Monday, December 20, 2010
But that doesn't make the two-time Academy Award winning actor/director any less than "fucking terrified" for his next role: reuniting with American Beauty director Sam Mendes for a production of Richard III.
"I'm fucking terrified," Spacey candidly told guests during a Q&A at the Apple Store in Soho Friday.
"It's the second longest role in Shakespeare after Hamlet. And it's my second leading role in which I've ever played Shakespeare in a play. It's very exciting and very daunting and very terrifying. I think I already may have said that. Let me say that again. I'm fucking terrified."
Check out the full Q&A below, including Spacey's hesitation to executive produce The Social Network ("A movie about Facebook? What would that be?" he wondered), the kinds of text messages Casino Jack co-star Jon Lovitz sends him during screenings, and how he found out about the role of Jack Abramoff (Facebook. You can't make this shit up.)
On playing a former lobbyist and convicted felon in Casino Jack:
Being an actor is a little bit like being a detective. You gotta sift through what sometimes are false clues, and sometimes are true. I met with Jack Abramoff for about six hours in prison, I met a lot of lobbyists that [Abramoff] worked with, people that knew him, people that liked him, people that hated him, and then I Googled his name. If you Google the name Jack Abramoff, a whole lotta shit comes up. And so I then had a chance to look at what other people had been saying, and the kind of commentary and news reporting that had gone on. And out of that, you sort of take all that evidence and what's true, what's not, what's myth, and try to sort it out in such a way that you can try to portray a person by putting yourself into their shoes, and without making a judgment about them... Allow an audience to be the ones to make a judgment. That's my job, to try to unearth those other human qualities and try to humanize someone who's been greatly dehumanized. One of the things I've been happy about in the screenings so far and the reactions to the movie so far is even if people have made a judgment about him and particularly a negative judgment about him, they find themselves... even against their better instincts... feel empathy toward a character they thought they might never feel that for.
On finding out about the Jack Abramoff role via Facebook:
[Director] George Hickenlooper was very active on Facebook. In fact, it's one of the ways I found out George wanted me to play this part. He posted on his Facebook page that he wanted to play this role, and we got a hold of him and before you know it, he was in London and we were talking about making the movie.
On going to prison to meet Jack Abramoff:
We spent about six hours together, with [director] George Hickenlooper. It was a really great chance for me to try to ask questions that gave me a lot of clues into his emotional terrain, what was happening in his relationships and in his business and his reputation, as this house of cards was starting to crumble. I viewed him as a source. George told me that when he first met Abramoff, Abramoff spent the first meeting trying to convince him not to make the movie. And once he realized that George was going to make the movie, I think he decided it was probably in his best interest to be as helpful as he could... I think in large measure because he was probably worried that we were going to do to him what a lot of things have happened in the press, which is make him out to be a horrible, horrible human being. And I thought, 'That would be interesting for about ten seconds.
On being nominated for a "Best Actor in a Comedy" Golden Globe for Casino Jack:
I did a film in 2008 for HBO called Recount about the 2000 election, and if you tell people, 'Hey we're going to make a movie about an election, or we're going to make a movie about a Washington lobbyist,' you can kind of hear the yawning start across the nation. So, if you look at that film as a template, the outrageousness of characters, the over-the-top decisions, the circumstances that you can't quite believe, the shit you couldn't write, it's inherently funny. George and I both wanted very much to be able to embrace that tone because we felt maybe that's a way to a) make it a more entertaining film, but also you can make the political points you want to make, but do it with humor and with a slightly comical tone. We were aware of what we were trying to do, and we had a ball doing it.
On the corruptions he sees in lobbying:
There is an impression that's left that when they take a man like Jack Abramoff and they wag their finger at him and they say, 'What a bad and horrible man you are,' and 'We're putting you in prison,' that they're cleaning up the lobbying industry. And I think we've just had an election where more money was spent than any other time in the history of this country. So I think they're kind of full of shit. Until you remove the money you're never going to remove the corruption.
About Jon Lovitz's role:
I've known Jon for 25 years, I thought he was just perfect for this part. He's a character that Abramoff asked to go down and help him work out a deal with these floating casinos in Florida, which ultimately led to a murder and lots of problems for Abramoff. And Lovitz is just hilarious, he steals virtually every scene he's in, and he just makes me laugh all the time. Whenever I've been going around the country showing the movie at various screenings and Jon hasn't been able to be with us, I just get text messages that say 'Count my laughs and get back to me.'
On the sudden death of director George Hickenlooper:
George was a wonderful friend and a really remarkable director who died suddenly last month while he was promoting the film. George was like a kid, storytelling was his playground, and he had a fascination for American politics... He was driven by it, he was fascinated by it, he was frustrated by it. George's enthusiasm, his giggle, which I'll never forget... He was always laughing off-camera in the middle of scenes if something amused him. So I think in large measure because of George and his presence, it was a very very pleasant setting.
On his most challenging role to date, reuniting with American Beauty director Sam Mendes for Richard III:
My most challenging role? I think I'm about to do it, with Richard III. Sam Mendes and I are coming back to work together for the first time next spring, he's going to direct me in the theater as Richard III, which we will start in The Old Vic and will come here to Brooklyn Academy of Music in January 2012. And I'm fucking terrified. It's the second longest role in Shakespeare after Hamlet. It's my second leading role in which I've ever played Shakespeare in a play... I did Richard II three seasons ago at The Old Vic. And it's very exciting and very daunting and very terrifying. I think I already may have said that. Let me say that again. I'm fucking terrified. And yet I'm also quite excited because I trust Sam so much... Sam is a remarkable director and works incredibly well with actors... So I'm very excited but it is ahead of me and not behind me. Dammit, dammit.
On a role he really wanted and didn't get, or regrets turning down:
Well, Tom Hanks has had a lot of good parts. [Laughs]. The funny thing is, I'm the artistic director at The Old Vic, so I... can't take all the good parts. I gotta spread them around. I've only done seven of our productions as an actor. I don't really covet roles... or have [roles] I wish I hadn't turned down. There's movies I've turned down, but if those movies worked, and the actor who played that role was right, then I'm incredibly happy. By the way, also, I'm very grateful for actors who turned down parts that I then got offered. I have no problem being seventh choice at all. No problem.
On his future acting endeavors:
For the past seven or eight years Ive been living in London running The Old Vic Theater, so the films I've done in that time period have been limited both in terms of the time I had but also the size of the parts. I've really played a lot of cameo or supporting roles. [Abramoff] is really one of the first central roles that I've played. But [The Old Vic] is up and running now, it's our seventh season, things are going rather well so I'm starting to sneak off and make a few more films.
On his favorite movie to make:
I loved making American Beauty. Sam Mendes knew exactly what he wanted, we had a great cinematographer and a remarkable cast. It was such a great environment on set. I've been very fortunate, I've worked with some incredible people and had some remarkable experiences, but I always like to hope that the best film I've done is ahead of me and not behind me.
On preparing for his role in The Usual Suspects:
I get this script, completely didn't understand it when I first read it, had to read it again, and then [director] Bryan Singer and I met and we talked and I was so surprised and honored. It had been the first time anyone had ever written anything with me in mind. And really the preparation was complete and total trust. I met with a couple of doctors in order to understand the Cerebral Palsy and how that can affect different patients, and then I just trusted Bryan, really.
On Executive Producing The Social Network:
[Author] Ben Mezrich came to [Trigger Street Production president] Dana Brunetti and I probably three or four years ago saying he wanted to write a book about how Facebook happened, which he ultimately did, called Accidental Billionaires. At the time, Dana and I's reaction was, 'A movie about Facebook? What would that be?' But we didn't know until a little bit later, that in fact, the story had all the hallmarks of what makes a great drama. It was about friendship and betrayal and invention and power. When you have all of those elements going for you, you can tell a really compelling story. We also really felt it was a story for its time but also that it maybe it could be timeless, because it was about something that changed and revolutionized so many peoples' lives. We took the book proposal to Sony Pictures, who we had done 21 with, and Sony, much to my delight - cause they're not known for making movies that are essentially people talking in rooms... There's no explosions, there's no car chases, there's no real sex - they jumped on board. We were incredibly fortunate to get Aaron Sorkin to come and find a way to structure the screenplay and then get David Fincher to come on board and direct... It's just one of those extraordinary experiences where all of the elements came together. We're very excited about the reaction it's had by the public and it also received six Golden Globe nominations two days ago. We're very excited.