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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 4)

In the 20 years since, he's never stopped working, and if in that same 20 years Spacey has managed to capture audiences' attention and applause, he's also captured a certain amount of curiosity about his personal life.

Part of that curiosity, he says, is because he simply doesn't care to feed the media information about his life outside of work.

"You know, I don't have any real interest in being understood, so most of the psychobabble [about the media's perception] I don't even bother to answer to. It's simply pop psychology, and if you don't participate in the dialogue they will make up their own dialogue! And I simply won't participate. It just doesn't matter, all that sort of 'you're perceived as this, you're perceived as that.' I don't care about being understood. I care about capturing people's attention."

Unfortunately, much of the attention he caught was directed at his personal life, specifically innuendos about his sexual preferences and whether he was, conversely, a closeted homosexual or an avowed (but equally paranoid) heterosexual. Finally, frustrated with repeatedly asking why in the hell anyone really cared about any of it, he used Playboy last year as a forum for addressing what he is not, which is gay.

Spacey is, obviously, tired of the constant prying into his life. "Interpretation sort of takes flight, so that one thing you say gets blown into another thing and another thing, and before you know it, there's a perception and a persona that, quite frankly, in this case I had very little to do with. Really, I had very little to do with it."

As intent as Spacey is in keeping his private life to himself, he's wildly and constantly in the public eye in one way or another, one moment "rescuing" composer George Stoll's 1945 Oscar for Anchor's Away from a Butterfields auction (bidding more than $150,000) and returning it to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, quietly narrating an IMAX documentary on Sir Ernest Shackleton's legendary Antarctic expedition or, with sarcasm, lambasting religious leader Jerry Falwell for blaming the September 11 terrorist attacks on divorce, abortion rights and homosexuality.

That constant public exposure isn't going to end anytime soon. Besides becoming one of the first leading men studio executives and casting agents call, Spacey is opting to spend even more time on stage ("my first love, really") doing live performances and developing film projects through his production company, Trigger Street Productions.

Unlike many production companies set up by artists almost as vanity vehicles, Spacey created Trigger Street as a venue for young writers, cinematographers, directors and actors. Founded in 1997, the company has already produced the independent film The Big Kahuna with Danny DeVito, a Broadway production of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh (which received five Tony nominations, including best actor by Spacey), and an off-Broadway production of Cobb. Future projects include an independent film that will deal with juveniles awaiting trial, which was penned and will be directed by a former teacher in the court system. Some of the Trigger Street projects will involve Spacey as an actor or director, and some will not.

In addition, the company is considering a biography on singer/musician Bobby Darin, a favorite of Spacey's and a performer to whom Spacey bears an almost uncanny resemblance. Spacey's admiration for Darin is based, not surprisingly, on Darin's ability to shift roles and avoid typecasting. "He never, ever wanted to be pinned down," Spacey enthuses. "He started in rock and roll and he had hits in the late '50s which turned him into a rock-and-roll pop star, but he wasn't satisfied by that. He wanted to do something else and they told him he was crazy. Dick Clark told him he was out of his mind. 'You want to do popular songs?! Are you fucking crazy? You're a fucking rock-and-roll star.'"

As Spacey elaborates on Darin's life -- as actor, as musician, as a singer of every possible type of music genre -- he becomes visibly animated. "You take a look at [Darin's] life and it's a pretty dramatic, fluid ride. For a period of time he was probably the coolest guy on earth. He was just the swingingest guy ever."

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