clear. I mean, it
makes working on a set with Bryan so enjoyable, because you always feel
like you're in safe hands, because he knows exactly what he wants. He
practically - he'll sit there and describe a scene for you, and he's
practically cutting it in his head, and then the music will be there, he's
already in the editing room, he already knows how he wants it to line up,
so you feel as an actor, you don't feel like you have a director who's
guessing or gonna shoot it from every conceivable angle and then figure it
out in the editing room, he knows exactly what he's trying to go for.

EMILY: HAVE YOU SIGNED FOR A SEQUEL TO SUPERMAN RETURNS?

SPACEY: Well, I think they're probably gonna wait and see what happens,
there's certainly if Bryan [Singer] is at the helm

EMILY: DO YOU WORRY THAT HOLLYWOOD WILL FORGET YOU WHILE YOU'RE OUT OF THE LOOP, OR DO YOU NOT CARE?

SPACEY: I must not care. Because truly, I have to say that, I've been
living in London now a little more than three years, we're eighteen months
into our new company, and we've done eight plays, so we're a very, very new
company. And I'm happier than I've ever been, I'm more challenged than
I've ever been, and you know while what gets attention is the plays we do,
we're also about social enterprise, and we're also about social
responsibility and we have a huge educational part of our program and an
outreach program and a development of new and emerging talent, and all of
that stuff is actually incredibly satisfying, to see how many people you
can affect, and start to give confidence to and start to give them a sense
of their own worth and what they can accomplish, because when people start
to believe they can do things, whether they be actors or producers or
playwrights or directors, that's the first step to success, I think. And
so, all of that work for me is so valuable. And if doing that means that I
won't be offered as many movies, or I'm not available to do movies, because
my first priority is the theatre, so if a movie comes along and it fits
within the theatre schedule, then I'll consider doing it, but if it doesn't
then I won't. This is what I was meant to do.

EMILY: WHAT DO YOU GET OUT OF STAGE WORK THAT YOU DON'T GET FROM FILM?

SPACEY: I would have to say first of all, the ritual. There is something
to coming to work every day, and working with the same people every day,
for five or six or seven weeks of rehearsal, and then getting up every
night and exploring what a play is about, and how deep it runs, and how
deep it runs within you. And there is something about making a family, it
really is. After a sixteen week run of a play, or an eleven week run of a
play, you come every night, you work with the same people every night,
you're always trying to attack it in a different way. Audiences are
different every night. And I think that the journey that I take as an
actor, and that I see my fellow actors take, from early previews to the
closing night performance, is a pretty remarkable journey. How the
experience enriches you, and I think what you learn about yourself and
about a play. We just did Richard II again, we closed it last November,
and then we remounted it about four weeks ago and took it to Germany to a
play festival for a week of performances, and it was really incredible to
have another shot at it, with sort of four months of all the work that we
were doing when we closed still percolating, and being able to attack it
again in a different way, with so many new cast members.

EMILY: DID YOU DO IT IN ENGLISH OR GERMAN?

SPACEY: I played the English king, it is true.

EMILY: ARE YOU OKAY WITH BEING A COG IN A MASSIVE PRODUCTION AT THE VIC, SINCE YOU GO AWAY A LOT?

SPACEY: Well the truth is, is that no matter where I am, and no matter what
I'm doing, I'm still the artistic director of the Old Vic, and every single
day there's work to do, and no matter where you are in the world, because
of email and Blackberry's, and phones and stuff, you're in constant
communication literally every day, I was never out of the loop. I'm interested in something much different {than Hollywood}, and now the work I'm
doing at the Old Vic is probably the most satisfying work that I do,
because it's about so many other people, and it's about something so much
bigger than just a singular career. And then in a sense I feel like I'm
trying to take all the good fortune that's happened for me, in film, and
help theatre, because movies don't need my help. You know, I also made a conscious choice in the last really probably five years, I made the decision at the end of '99, and into 2000, that I was gonna shift the focus of my career back toward theatre. And even though I continued to work in film, my entire focus and my entire focus now, and my full time job, is running the Old Vic theatre. And so, I kind of just got to the place, whether it was playing the kind of characters you're describing, or in a sense playing any characters, I mean, it was
almost to me like after 'American Beauty' I felt well, this is about as
good as it's gonna get, so I'm not gonna spend the next ten years of my
life trying to top myself, I'm gonna actually do something that I've always
wanted to do, to start to play parts in the theatre that I've always wanted
to play. And in a sense try to now do things that are bigger than myself.
And for a long time, you're working as an actor to succeed in a sense in a
kind of singular career mode, and now I'm not interested in that at all
anymore.

EMILY: What's next for you and the theater?

SPACEY: We're gonna travel the show for a little bit.

Hopefully he'll do a play here. I still smile broadly as the Chestshire cat in remembering his company's THE ICEMAN COMETH production....ah, wilderness.



 

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