The Guardian Unlimited
The Kevin Spacey Issue April 19-23, 2004
About Today’s Guest Editor: Kevin Spacey
Since childhood, the theatre has been Kevin Spacey’s primary allegiance. He was born in New Jersey in 1959 and trained at the Juilliard School of Drama in New York. His breakthrough came when Jonathan Miller cast Spacey as Jack Lemmon’s ne’er-do-well son in the 1986 Broadway production of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night, which also played the Haymarket Theatre.
His film roles include John Williamson in Glengarry Glen Ross, John Doe in Se7en, Jack Vincennes in LA Confidential, Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects, for which he won the best supporting actor Oscar, and Lester Burnham in American Beauty, for which he received the best actor award.
He has just unveiled plans for his first season as artistic director at the Old Vic, and is currently in post-production on Beyond the Sea, a film about the life of legendary American singer Bobby Darin. Spacey produced, directed and stars in the film, his dream project for more than 10 years. It will be released in the autumn.
Kevin Spacey, Friday Review’s guest editor, explains how he came up with the stories and interviews in this week’s issue
My father was a journalist and a photographer, when he got back from the second world war. I also have a newspaper thing – it’s an illness, I think. When I buy newspapers, I buy so many of them that people think I’m getting them for everybody else. I enjoy the process of putting something together, too – and I’m delighted that we’ve been able to shift the Friday Review’s remit a little bit to include some theatre pieces.
The idea to do a piece about the students from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art came from one of the things I like to do, which is to sneak into the final productions of the graduating drama schools – I do it in America, and I’ve done it here.
Once every now and then, an actor or actress will walk on stage and they will be so absolutely stunning, so mature, so assured that you cannot think but that they will explode into theatre or film in a very short period of time. You can spot talent, and it’s exciting to make discoveries. But you have to be willing to go out and take a peek.
I went to drama school, so I’m keyed into what it’s like to be placed in a room with 28 other thoroughbreds who all have ambitions and want to move ahead. I know that, as you’re beginning to walk out into the real world, when you’re no longer within the cocoon of the school, suddenly the everyday life of getting up and going to classes and doing scenes gives way to the reality of trying to get an agent, trying to get someone to notice you, trying to get a job. So I thought it might offer a nice perspective to speak to them just as they’re going to get out. It may end up being interesting if, five years from now, we discover there’s a reason to do a companion piece because some of these actors have gone on and made names for themselves.
I am fortunate to be one of the few people to have heard Michael Gambon tell one of his own stories. There is a kind of Michael Gambon mythology – no doubt some of them have taken on a life of their own, but there are certain actors whose personalities are so large, and whose view of the world and of themselves is so particular, that it is just funny. Practically every story I’ve ever heard about Gambon is just so funny – I can’t believe the situations he’s gotten himself into. And also, of course, actors love to do imitations of Michael Gambon because he’s got such a rich voice. He’s taken on what would be Christopher Walken’s role in America, where a lot of people like to sit around telling Walken stories. And given that he’s in the West End doing this remarkable Beckett piece, I thought it might be nice to do something that’s a little bit cheeky and fun, rather than the usual profile. I hope he won’t hate us.
Trevor Nunn has always had the idea that it would be exciting to cast very young people in the roles of Ophelia, Hamlet and his friends. And by casting young, you shift the ages of the mother and the king. I wanted to find out more about this new attack on the play. I was also interested in the fact that he’s cast Hamlet with a young actor who’s a year out of Rada. That he didn’t go for a name, I think, is quite daring. I was interested in finding out what it has been like for the two actors, what Trevor asked of them, and what he put them through in their auditions.
Triggerstreet.com is a website that we began about a year and a half ago to give new film-makers a platform from which to display their work. We held a competition to take nine film-makers to film festivals and then to pick one overall winner, which was a movie by two very talented British guys. So this was a way of doing a film story about new talent, rather than about something that’s out this week.
As for Patti Smith, I think she’s great. She’s an uncompromising rock’n’roll icon, and her work just continues to endure – and the new album’s very good, too.