CNN Lou Dobbs Moneyline

Air date: October 18, 2002

LOU DOBBS, HOST: Good evening. We’re broadcasting live atop the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel. Of course, Hollywood means the movie business — a $30 billion a year business, in fact. And that business slowed dramatically last year with the rest of the economy. But tonight we’ll tell you the story about a remarkable comeback, and I’ll be joined by one of Hollywood’s leading actors and most popular actors, Kevin Spacey.

Spacey is a two-time winner of the Academy Award, reaching the top of his profession. Now he’s trying to help aspiring filmmakers and screenwriters do the same.

We’ll be talking about his production company, Trigger Street Productions. We’ll also be talking about the business of Hollywood, and of course, the politics of Hollywood.

(Non-Spacey stuff here….)

LOU DOBBS: Coming up next here, Hollywood makes a big comeback after suffering one of its worst slumps in years. Tonight we’ll have a special report for you. And Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey will be here to talk about his company, Trigger Street Productions. The business of Hollywood, the politics of Hollywood, his production company designed to help young filmmakers and screen writers break into the entertainment business.

We’ll have all of that and a great deal more coming up in one minute and a half.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK and VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: Well, one of the most successful actors in this town is Kevin Spacey. Kevin won an Oscar for best actor in the movie “American Beauty.” He also captured another Oscar for best supporting actor in “The Usual Suspects.”

And, like anyone in this business, he spent several years becoming an overnight success. He came up the hard way, and he hasn’t forgotten his struggle. He’s giving back.

Kevin Spacey operates a production company called Trigger Street. And he uses the company to nurture and advocate young, emerging screenwriters and actors. He not only helps them develop their careers, but produces their movies as well.

Actor extraordinaire and businessman as well, Kevin Spacey, good to have you here.

KEVIN SPACEY, ACTOR: Thanks for having me.

DOBBS: Did you have, with your company, Trigger Street, any sense of the slowdown that Hollywood experienced?

SPACEY: Well, not so much, because it’s a relatively new company. And I actually, when we started it in 1997, I didn’t actually expect to produce a film for a couple of years.

We were really focusing on developing relationships with literary agents, with playwrights, with going out and trying to find as much content and interesting new voices and writers as we possibly could. The fact we ended up producing a film called “The Big Kahuna” a couple of years ago with Danny DeVito, and also produced “The Iceman Cometh,” which is a play that I did in New York, was kind of a surprise.

But this year really had been the year that we had sort of focused on really kind of pulling the trigger, as we like to call it, over at our place. We’ve done a film called “The United States of Leland,” with a first-time writer/director who’s 27 years old named Matthew Hoge. And…

DOBBS: That’s going to be released when?

SPACEY: That’ll be released next year. We don’t have a distributor yet, but our intention is to take it to some film festivals. And that film really has, in a way, represented exactly what I want the company to be about.

We’re not just giving an opportunity to somebody, but also trying to nurture them, trying to protect them, trying to give them as many resourceful tools, and a crew and a cast, to help them make their dream come true. And at the same time, help them learn what it’s like to work with producers; to negotiate yourself in what’s sometimes the treacherous waters of trying to make your dream happen on screen.

DOBBS: That’s what I was going to ask you, protect them from what?

SPACEY: Well, I think sometimes, protect them in some cases from themselves. There are — there are times when you’re very young, you haven’t had a lot of experience. And if you have an attitude about your work, that it’s my way or the highway, then it’s very difficult to learn how to compromise.

And that’s one of the things that you have to learn how to do when you’re creating something with a group of people. You have collaborators and you have investors, who have put their money on the line to believe in something you want to do.

And I’ve always believed that there is a way to both have something that is true to its intentions and its heart and its breath that makes it unique, and at the same time, have it be as commercial as it possibly can. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t much matter if you’re a brilliant screenwriter or director if nobody sees your work.

DOBBS: Would you say that that — because it seems to me it does — represent the velocity that you’ve used to guide your own career?

SPACEY: Yes. I’ve had great fortune in finding first-time, second-time writers, directors, and taking a chance on them. The harder thing, when you’re the producer — it’s easy for me as an actor to say, I want to take a chance with this director, because usually at that point, someone’s already taken the risk financially.

What I’m trying to translate it into now is, as a producer, being able to go to investors, being able to go to people who are the financial interests, and say, this particular film that we have developed over the last year with this young writer or director is worth doing. It has social value.

It may not be a walk in the park, or we may not be able to stack the deck, in terms of bringing you the biggest box office stars in this film, but we’re going to put together a company of actors that will make it worthwhile. And…

DOBBS: Does your prominence, your star power, one would assume, given the magnitude of both, that you can bring a lot of commercial interest very quickly to a project you support. Is that the case?

SPACEY: Well, to a certain degree, you can bring some interest. But at the end of the day, if I’m not going to be in every film that I produced, the reason I started the company was not to be a vehicle for me as an actor. I want to really take the great, extraordinary opportunity that I’ve been given in this industry, which has gone better than I could have ever imagined, and turn it back around now.

I think that if you’ve done well in whatever business you’re in, then you really ought to spend about half of your time sending the elevator back down. And that’s kind of the philosophy that I have adopted.

So it’s easier if I sort of offer myself up in a role. But if I’m not doing that, if I’m just behind the scenes and trying to nurture and help someone else make their dream happen, it’s a little more difficult.

DOBBS: You obviously feel very strongly about this. And this society that is Hollywood itself, the industry, do you see it as a closed society, that you’re trying to break with this approach?

SPACEY: Well, I just think that what tends to happen is, when you reach a certain level, if you’re successful, you have to kind of close off a pipeline of material, because the risks of accepting unsolicited material become so high. You can be sued and someone can say that was my idea.

So, I’ve actually come up with a way in which we’re going to try to open that up by launching a Web site, which is happening in a month’s time, called triggerstreet.com, which is going to be dedicated to the nurturing and development of new talent.

Because frankly, some of the best material you ever see is the stuff that gets chucked over the wall. And I don’t want to ever lose that pipeline.

DOBBS: Can we continue this in just a moment?

SPACEY: Sure.

DOBBS: We’re going to take a quick break. Coming up next here, we’ll have more with Kevin Spacey. We’ll also joined by the editor of the Hollywood bible, “Variety.”

And we’ll introduce you to a man who, like Kevin Spacey, believes in giving back in a major way. We’ll have that story, a great deal more, still ahead here. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: We’re going to return to our conversation with Kevin Spacey in just a moment. And we’re going to be going to Bob Franken to update us on the sniper attacks that have been terrorizing suburban Washington, D.C.

(NEWS BREAK)

DOBBS: We’re back now with Kevin Spacey. Kevin Spacey, the businessman and the actor. His production company, Trigger Street Productions, his mission, to help screenwriters and actors move into the business to get the breaks they need.

And, Kevin, I want to turn to the idea of creating a Web site. That’s a fascinating idea, sort of counter trend, if you will.

SPACEY: It is a counter trend. But I think if you look at all of the Web sites that a lot of people lost money on, they went into it to make money. We’re not going into this to make money. We’re going into this to actually try to use the Internet for what it was initially started for, which was a place to communicate and a place to get information.

So if you, Lou, wanted to make a little five-minute movie about your trip that you’ve taken across America now, and you wanted to upload it onto our site, you’d have to participate in the site. Because we think the site will only work if people participate. So you’d have to review two other screenplays and a movie, or two movies and a screenplay. And then someone can review your review.

And we hope to not just create an opportunity for those of us who are professionals to be able to find new material, but for a community to begin to talk to each other, and for people all over the world to have a chance, who have no access. You could write a great thing, and if you never get a chance to debate it or have it discussed or have it talked about, you may never get good advice about how to make it better.

DOBBS: Well, I guarantee you, I will be logging onto your Web site. But I won’t take up space that would be better used by someone with talent.

SPACEY: Well, you can make a good little movie.

DOBBS: I could make a good little movie by some very, very primitive standards, I’m sure.

Let’s turn, if we may, to the politics of Hollywood. A lot of concern expressed, as you know, in Congress about, if you will, the liberal cant of Hollywood and the movie production business — the money that is raised here, the decidedly Democratic cant of Hollywood. First, why is that? Is it a cultural issue?

SPACEY: Well, I — you know, I don’t think that anybody could accuse the Republicans of not being able to raise money. They’re doing pretty well.

DOBBS: No, no, but they do it in places like Wall Street and…

SPACEY: I think, you know, it may be an issue of ideology, maybe an issue of philosophy. I think that there may be merit to the idea that the Democrats have a particular way of governing — that they look at the world and believe that they can truly help people, and they govern through evidence. That the Republicans, in some ways, govern through ideology and power. So I think maybe some of the people in this industry might look to that as being closer to their own hearts.

DOBBS: I asked Kevin Spacey for a cultural explanation, I get a manifesto. Truly, it is an industry given to, obviously, creative people. But it seems remarkable to me — and I’m not suggesting any value judgment about it one way or the other, that it is decidedly a liberal community. And that strikes me as peculiar.

SPACEY: For what reason?

DOBBS: Any time that one group of people, certainly as diverse as Hollywood itself is, moves in one direction or another along the political spectrum.

SPACEY: Well, I think there may be – it may also just be a perception. I think that there are many Republicans in the entertainment business and all kinds of fields. We certainly have some famous Republicans, some who were even thinking of running for office from what I understand. And my belief is always that you can be involved in politics, but you don’t have to run for office. So I try to steer as clear as I can.

DOBBS: And I suppose another reason that I would be surprised about this, my Republicans friends would want me to say with as bright and intelligent a group of people in Hollywood, one would think there would be more representation from the conservative side.

SPACEY: Well, that’s the good thing about this country, is that we can all share our different opinions.

DOBBS: And turning to, if we may, the national political situation. Hollywood has, in terms of the potential war against Iraq, the war against terrorism, do you believe that Hollywood is doing enough in support of the national interest, particularly in the war against terrorism?

SPACEY: Well, I think that this community is as concerned as any community across the country about the security of this country. And I think that we’re probably going to start to see entertainment that is geared in some way toward a response to what’s happened in this country. I think it just probably takes a while for people to be able to put on paper how they have felt in this past year. And in terms of whether we head into a war or not, I think there’s a solid argument to do as much as we possibly can to try to find peace and stability in another way.

DOBBS: Kevin, if we may, I should point out, Kevin Spacey took a year off from making films to support Trigger Street Productions. And I mean that’s remarkable in and of itself. You do have a new movie coming out and I cannot be in Hollywood, talking to you, without doing a little promotion. “The Life of David Gale.”

SPACEY: You do a promotion for me then I have got to do a promotion for the sponsors of our Web site.

DOBBS: Do it.

SPACEY: So I’ll do a little business which is I have to say that we have been given enormous support by Anheuser-Busch who are going to be our exclusive corporate sponsors for the next couple of years.

DOBBS: This, by the way, will be the first commercial for Anheuser-Busch in the history of this broadcast.

SPACEY: Of LOU DOBBS, really? I’m delighted. I am a man who believes in firsts. And if I can say that the guys there, Tom Conturo (ph) and Bob Lackey (ph), who run Busch media, really saw our Web site as an opportunity for them to reach into a market that we’re trying to reach in to as well.

DOBBS: Now we do have to make this a 30-second commercial.

SPACEY: Yes, and also to RealNetworks who provided us with all the streaming, the video and the audio. That’s – I just have to do that. Now you can do me the favor of talking about “David Gale.”

DOBBS: And it is released when?

SPACEY:  It is released in February. It is a film I made with a great British director, Alan Parker, who made “Midnight Express” and “Mississippi Burning,” and this is a film that centers around the death penalty in the state of Texas. I play a college professor who was a leading opponent of the death penalty and winds up on death row.

DOBBS: Extraordinary premise. Can’t wait to see it as with all of your movies. Kevin Spacey, thanks a lot. It’s been a lot of fun talking to you.

SPACEY: Thank you, Lou, thanks for having me.
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