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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

(continued from page 2)

Based on Annie Proulx's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Shipping News is a dark, moody movie. Spacey plays Quoyle, a man deceived and abandoned by his late wife (Cate Blanchett). He is lured by his aunt (Dame Judi Dench) to start a new life as a single father on the coast of Newfoundland, where he finds some level of peace in a relationship with a local woman (Julianne Moore).

Spacey read the book in 1997, kept an eye on the story even as it was bought and prepared for another actor, and then snapped it up the minute the rights -- and the two-time Academy Award-nominee director Lasse Hallström -- were available again.

What drove him to the film, muses Spacey, was the rather depressing role of Quoyle, an emotionally and geographically isolated man who does all he can to simply exist.

"Quoyle's not trying to do anything but to get through the day, to not get on the boat, and be a good father. He's a man who falls in love once and forever, hard, and it will never go away, no matter how badly that woman treats him, no matter how much she uses his heart as an ashtray. He will always love her. Her name will forever be written on his heart. In his daughter, he sees her. His story is told on his face."

Spacey also admits that Quoyle's character is a "distinctly different role [for me] in a movie, but my work in the theater for fifteen years prior is very much these kinds of men. Certainly back in 1996, nobody [in Hollywood] would have considered me, Kevin Spacey, for this role."

If Spacey readily admits to having fallen in love with The Shipping News as a story and with Newfoundland as a locale, he also laughs when discussing Newfoundland's legendary weather. The cold and damp climate, which serves as the book's natural backdrop for the story of a depressed fishing village, presented a challenge when it came time to schedule filming.

"The 'Newfies' themselves joke that they have four seasons: fall, winter, misery and summer. We," grins Spacey, "were pretty much in misery the whole time!"

Hours off the set were predominantly spent with fellow cast and crew members; the group became enamored of a bar called Rocky's, where Spacey and some locals taught Dench to play pool.

"She pretended not to like it but she did. I think that it surprised a lot of people to see a Dame up there with her ass on the end of a pool table trying to do a backhand shot. It was," smiles Spacey, "pretty hilarious."

The obvious delight that Spacey takes in provoking mischief and mayhem is nothing new; he's been doing it most of his life. An admitted class clown ("yes, we were the ones in the back of the room making fart noises") Spacey -- born Kevin Fowler -- spent his youth constantly moving around Southern California. His father, Geoffrey, a technical writer, subsisted on contract work, so the family would settle down for a few months here, a few months there. Spacey credits his mother, Kathleen, for providing the only regular emotional -- and financial -- support that he and his sister knew as kids.

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