Presumed Alien in K-Pax, gossipy journalist in The Shipping News, Kevin Spacey talks freely to Ciak.

By Marco Giovannini
(Italian to English translation)

ciak01200202The Americans call him “Mr. Anybody”, for his predilection to  perform common characters, true, rich of contradictions, that  give him always the possibility to explore new roads. Such in  his nature restless and hyperactive.

“Is it only an a**hole question or there is a hidden  target?”

Kevin Spacey answers this way to the brave interviewer who noted that in his last American movie “The Shipping News” (directed by Lasse Hallström) not only plays for the first time a journalist but he is going around questioning people on their private life that in real life he is not allowing people to ask him. The war between Kevin and the press started suddenly in 1997 after a famous article in Esquire (Kevin Spacey has a secret) in which the journalist hypothesized he was gay. And it never ended. “I feel immediately smell of burning [n.d.t. this is an Italian common sense I don’t know if it has the same meaning for you] and dishonesty” said Spacey “I’m ready to discuss my work, not my life.”

While “The Shipping News” (with Cate Blanchett and Julianne Moore) has been released in the US, K-Pax by Iain Softley in which Spacey is Prot, a presumed alien coming from another planet that the psychoanalyst Jeff Bridges is trying to decypher, is arriving in Italy.

Meanwhile he has already finished shooting “The Life of David Gale” by Alan Parker (with Kate Winslet), a drama on death penalty.

MG: Which is the common denominator of your characters?

KS: “The wish to not repeat myself, to explore different and new roads. Prot is definitely a “different”, a man who says he is an alien and this involves a fantastic job: how can you prepare yourself to such a role, what kind of research do you do? Not having many aliens around me I went to a psychiatric hospital and asked if there was any alien: they raised about a dozen hands. I was interested in the humanity and innocence of the character, in his logic and his simplicity. He is curious, observes everybody but don’t judges. Makes very straight questions, forces people to think. It’s the kind of challenge I like as an actor, leaves room to creativity and mystery.”

MG: They call you “Mr. Nobody” or “Mr. Anybody”: Do you like it?

KS: “Sure. This means the characters I choose are universal, genuine, full of contradictions as real people. It doesn’t matter what is the “genre” of the movie the roles that intrigue me are those in which the audiences can identify themselves.”

MG: Why did you decide to be an actor?

KS: “In America we have the verb – To Pretend – that means simulate. I immensely like to simulate. To burst out my imagination and that of those who watch me, be a storyteller, it is a need in any society. Theatre and movies are the modern equivalent of a camp with people around a fire.”

MG: People are asking from where this Kevin Spacey came out, until the Oscar in 1996 for The Usual Suspects you were a perfect stranger .

KS: “For fifteen years I’ve been a theatre actor.  Cinematographically I’m still a novice. I had the luck to be able to grow slowly.”

MG: You are now earning ten million dollars a movie. How important is money for you?

KS: “The most important thing is survive. The rest has to be used in a good way. I don’t collect homes, cars or airplanes. And I try not to forget I’m not alone in this world. I set up a production company to be able to offer other talents a chance. My slogan, good for any profession is -if you are so lucky to arrive to the attic, you have to send back the elevator to the ground floor.”

MG: Why did you buy at an auction for $150,000 the Oscar statuette won by composer George Stoll in 1945 (for Anchors Aweigh) and give it back to the Academy?

KS: “Spielberg did it already two times, I thought it was important to give a signal that also one of my generation is sensitive to these symbols.”

MG: Which was the crucial moment in your career?

KS: “Stop playing the bad guy. We are living in a world where people like to label you and to an actor you can’t take away the illusion he can be anybody. In 1996 after “The Usual Suspects” and “Seven” I tried to find more faceted characters, less white or black, refusing a lot of money, to better direct my career. Otherwise I could have said goodbye to a role like the one in “The Shipping News.” Cinema is a place where if they don’t see you do something they won’t believe you are able to do it.

MG: Have you a secret project?

ciak01200201KS: “The biography of the singer Bobby Darin. I like to sing, not only when I’m in the shower. When I was young I did many musicals. Recently I sang “Mind Games” at the John Lennon tribute. I was at Radio City Music Hall, there was a direct connection (live TV) and Yoko Ono was there. I felt myself a Kamikaze (?).

MG: Something you never speak about?

KS: “When my father died I found some manuscripts of his. He was a technical writer, but secretly he wrote some novels. I’d like to publish them, but without using my name and my fame, it has only to be because of his writing.

MG: How do you see your immediate future?

KS: “It’s time to go back to theatre. I’d like to try myself with some classic like Shakespeare but also in something modern. Making a movie is always a guess: will it make it or not? A play instead can be changed every night.

MG: Your favourite tale?

KS: “It’s about Lawrence Olivier, one night at The Old Vic in London he made a terrific interpretation. Audience calls him back four times and also his colleagues applaud him. At the end he went to his dressing room slamming the door and did not speak with anybody. The day after they ask him why he was such in a foul mood after the best performance of his career. -That’s it! – he answered. – The problem is I don’t know how I made it!-”

MG: Your favourite slogan?

KS: “Speak little and work a lot.”

MG: Why do you have it in so much with the journalists?

KS: “They think you have to tell them everything. Instead I want to decide what to speak about and what not. Remaining a little bit mysterious helps people to believe in the characters you play, not superimpose the actor on them.”

MG: The most stupid thing they wrote about you?

KS: “That my name Spacey is a tribute to Spencer Tracy, my favourite actor. Instead it is the Family name of my mother.

MG: What do you like of Spencer Tracy?

KS: “Passion and simplicity, integrity and honour. You see him and you say this is a man. But I love also Jack Lemmon, who has been my friend and my master. He always told me:
” It took me fifteen years to win two Oscars and you made it in four, you son of a b***h.”  You asked me how I choose my characters, in fact I think how Lemmon and Tracy would have judged them.

MG: How did you get in shape?

KS:”Tai Chi and Yoga, plus chiropractic massages and diet. The tragedy has been “The Shipping News”, Lasse Hallström asked me to gain 40 pounds: “You have to look like a round loaf!” he used to tell me. Recently I discovered boxing, a great exercise and a perfect discipline, not only physical but also intellectual: feint and dodges like in an actor’s job.”

MG: How is your life changed after September 11th?

KS: “I promised myself not to do stupid and useless things no more.”

MG: The most intelligent slogan on war?

KS: “Justice not revenge.”

MG: One of your personal characteristics?

KS: “I never look at the dailies when I’m shooting, I don’t want to grow fond of a scene or a face. I have to put full trust in the director.”

MG: A Wish?

KS: “Be able to write well, actually I’m good in adapting existing things, but not a creator.”

Ciak January 2002
Thanks to Gloria for the interview.