Spacey goes the distance for ‘Beyond the Sea’
Actor looks and sounds the part of Bobby Darin by Susan Wloszczyna USA Today
Toronto – This cat can wail.
Those who have caught festival screenings of Kevin Spacey’s Beyond the Sea, a splish-splashy musical fantasia based on the life of pop crooner Bobby Darin, are singing the praises of the vocal prowess of the two-time Oscar winner.
“I didn’t want to be tied to an imitation,” says Spacey, snappily attired in a Sea suit, a smoke-blue silk number. “It had to come from me. Our goal was that those who know Bobby would go, ‘Is that Bobby or is that Kevin?’ ”
The actor is even taking his act on the road. He plans to perform a showcase of Darin hits backed by a 19-piece band in 12 cities, including Las Vegas starting in late November. Fest-goers got a preview when Spacey joined Jamie Foxx, who headlines the Ray Charles biopic Ray, on a raucous rendition of Splish Splash at a late-night party this week.
But the film itself, which opens Nov. 24, may be a harder sell. Despite Chicago‘s high note at the box office, movie musicals are still iffy affairs. At least Spacey, who not only stars but also directed, produced and co-wrote the script, has the guts to confront the question on everyone’s mind head-on: Can a 45-year-old pretend to be someone who died at age 37?
Early onscreen, Darin explains that he is shooting a movie of his own life when someone gripes, “He’s too old to play this part.” You can feel audiences relax. “I decided to deal with it directly,” he says. “Identify the elephant in the room and get on with it.”
The account of how sickly little Bobby Cassotto from the Bronx overcame a faulty ticker with the power of music has struggled to become reality for 12 years, four of them with Spacey taking charge.
“There is this strange argument that I never quite understood. ‘It’s a terrific story, and the music is great, but who has ever heard of Bobby Darin?’ Well, who ever heard of Forrest Gump or Rocky?”
He has directed before, 1996’s Albino Alligator, but has never worn so many hats. “I got through it because of the people involved,” he says of the crew and cast that includes John Goodman and Bob Hoskins. “They took my dream and made it theirs.”
It’s clear that Spacey, who has had a string of film disappointments after he won the Academy Award for 1999’s American Beauty, relates to Darin, who met derision when he tried to change his finger-snapping style in the hippie-era ’60s. “People wanted Bobby Darin the way they wanted him. They didn’t want him to do different things,” which included an Oscar-nominated role in 1963’s Captain Newman, M.D. “I’ve experienced some of that. We live in a time of ‘this person is hot, this person is out, this person is in, the person is not,’ and I don’t give a toss about all that. It’s meaningless, temporal and cynical.”
That might be one reason he has taken refuge in London as the artistic director of the Old Vic Theater. During his tenure, he plans on taking only a few movie assignments, such his recent work on the crime drama Edison.
“I always knew after American Beauty it would be a while before anything would measure up. I said, ‘I’m not going to stop working.’ But while I was doing those movies, this is where my heart’s been,” he says of Beyond the Sea. “Those were jobs. This is my love.”