CNN Connie Chung Tonight – December 3, 2002
Connie Chung: And still ahead, Kevin Spacey drops by the studio to tell us about his latest project. He’s giving back, too.
CHUNG: You ever get tired of hearing big-shot actors complain about Hollywood while they’re promoting their latest big-budget explosion fest? Yes? Well, me, too. And, apparently, I’m not alone, because now one of Hollywood’s biggest stars is putting his money where his Oscars are. And I’m talking about Kevin Spacey. And before we sit down and talk about his latest role, a quick look back at his most notable ones.
(Video clip from American Beauty)
CHUNG (voice-over): You probably remember Kevin Spacey from his Oscar-winning performance as Lester Burnham, the suburban dad having a midlife crisis in “American Beauty.”
(Video clip from The Usual Suspects)
SPACEY: The only thing that scares me is Kaiser Soze.
(end video clip)
CHUNG: Or you might remember him from his first Academy Award: Best Supporting Actor in “The Usual Suspects.”
(Another clip from the Usual Suspects)
SPACEY: People say I talk too much.
(end video clip)
CHUNG: Spacey also had memorable roles in films such as “L.A. Confidential,” “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” and “Pay it Forward.”
(Clip from Pay It Forward)
SPACEY: This is your assignment.
(end video clip)
CHUNG: Born in New Jersey in 1959, Kevin Spacey began acting on the stage. He won a Tony Award in 1991 for “Lost in Yonkers.” He was mentored by Jack Lemmon and said he feels a responsibility to help other young actors.
SPACEY: It’s part of the payback, really. It’s an important — and it actually feels great. It really does, when you do something that you see it affects people.
CHUNG: Spacey has taken most of this year off to focus on creating TriggerStreet.com, a free Web site devoted to finding and helping new talent, screenwriters, and filmmakers.
CHUNG: And he’s set aside just a couple of minutes from that task to fill us in on exactly what he’s doing. Thank you.
SPACEY: Thank you for having me.
CHUNG: I am loving you. I’m loving your work. I am telling you…
SPACEY: Well, I’m glad to be here so we can talk.
CHUNG: All right, we’ll talk.
SPACEY: You and I together.
CHUNG: Yes. This is what we’re going to do. (laughter)
CHUNG: But you know what? It’s that little grin, that “I’m up to no good” that I love about you. And it’s the full range from devilish to downright sinister. Did your mother used to say to you, “Kevin, what are you up to?”
SPACEY: Well, yes, I did get away with a lot as a kid, but my mom raised me right. So I’m making up for it now.
CHUNG: You’re a good boy?
SPACEY: Yes, I’m making up for it now.
CHUNG: OK, all right, I know you want to talk about your Web site. And we promise we will get to that. We’ll talk about it. But you credit two people in particular for sort of jump-starting your career. Tell me about them.
SPACEY: Well, the first, which we saw just a little clip of, is the great late Jack Lemmon, who I actually met when I was 14 years old.
SPACEY: Yes. I went to a seminar that was held at the Mark Taper Forum. And they were doing a production of “Juno and the Paycock,” Walter Matthau and Jack. And I still remember the moment I shakily walked up to him to ask for his autograph and asked if he had any advice. And he gave me advice.
CHUNG: Because, at that time, you already knew you wanted to be an actor?
SPACEY: I already knew. I knew when I was about 8.
CHUNG: You’re kidding?
CHUNG: How come?
SPACEY: I just — for me, it was an incredible world where you could escape. I grew up sort of watching the late movies and admiring actors enormously. And I think my parents would say I was always the class clown and the one making the silly voices in the back of the room. So, Lemmon actually gave me some pretty great advice and said that, if I was serious about it, I ought to come to New York. I ought to study. I did. I went to Juilliard here for a number of years. And then, finally, I met him again in an audition for “Long Days Journey Into Night,” which we’ve been looking at a clip of. And I ended up playing his son for more than a year on the road. We took the play all over the place. And then we filmed it, which is what you’re seeing there.
CHUNG: But then you worked with him several more times.
SPACEY: Yes, we did.
CHUNG: His mentoring didn’t stop.
SPACEY: No. And aside from the joy of being able to work with him and how much I admired him, I think his example, of being able to work with somebody who had reached the pinnacle of success, who never allowed Hollywood glory to go to his head, and who really is the person who kind of gave me the phrase that we’ve been using at TriggerStreet for a while, which is that, if you’ve done well…
CHUNG: TriggerStreet is the name of your Web site.
SPACEY: It’s the name of the Web site and also the name of my production company. But that if you’ve done well in whatever business you’re in, then you ought to spend about half of your time sending the elevator back down.
CHUNG: So good. Such a good thought, but you’ve moved it into action. OK, the other person who was key in your life?
SPACEY: The other person I think, really, was the first film director who ever fought for me against the studios, which was Alan Pakula. And I did a film with him called “Consenting Adults,” which, while it wasn’t the greatest movie ever made, it was, for me, an extraordinary beginning, because it was really only after that studios began to pay attention to me. And it was because one person stood up and said, “No, I think this actor is the right actor for the role,” even though, at that point, I was really kind of a obscure theater actor, kind of fell out of a tree.
CHUNG: Everybody sort of needs a rabbi in New York, you know?
SPACEY: Yes, exactly.
CHUNG: All right, so, let’s get to your Web site. It’s payback time. You decide you are really going to do something for — really put your heart and soul into it for a whole year. So, you take off work, I mean doing any movies or whatever.
SPACEY: That’s right.
CHUNG: And now this is your dream.
SPACEY: Well, what’s great about talking with you tonight is that this almost gets to be a little bit of an update about how it’s doing. We launched three weeks ago on Sunday. And Dana Brunetti, who is my business partner in this adventure, and, actually, I should credit with this being really his idea, after a series of conversations we had about things that I was frustrated by in the industry, the first being, you can’t take unsolicited material, that little manila envelope that arrives at your office that could be a great screenplay. CHUNG: And why not?
SPACEY: Well, because there’s all kinds of legal reasons why you can’t open unsolicited material. But the fact of the matter is, is that I wouldn’t have a career if it weren’t for unsolicited, because of the first-time directors, second-time screenwriters, first-time playwrights who gave me a chance and I took a chance on. I felt it was somehow odd that I’m suddenly cut off from that whole pipeline of talent. So, Dana came up with this idea and approached me with it a little more than a year ago. And, essentially, it is — right now, there’s an online short film festival and a screenwriting forum. It doesn’t cost anybody any money. All you have to do is participate in the site. So, if you had a little film and you wanted to upload it — and I’m sure you do have a couple of little films.
CHUNG: Not that you’d want to see. S
PACEY: Not that I’d want to see.
CHUNG: I don’t think so.
SPACEY: All you have to do is go to the site. You have to register, go through that process. And then you have to read, rate and review or watch, rate and review two screenplays that exist on a site or two short films.
CHUNG: I, as an ordinary person, in order to submit, have to review two others.
SPACEY: Yes, you must participate, because what we’re trying to do is to create a community, where, you could be the next great filmmaker, but if the only people you’ve ever shown your work to is your family, you may not be getting the best criticism. And so far, as of today, I think we are at about 38,000 members.
SPACEY: Registered members. There’s some 20,000 reviews that have been posted; 1,000- something screenplays have been uploaded and over 600 short films. So, clearly, there was an audience out there just that we’ve managed to come along in the Internet, which is sort of now this vast wasteland, and we’ve started this new adventure.
CHUNG: Well, obviously, all these people want the doors to open for them. Is that opportunity going to be there, do you think?
SPACEY: I think that what I’m going to try to do, in addition to paying attention to it for our own company, mostly, we want people to write and to do the things they want to do because they have a passion for it, not because they might win something at the end of the day. But I hope that, by coming on here, by doing the amount of work that we’ve been doing to get the industry to pay attention to it, that other studio executives, that production companies, that executives and producers will take a look and realize that there’s a new place…
CHUNG: A source.
SPACEY: … to find material. And that’s TriggerStreet.com.
CHUNG: That is so great. I can’t stand the idea that I can’t talk to you longer. But, just quickly, you’ve got a lot of impressive judges.
SPACEY: Yes. We’ve actually got a wonderful group of judges. Our first group who are going to judge the…
CHUNG: Can you name-drop?
SPACEY: Yes, I’ll name-drop. The eventual finalists of the film festival will be about 10 or 15 films. And then we’ll pass those on to our judges. We have Bono, Annette Bening, Mike Myers. There’s a lovely group.
CHUNG: Sean Penn.
SPACEY: Sean Penn is doing it. See, you’ve done your work. I like that.
SPACEY: And I also should say that Budweiser has sponsored the entire site. And they have done an incredible job for us by really seeing its social value. And we’re going to debut a short film of theirs, actually, this coming week called “The Best Man.” So, we are very grateful to them and RealNetworks for providing all of the streaming.
CHUNG: Good old Budweiser. How you doing?
SPACEY: Yes, good. In fact, I’m going to go have a Bud right now.
CHUNG: All right. I’m with you. Thank you so much. My hands are real cold.
SPACEY: No, that’s all right. It’s nice in here. It’s not as cold as “Letterman.”
CHUNG: Oh, no. That is really freezing.
SPACEY: That’s really freezing.
CHUNG: He’s crazy, it’s so cold.
SPACEY: See, you’ve brought a little warmth to network television.
CHUNG: OK. Oh, I’m happy about that. Thank you so much. S
PACEY: Thank you for having us.
CHUNG: All right. And when we return, we’ll look to tomorrow.