Kevin Spacey comes to A.C. to pay Darin homage
By Scott Cronick
At The Shore
When it comes to respected movie stars, it doesn’t get much bigger than Kevin Spacey. The two-time winner for “American Beauty” and “The Usual Suspects” has made a career of wisely picking roles that show off his intelligence.
Later this month, Spacey will show a different side of his personality as he portrays legendary singer Bobby Darin in “Beyond the Sea,” a biopic that Spacey not only stars in, but one that he also co-wrote and directed.
Surprisingly, unlike most biographies of famed singers, Spacey sings all of the vocals in the film. Local audiences will get a chance to preview what Spacey will sound like in the film, scheduled for a wide Dec. 29 release, when he makes a stop at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort’s Xanadu showroom backed by a 19-piece orchestra headed by Roger Kellaway, who worked with Darin as a musical director and accompanist for years.
Spacey is expected to sing the 18 songs performed on the film’s soundtrack which were also recorded with Kellaway at the helm.
“This is to celebrate the music of Bobby … all Bobby all the time,” Spacey said in a video- taped interview. ”The great thing about the tour is that I get to do songs not even in the movie or on the album. A lot of my favorite stuff I ended up not putting in the movie because they didn’t work in terms of narrative I wanted to tell. I am getting a chance to do all this music I loved.”
Spacey’s infatuation with Darin came early in Spacey’s life.
“Bobby got into music through his brother-in-law’s big band record collection,” Spacey said.
“I was got into music through my Dad’s collection of big band and jazz 78s. I was the kid standing in the living room singing into a hairbrush to my family. Bobby did the same thing except he was singing to Frank Sinatra records and I was singing along to Bobby Darin records.”‘
But getting “Beyond the Sea” made was anything but an easy journey. Spacey said he heard about a possible Bobby Darin movie in the late 1980s.
“I really thought it was a part for me,” Spacey said. “But at that time, I was an obscure New York theater actor. So I got quickly rejected for the part, but I kept my eye on it.”
After starring in movies that included “Glengarry Glen Ross,” “The Ref” and “Outbreak,” Spacey used his star to help negotiate the rights from Warner Brothers in 1995.
“When I finally got the rights, I began to figure out how to tell Bobby’s story …” Spacey said. ” …what parts of Bobby’s life I wanted to tell, and, of course, what songs to choose.”
One of the most difficult challenges Spacey encountered was putting together a coohesive script he could work with.
“A lot of scripts existed out of Warner Brothers at the time when they were developed there,” Spacey said. “They were wonderful scripts, but they just ultimately weren’t the totality of the movie I wanted to tell. I knew the film was asking for more, but I didn’t know what it was.”
Spacey decided to use his own words and scenes combined with bits and pieces of others.
“I knowingly and willingly used material from the previous scripts because there was some wonderful stuff in there,” he said. “There was terrific character work and things that moved the narrative forward… stuff that’s very funny. And I was able to insert the material into the overall context of the telling of Bobby’s story.”
Spacey delved into the script in 2003. It didn’t take him too long to finish, but when he did complete “Beyond the Sea”, he had a tough choice.
“I realized that to make the movie I had to direct it or not make the movie,” said Spacey, who said he had no intentions of directing the film. “So I decided to roll the dice.”
Even though it seems like it would be easy to finance a film about Bobby Darin with Kevin Spacey behind it, finding a studio with full support was difficult.
“Not only did I get the rights, I got the film’s reputation,” said Spacey, who was also worried that Darin’s widow Sandra Dee and the estate would be reluctant, as well. “When I got the rights, I decided not to approach the family yet. I knew they must have gone through about 14 years of dashed hopes about this movie being made. I didn’t want to put them through that again.”
Spacey waited until 2003 to contact the family, who was originally against Spacey singing in the film and on the soundtrack.
“Once I was able to show them the kind, of movie I wanted to make … that I wanted to honor Bobby and not do anything to damage his legacy, they got behind the film so much they sent us all Bobby’s original arrangements and charts.”
That led to countless hours of Spacey working with Kellaway and vocal coaches to find Darin’s voice.
Eventually, the songs were recorded at Abbey Road Studio in New York, and led to the 18-song sound track that features Darin hits like the title track, “Hello Young Lovers,” “Mack the Knife,” “Dream Lover” and “Splish Splash.”
“(Darin’s family and friends) have now seen (the film), and in a way I faced the biggest critics I could have faced, and they are so happy with the film that everything that comes after this – success or not – I am happy with it. I made the movie I wanted to make.”
The tour is just icing on the cake.
“Now I’m going to go out and sing for my supper,” he said.
At The Shore – Weekly Entertainment Guide
Week of December 10, 2004