Kevin Spacey Reveals Why He Ditched Film Career


Monday, January 7, 2008

Kevin SpaceyKevin Spacey has revealed why he ditched his Oscar-winning film career to help a struggling theater.

The American Beauty star stunned fans when he turned his back on the multi million pound industry to become artistic director of The Old Vic theater in London.

As Spacey enjoyed life at the pinnacle of his Hollywood career, the Old Vic had fallen on hard times.

But as he starts his fourth season at the theater, 48-year-old Spacey said he doesn’t regret a thing.

He said: “It’s too easy to be suspicious of anyone who’s doing anything but they’re not doing it for money.

“I heard a lot of commentary about why would he be walking away from movies? Well I wasn’t walking away from anything, I was walking towards something.

“This is more than a job for me because I’m finally doing something that is outside of my own career and bigger than myself and I’m able to see the effects it has on people’s lives every single day and you just don’t have that experience in film.”

Spacey said he reached a crossroads in his career where he had to decide what he wanted to do next.

He said: “When I got to the end of my 12 years focusing on film I thought what else am I supposed to do now? Am I just supposed to keep making movie after movie after movie and try to top myself?

“It had gone better than I could have imagined and I thought, all right, what can I do with all that I have been given that is going to be more valuable to me and to other people than just making more money or making more movies?

“And I decided that this seemed to me in many ways where my life was always leading.

“I couldn’t have ever imagined it would have happened that I would end up at this extraordinary theatre, in this incredible city but there has not been a day in this entire experience where I have doubted that this is exactly where I was meant to be.”

Spacey revealed the exact moment when he decided to wave goodbye to LA to tread the theatre’s boards. He was in London for a film premiere and he stopped in at the Old Vic.

He said: “There was no artistic director, there was no company in place, there was no attempt to reach out to its community or have educational work or try to build a broad and wide new audience.

“It had essentially ceased being a destination.

“I went back to the hotel I was staying at that night and I just could not get some of the things that I’d heard out of my head.

“I tried to go to sleep and I couldn’t. I eventually got up probably at about two in the morning. I got dressed and I thought I’ll just take a walk. I just couldn’t sleep.

“It was raining, that kind of London not horrible rain but just wet. So I hailed a taxi and the driver said ‘where to’ and I hadn’t thought about where to.

“He said ‘where to’ and I said ‘the National Theater’. So he drives me over to South Bank and I get out of the car and I walk to the edge of the river and I turn and I look back up at that building and I thought about what that building means now, where (Sir Laurence) Olivier was in his career, in his life, when he started it. Then I walked down four or five blocks to a little park that sits across from the Old Vic.

“And I looked up at the building and it was like a scene out of a movie. I felt so stupid because it suddenly dawned on me that it was staring me in the face.

“Here I was on this committee trying to come up with the choice of the artistic director and it was something I wanted to do myself. Now I’m not saying I was the best choice but I wanted to do it.

“So the next day I said ‘I think I’m going to throw my hat in the ring’ and then about a month later I came back and met with the board of the trust and presented my name and they agreed that they thought it was a good idea.”

Spacey has helped turn the theatre around in the time he has been there. One of the things he has done is to bring children in from the surrounding low income areas. Most of them had never set foot in the Old Vic before.

He said: “When you’ve been involved in theater as long as I have, when you know and believe that arts and culture are not a luxury item, they are a necessary and important component of our lives, of our existence, and when you have both experienced and seen the positive effects that theater can have, not just on audiences but on all the kids that we work with, on how we have changed in these four years.

“I was a kid who got these kind of opportunities. They were the first steps towards my confidence, towards my self esteem and whether or not kids want to go into the arts or not isn’t the point.

“It’s about seeing the eyes of an 11-year-old when he or she suddenly discovered that they can do something, that they’re actually good at something.

“Jack (Lemmon) believed that if you have been fortunate enough to be successful at what you wanted to do in your life then it is your obligation to, as he used to say, send the elevator back down.”

Spacey also revealed how he first go into acting and how he was hooked from his first drama class.
He said: “I went through, as a lot of kids do, a kind of lack of discipline. The guidance counselor was looking at my records and whatever comments were made by former teachers.

“She said to me ‘you seem to have an enormous amount of energy and perhaps we can find a way to harness this energy’ and then she said ‘I think you should enter the drama class’ and I thought okay.”

Spacey was speaking on ITV’s The South Bank Show.


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