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American Paradox

Kevin Spacey continues to seek offbeat roles that test the limits of his talent.
Betsy Model
From the Print Edition:
Kevin Spacey, Jan/Feb 02

First impressions can be deceiving. Dangerously so. Take a certain Academy Award-winning actor, for example. His blue collar "everyman's" face belies a razor-sharp white collar intellect and a demeanor that makes it crystal clear within minutes of meeting him that he is no one's man but his own. Should he choose to run with a crowd, it's inevitable that he will emerge as the leader. He'll slip smoothly to the front through charm and wit, thinning the herd as he goes to insure survival of the fittest. Including, of course, himself. In the space of a minute, he can display graciousness and sarcasm, a ready laugh or a cutting response.

Pre-1995, he was known simply as a character actor playing interesting but eccentric roles on stage and screen. In the last seven years, he's become one of America's most sought-after leading men, winning two Oscars, one Tony and a host of other kudos for his work playing those same interesting, eccentric roles on stage and screen.

He's a full-fledged movie star who eschews limousines for an SUV, haunts off-Broadway playhouses rather than rehab centers, and who would much rather discuss the state of the economy, the state of the industry or the state of New York than his own state of mind.

He is an extraordinarily private man in an extraordinarily public line of work.

Dichotomy, thy name is Kevin Spacey.

A crowd of 200 or more has gathered on the Austin, Texas, movie set of The Life of David Gale. Since the morning shoot is taking place on the campus of the University of Texas, the crowd is made up predominantly of students clutching cameras, publicity photos and paper and pens, in the hopes of catching a glimpse and an autograph of the movie's lead, actor Kevin Spacey.

Some have been waiting for hours, joined by other fans who have ferreted out the movie's shooting schedule and are patiently waiting across the narrow street from the campus building where the filming is taking place.

One man, a heavily tattooed, long-haul trucker in his mid-50s, can hardly stand still as he clutches his "Awards Edition" American Beauty video.

"I've just got to get his autograph," he whispers. He recites a list of five or six movies, commenting on "Kevin's genius," or "Kevin's brilliance," only to have a student break in and start comparing notes on "Kevin's take" on a particular scene.

Screams of "Kevin!" greet the actor as he exits the building and crosses the street to sign autographs; it's obvious that we won't hear a "Thank you, Mr. Spacey" here today. Actor Kevin Spacey is simply Kevin to his fans, approachable and affable.

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