It came from outta SpaceyBy Helen Barlow
It can be tricky separating Kevin Spacey from the parts he plays. Between his distinctive voice, his love of sarcasm and his way of looking right through you with his beady brown eyes, he's as much an enigma as some of the characters he plays. Luckily, the 42-year-old actor also has a lively sense of humour. When it comes to an entertaining interview, he's rivalled only by George Clooney.
For example: I ask him about a curious technical challenge he faced while making K-Pax, Iain Softley's new sci-fi/ psychological drama, to be released here in April. Spacey's character Prot is an alien from the planet K-Pax -- or so he claims to his psychiatrist. In one scene, as evidence of his extra-terrestrial origins, he nonchalantly devours a banana -- skin and all. Just once would be a challenge, but when filming the scene he had to repeat the stunt about 20 times.
'It's not something I recommend,' Spacey says with a wry grin. 'There was just no other way to do it. The fake bananas they made looked really stupid, so I just had to do it for real. I didn't eat bananas for around a week. But that was a year ago -- I'm fine with them now.'
It's hard to take him seriously, but the two-time Oscar-winner is telling the truth. And consumption of unpalatable foodstuffs is something he has learned to take in his stride. In his new film, The Shipping News, he had to dine on seal flipper pie. Again he was willing to oblige -- it was essential to the project, one he'd been backing for a long time.
'I play a very different character than I've ever played before,' says Spacey about Quoyle, an emotionally battered man in search of his roots in remote Newfoundland. It was a role that demanded Spacey to rein in his sardonic nature. He thought he had managed to tone it down, he says, but Lasse Hallstršm, the film's Swedish director, maintained he was still too aggressive. 'I had to rethink it,' he admits. 'I sort of squashed my spine and came back and approached it in a different way. Lasse seemed pleased.'
Based on E Annie Proulx's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Shipping News is a whimsical tale about a pudgy, slovenly ink-setter whose philandering wife (Cate Blanchett) has just died. Abandoning New York, he and his young daughter Bunny return to his bleak ancestral home off Canada's east coast. Taking a job on the local newspaper, Quoyle discovers that his forebears were murderers, rapists and necrophiliacs, and learns to take a less negative view of himself.
Gradually, he develops a close relationship with a local woman (Julianne Moore) who -- like him -- is a single parent recovering from a failed relationship.
Proulx's beautifully observed story is highly compelling on the page, but at first sight it's an unpromising prospect for a movie. 'The story has an energy to it that I was most nervous about,' says Spacey, 'because Quoyle is not a character who is trying to achieve anything. Normally you play a character and it's relatively easy to track -- he's here and then he's there. Actors find those things to hang their hat on and get through. I was very nervous because sometimes when I'm in a central role, I feel an obligation to keep a certain energy, a certain drive. And with this film I had to completely let go of this notion and leave it to Lasse.
'But I was happy when I saw the film,' he adds. 'It has this internal rhythm -- you keep learning more about the characters. They grow and take shape, and the landscape is so much a character in it.'
The finished film carries Proulx's stamp of approval, but it was a long time coming. Initially, John Travolta proposed it as a project for himself and his wife Kelly Preston to make near their home in Maine, but Proulx insisted that the location was not negotiable. Then Billy Bob Thornton was to direct and star, but his efforts behind the camera -- All The Pretty Horses and Daddy And Them -- had not been well received. So the project fell to Spacey ... eventually.
'After five years of hearing I wasn't 'right' for it, American Beauty changed that for me,' he says triumphantly. Now in a powerful position, he hired Hallstršm, who had been attached to the original project. Now, following his Golden Globe nomination for the role, Spacey may be an Oscar contender once again. The film was made by Miramax, famous for its successful Oscar campaigns for The English Patient, Life is Beautiful and Hallstršm's previous films, The Cider House Rules and Chocolat.
'I've been clear with Miramax and they've been very clear with me,' Spacey says, straight-faced. 'The movie is going to open and it's going to rest on its own merits and not on the accolades that its cast members or director have had. I've been very clear that I won't participate in hype.'
Spacey is a serious-minded actor with a background in theatre. Born in New Jersey, he studied drama at New York's prestigious Juilliard School, graduating in 1981. On The Shipping News, he bonded with esteemed British actress Judi Dench; and one key to American Beauty's success was the relationship between Spacey and director Sam Mendes.
He originally made his mark alongside Jack Lemmon in the 1986 production of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night, staged both on Broadway and in London. His collaboration with Lemmon continued, culminating in Spacey's screen breakthrough in David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross. He won a Tony for Neil Simon's Lost In Yonkers on Broadway, and -- again with Lemmon -- in 1988 he staged his own production of O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh, in London and New York. He won the Olivier Award, Britain's top stage acting prize, and was nominated for a Tony for the part.
But Spacey is mainly known for his Oscar-winning screen performances: for Lester Burnham, the dad in crisis in American Beauty; and for Verbal Kint, the sly police detainee in The Usual Suspects. His portrayals of eccentrics and wackos are unforgettable -- even if some critics claim they're a bit, well, samey.
This is a sore point with Spacey. 'I hear a lot of people say that I always play the same parts but I think that's such horseshit,' he scoffs. 'I can't believe it, because I've had 20 years in the theatre doing plays that most people have never seen. I've been making movies for six years -- six years. A very brief period in a 20-year history.'
All the same, Verbal and Prot have a lot in common. For example, both spend a lot of screen time smugly undergoing interrogation. 'Maybe,' he concedes. 'But I don't think the characters are remotely close. That's just a convenient thing to write -- to say actors always play the same roles. I mean, if you think I'm someone like that, that shocks me. I just go: 'Really? There are people who make billions of dollars playing the same crap year, after year, after year, after year, and nobody tags them like that.' I don't know what I'm getting tagged for. I'm actually trying to do complexity.'
The other thing that famously irks Spacey is questions about his love life. He refused interviews for some time following allegations of closet homosexuality -- and has made it clear that the subject is not up for discussion. He is more frank about baldness: in The Shipping News he wears a hairpiece, but today, as in K-Pax, his receding hairline is presented au natural. And it sits well with his dapper appearance in a trim navy blue suit.
Like The Shipping News, K-Pax has a convoluted history. In the end, Jeff Bridges was cast as Dr Mark Powell, a psychiatrist who begins to wonder whether his patient really does come from another planet -- but originally Spacey was to have played Powell, with Will Smith as Prot. When Smith dropped out to star in Ali, Spacey switched roles.
'I don't mind, y'know -- careers are made that way,' he says. 'Actors drop out of movies all the time. Lawrence Of Arabia would have been a very different film with Albert Finney, who was originally playing that role [which made a star of Peter O'Toole]. '
Spacey clearly has an eye for talent -- he brought fast-talking Benicio Del Toro to The Usual Suspects -- and clearly rates acting over special effects. 'I've been pretty fortunate,' he says. 'I haven't done a lot of big action movies. The closest I came was The Negotiator, and for most of that I was just talking. I let Sam [Jackson] do all the jumping and fighting, diving and bullet- dodging. I was quietly and comfortably on a phone in a nice little room.'
Spacey has also directed a gem of a movie, Albino Alligator, and established his own company, Trigger Productions, which produced both the stage version of The Ice Man Cometh and the film The Big Kahuna, in which he co-stars with Danny DeVito. He recently co-starred with Kate Winslet as an anti-death-row campaigner accused of murder in Alan Parker's The Life Of David Gale (a role originally destined for Clooney).
'We've just started production on a film last Monday called the United States Of Leland [featuring Ryan Gosling, Don Cheadle and Chris Klein] with a first-time writer-director named Matthew Hoge,' he says.
As he told reporters at the Berlin Film Festival last week, one result of all this activity will be a break from acting. 'The responsibility that I feel I have to take on as a producer over the next nine months means that I can't do the job in my spare time. I've been working pretty well non-stop for four or five years. To take a break is a healthy thing. And also there's not been anything that's attracted me to want to go to work right away, so I'm happy to take a break.'
He has option on the rights to a screenplay about the life of Bobby Darren, and hopes to return to acting soon, with his first romantic lead in a comedy, to be made by Trigger Productions.
'It's the genre of When Harry Met Sally, only set in the theatrical world,' he explains. 'It's a funny, romantic script.' And the actress? 'Well -- ahum. We just don't know yet. We'll find her. It's going to be a fantastic female role.' The queue is already forming.
The Shipping News is released on March 1; K-Pax on April 12
Bridges, Spacey bond in 'K-PAX'
By Sherry Sylvester
CNN Showbiz Today Reports
October 25, 2001 Posted: 5:08 p.m. EDT (2108 GMT)
LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- It is a familiar question: Is there intelligent life on other planets?
"K-PAX," opening nationwide Friday, brings a mysterious alien to earth via New York's Grand Central Station. Kevin Spacey stars as Prot, a man who claims to be from the planet K-PAX. Jeff Bridges, as psychiatrist Dr. Mark Powell, views Prot as the most convincing delusional he's ever met. Even as Powell tries to crack the case, Prot continually proves that he is unlike other men and might be visiting from a planet 1,000 light years away.
Spacey, 42, and Bridges, 51, bonded immediately and often turned to each other for advice on how to create their characters.
"When you start a film, you're looking for comrades," said Bridges, "people who approach the work in a similar way, so you can latch on and get momentum with each other." He added, "If I had a tough time with a line, I'd say, 'You try it, Kevin, and let me see how it goes.' And I would play his part. We'd swap around like that."
The results are documented not only in director Iain Softley's finished film, but in a book of photography by Jeff Bridges. The actor, who has made a hobby of taking photos, captured the many moods of Spacey and other cast and crew members. Universal Pictures, the studio behind "K-PAX," has bound the pictures in a book, which I handed to Spacey as we sat down for our CNN interview.
Kevin Spacey: These (pictures) are hilarious... Jeff has this camera -- it's a panoramic camera, so you actually watch it go around the room. He had us do one side of our face one way, then the other side another way, and then he takes both pictures and develops them together. That's not terribly flattering, but it's fun.
CNN: Now we've got to talk about the movie. Did you read the book first (by Gene Brewer) or the screenplay?
Spacey: I read the script about three and a half years ago. ... I called my manager, and I said, "The role of Prot is so great," and she said, "That's not the part they want you to look at." I said, "That's not the part?" She said, "No, that part is cast -- they want you for the psychiatrist." That wasn't the role that moved me, but for whatever reason the incarnation of that film didn't get made. Three and a half years later, Universal asked if I would be interested in playing the role that I had first responded to, and I immediately said yes. Then we went out and got Jeff Bridges to play the psychiatrist, which was a great piece of casting.
CNN: We've seen films before about aliens that were very broad and over-the-top. This seems subtler. How did you decide to play the character in terms of tone?
Spacey: It had to feel real... and a lot of it had to do with the work Iain Softley ("The Wings of the Dove," 1997) and I did prior to filming, and then the work that Jeff and I did in the course of rehearsal. ... I was originally going to wear a hairpiece in the film. I'd worn pieces in most of my films because there's always some kind of different look you're going for. We'd made a piece that was rather pristine, and I actually was dressing rather elegantly. Jeff one day said, "Are you gonna wear the piece you tested?" And I said, "Well, yeah, we were thinking about it, why?" He said, "Can I tell ya', you were pulling at your hair (in rehearsal) and doing all these interesting things. You took your cap off and your hair's flying all over the place. It just has a life to it that I'm afraid we'll lose." That conversation made me think about the way I was looking and my costumes, and literally two days before we started shooting, I re-thought the entire look of Prot. I decided that instead of him looking like he'd arrived on a beam of light, he should look like he crawled out from under a train at Grand Central. Everything became much grittier and dirtier -- that made him look actually more like a homeless person.
CNN: Is that part of the thrill of acting -- not being locked into something, being able to turn on a dime?
Spacey: And be open enough to somebody else's suggestion. The great thing about Jeff and I is that we can say anything to each other. I came in with a certain idea, then that idea shifted, and because of that everything else shifted.
CNN: You made the movie in New York. You live in New York (born in New Jersey). I'm wondering what your thoughts are now as to the role of entertainment?
Spacey: I think that in many ways we are going to be listening to lyrics of songs in ways that we didn't hear them before. We are going to be watching old movies and seeing them in ways we never saw them before. ... I think what might be valuable is that people are stopping and realizing that there are consequences to what you say, consequences to the kinds of films you do, consequences to how you treat another human being. So if we, as an industry, are forced to (ask) "Well, what am I doing" -- that's not a bad thing.
CNN page includes photo of Kevin with the book and links to pictures from the book.
© 2001 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
Jeff Bridges/AOL Live chat
October 24, 2001
Oscar-nominated actor Jeff Bridges stopped by AOL Live to chat about his new movie, 'K-PAX,' and also about End Hunger Network, his non-profit organization to help feed children around the world. See what he had to say below! (Look for the question by me!)
AOLiveMC21: Good evening, Jeff Bridges! Welcome to AOL Live.
Jeff Bridges: Wonderful to be here.
AOLiveMC21: Ready for your first question? It comes from KMTPILOT:
Question: Jeff, how long did it take to film 'K-PAX'?
Jeff Bridges: Well, I would say about a 12-week shoot.
AOLiveMC21: OK, here is our next question, from audience member RLMNANA:
Question: I saw you this morning on 'Good Morning America,' and I thought you were great. I would like to know more about your organization for feeding the children around the world.
Jeff Bridges: Oh, great. Over 20 years ago, I helped [create] a network called the End Hunger Network. At that time, we were primarily concerned with world hunger. But approximately 10 years ago, we shifted our focus to hunger here in our own country, because, even in spite of the economic boom a few years ago, hunger was a hidden epidemic in our own country. We have recently partnered with the Entertainment Industry Foundation, the Center on Hunger and Poverty, and we have created a campaign called Hunger Free America, which is being funded by Unilever Best Foods. Our goal is to end hunger in America in five years.
Jeff Bridges: Our first project is a celebrity cookbook called 'Cooking Up an End to Childhood Hunger in America.' The cookbook has recipes from 62 celebrities, including John Travolta, Katie Couric, Bonnie Raitt, LeAnn Rimes and a host of others. The celebrities give recipes along with their personal statement regarding hunger here in our country. However, the main purpose of this book is to make the public aware of this problem we have in this country. There are currently 31 million people in households who struggle with hunger, not knowing where their next meal will come from. Twelve million of those people are children -- and those numbers come from a 1999 census. In the cookbook, people can find out important facts about hunger and what they can do to end it in their own communities.
Jeff Bridges: There will be a state-by-state breakdown regarding the hunger and poverty in each state, and the cookbook will also serve as an invitation to politicians, the media, and the public in general to get involved and do something about this issue. All of the hunger experts that I have spoken to agree that hunger in the United States could end in a matter of months if we properly funded existing programs such as food stamps, school lunch and breakfast programs, and summer meal programs. I'd like to invite everyone who is participating in this chat to get involved. A way that they can do that is to go to the Hunger Free America Web site, which is www.hungerfreeamerica.org.
AOLiveMC21: Jeff, a most worthwhile project. Thanks for telling us about the cookbook. Is it available to the public yet?
Jeff Bridges: It will be available in November through the Hunger Free America Web site and in supermarkets, and also Unilever Best Foods' Web site.
AOLiveMC21: Our next question goes back to your new movie, 'K-PAX,' and comes from JCJJOSLIN:
Question: Hi, Jeff. What prompted you to do a PG-13 sci-fi movie? You are my favorite! Can't wait to see it with my 13-year-old son!
Jeff Bridges: Well, probably what tops my list of reasons to do films is just the kind of movie that I want to see. I enjoy viewing and participating in films where the filmmakers are ahead of the audience, where I don't know what's going to happen next, where I think I have it figured out and find out I was wrong. 'K-PAX' is a movie like this. Another reason has to do with a film I made years ago called 'Starman.' In that film, I got to play the alien; and in this one, I guess I sort of have the Karen Allen part. My character represents the audience's point of view, and I get to take the audience through the mystery of the film. I play a psychiatrist in the movie, and psychiatrists often fancy themselves as detectives, so that was something that I enjoyed playing. Another big plus for me was the fact that Kevin Spacey was involved with the film. Kevin -- many of you may not know this -- actually IS from outer space, as indicated by his last name. LOL.
AOLiveMC21: TNJDESMOND in our audience tonight sends this question for you, Jeff:
Question: Out of all of the movies you have done, which was your favorite to make? I loved you in 'Blown Away.' Excellent acting. :)
Jeff Bridges: Well, that was certainly one of my favorites, because I got to play with my dad. He was always wonderful to work with, because he approached his work with such joy, and that joy was contagious and would spread throughout the cast and crew. The same can be said for working with Beau, my brother, in 'The Fabulous Baker Boys,' also one of my favorite films for a number of reasons. Number one would be working with my brother. Number two, a wonderful script written by Steve Kloves, who also directed the film as well. I think he wrote that film when he was 24 and directed when he was 26. It's such a mature piece of filmmaking for someone so young to have written and directed. And, of course, there was that terribly unattractive and untalented girl that I had to work opposite. And of course I'm kidding. Michelle was a dream to work with, so talented. Not only does she have terrific acting chops, but she is a wonderful singer. Her rendition of 'More Than You Know' was my favorite song from that show.
Jeff Bridges: Regarding my other favorites, it's the corny thing that actors say about their films being like their children, but it's true. I have a soft spot for all the films I've done, but as I sit here chatting with you, I will just list some that are coming to my mind: 'The Last Picture Show,' 'Fat City,' 'Rancho Deluxe' -- probably 'cause I met my wife on that picture, 'Fearless,’ 'American Heart,' 'The Contender,' and 'The Big Lebowski' has got to be on there too. I loved working with the Coen brothers.
AOLiveMC21: Jeff, the holiday season is approaching, and we were wondering what your holiday wish is.
Jeff Bridges: Peace on Earth, good will to men... and women!
AOLiveMC21: That is a lovely wish. Thanks, Jeff! OK, next question on deck:
Question: Do you have another movie lined up?
Jeff Bridges: Not at the moment. I have several movies that I have in development that I am producing, and I have one film in the can, as they say, called 'Scenes of the Crime.'
AOLiveMC21: Here is a great question from our audience member DrivingMrSpacey, believe it or not!
Question: Jeff, who is more adorable, you or your 'K-PAX' costar Kevin Spacey?
Jeff Bridges: Well, I think that all depends on the outfit that either one of us is wearing. I right now am wearing a quite adorable teddy bear outfit. The hood of the outfit is down on my shoulders right now, but when I put the hood on, I look very much like a koala bear. Kevin -- God knows what he is wearing at this moment. LOL.
AOLiveMC21: Jeff, we have time for one last question tonight, and it is about 'K-PAX' again:
Question: Wow, I always thought the shooting of films took much longer. Is that shorter than the average shooting time?
Jeff Bridges: No, that's about average. Or maybe two weeks longer than average. And my accuracy may be off on the amount of time that we shot the film in.
AOLiveMC21: Jeff, thank you very much for coming on tonight and chatting with us. It has been a blast.
Jeff Bridges: Thanks!
AOLiveMC21: Good luck to you and the End Hunger Network.
Jeff Bridges: I really enjoyed it too.
AOLiveMC21: Also, hope 'K-PAX' is a big hit!
Jeff Bridges: I hope everyone goes out and sees 'K-PAX' and they enjoy it. I just heard that Ebert and Roeper gave it two thumbs up, which is good news. I'd also like to invite those out there to check out my Web site, www.jeffbridges.com, and to also, if they feel like it, check out my album, 'Be Here Soon,' available at my Web site and at record stores. Making this album was a dream come true for me. I got to work with two of my heroes, Michael McDonald and David Crosby. Michael sings and plays as well as produced the album, along with my good friend Chris Pelonis. The songs on the album were written by me and my oldest friend, John Goodwin. We go back to the fourth grade together and have been making art together all these years. He also has several interesting CDs you might want to check out on his Web site, babyrecords.com. Again, it was great hanging with you guys! Love and peace to you all.
AOLiveMC21: Thanks, Jeff. We will definitely check out 'Be Here Soon.' Good night and thanks so much! Good night, everyone!
Copyright 2001 America Online, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Portions of this transcript may be edited by AOL to correct spelling, punctuation and/or remove any material that violates AOL's Terms of Service.
SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
October 24, 2001
Wide open Spacey
Moved to tears . . . Actor Kevin Spacey as he appears in K-PAX.
When someone wins two Academy Awards, one can reasonably assume that the person is a pretty good actor.
So, when a two-time Oscar winner breaks down in the middle of an interview, one has to wonder whether the tears are genuine or the person is showing off his considerable acting chops.
In Kevin Spacey's case, the answer is obvious as soon as the interviewer enters the actor's Los Angeles hotel suite.
Spacey, in town to promote his new is-he-an-alien-or-isn't-he movie K-PAX, is unusually subdued. There is a distinct sadness in his eyes, and his shoulders slump as if carrying a tremendous weight. He smiles weakly, but in a friendly manner. His responses are barely audible. A tape recorder has to be moved twice to get close enough to pick up his voice.
That voice is full of heartfelt emotion as he talks about the events of September 11, and their impact on him and the city in which he lives. But the intense emotions continue throughout the conversation, and he eventually cannot restrain them anymore when the subject of his Oscar win for American Beauty is broached.
In his acceptance speech that night, Spacey spoke at length about his mentor Jack Lemmon, who died three months later at 76. Spacey and Lemmon met when the younger actor was 14 and they worked together on stage and in films on at least four occasions, beginning with the 1986 production of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night.
"All I can remember of that (Oscar) night is getting the chance to let him know what he meant to me," Spacey said.
"Then, after I got through all the press interviews backstage, I checked my cell phone messages and there already was a message from Jack. He said, "Listen, you SOB, I'll have you know that I won my first Oscar in 1954 and didn't win my second until 1974. You did it in four years, you no-good SOB."
Spacey, 42, laughs at the memory of the phone call, which he still treasures. "Everything I ever learned about being a good human being and about taking the responsibility for professionalism in my work is due to the mentoring I got from Jack. He was like a second father to me," he said.
It was such mentoring, Spacey said, that provided the strength for him to get through the days following the terrorist attacks near his New York City home. It also helped him reaffirm that he has not spent his life chasing a trivial dream.
"I'm as OK as anybody in New York," he said. "There are good days and there are bad days. There are good moments and there are bad moments. Like everyone else, each day we learn something new that breaks your heart.
"But I have not questioned my profession," he added. "I have never thought of acting as frivolous. I thought aspects of the entertainment industry are frivolous, but I don't participate in them.
"What I have done with my life is to try to capture the imagination of people, to try to take them to a place that could exist. I am a storyteller. This whole experience (the aftermath of the terrorist attacks) is on some level about telling stories in terms of the collective experience.
"I've tried my whole life to do something valuable, to conduct myself in a manner that I felt was professional. I believe my profession is noble and important. There is a desperate need right now for people to tell stories and to hear stories. Because of that, I think actors take on an even greater responsibility than before. It is essential that we not lose our ability to laugh and have fun."
Although Kevin Spacey Fowler was born in South Orange, New Jersey, he was raised in Southern California. A bit undisciplined when he was a child, his parents sent him to military school, from which he was later expelled for hitting another student.
He found a purpose in his life in high school, of all places, and he jumped enthusiastically into the school's drama program, where his fellow students included actors Mare Winningham and Val Kilmer. After graduating from Chatsworth High, Spacey gave stand-up comedy a try, but it was an ill-fated venture. Let's put it this way - he got rejected by The Gong Show.
Spacey enrolled in New York's prestigious Juilliard drama school, but left two years later to pursue a career in the theatre. In 1991, he won a Tony for Lost in Yonkers, and made an inauspicious start in feature films in Heartburn and Working Girl. Interestingly, it was a TV role, as the fascinating villain Mel Profitt on the series Wiseguy, that propelled his career forward.
He became one of Hollywood's most respected character actors, making a career of playing the fast-talking, wise-cracking guy full of irony and intrigue. It worked well for him, bringing him his first Oscar for The Usual Suspects.
But, with LA Confidential, he started his transition to leading-man status. With American Beauty, he completed the transition.
"I'm a character actor," he said. "If I have managed to weasel my way into a leading man position, it really is a hat trick."
Spacey credits American Beauty director Sam Mendes for taking a chance on casting him in a role that normally would go to an actor with more leading man credits on his resume.
"It is always a struggle to try to convince people in Hollywood that you can do something that you haven't done before. But I got to a place where I didn't want to play that same old character anymore. But I couldn't even find the door to knock on. So I started shifting to different kinds of roles with the hope that someone would notice. Sam noticed.
"Listen, you're only on Earth for a brief time and you shouldn't waste that time. For me, it was never about the money or the status or the image. It was always about telling a good story. I wanted to tell better stories, and to do that, I needed to move forward in my career. You can't sit back and wait for the phone to ring. You have to keep struggling and fighting if you are interested in changing your life."
Spacey's latest role is an intentionally ambiguous character, someone who is either a visitor from another planet named Prot, or a delusional human who has been driven to his current mental state by a tragic incident. Even Spacey claims not to know which is true.
"In order for the ambiguity to work, I had to believe both stories. I fully believe in Prot as an alien, and I fully believe in Robert Porter as a human being.
"At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter where he's from. It's not a crushing disappointment if he is not an alien. It's how he has affected all these people. The movie is about wonder. It's about believing in something."
Jeff Bridges, who plays the psychiatrist who attempts to unravel the mystery of Spacey's identity, said working opposite Spacey is an actor's dream.
"You know when you're a little boy and you play make-believe with your friends? It always was more fun when your friends were good at pretending because it made the game more real. Well, Kevin does that when he acts. He makes the reality of the situation so much more real.
"When you find a guy who is able to commit to the reality in a deep way, it makes it real for you," Bridges said.
Director Iain Softley said Spacey was the perfect actor for the role.
"He has a great chameleon quality in that he can be playful but dark and difficult to read. That is exactly the kind of actor you need to play someone who must convince the audience that he could be either of two distinct people.
"When I heard that Kevin was aboard to play Prot, I accepted the job immediately," Softley said. "There are very few actors in Hollywood with his profile. He has the name recognition associated with being a star but, at the same time, he has the kind of skills required for this kind of role.
"Usually, there is a descending scale in Hollywood; as the wages get higher, the skills diminish. Kevin goes as high as a star can go without the acting skills going over to the other side of the slope."
Copyright © 2001. All rights reserved.
October 21, 2001
Spacey touts spaced-out role in 'K-PAX'
by Cindy Perlman
LOS ANGELES--It's not a midlife crisis. It's just that in the most important way, Kevin Spacey refuses to grow up.
At home in Manhattan, his mode doesn't require a driver's license. ''It's basically a skateboard with handlebars and a souped-up speedometer,'' he says. ''I can go about 20 mph on it. It's great. When I'm on there in a suit and tie, with my helmet and kneepads on, I feel like I'm 12 years old again.''
He also has a youthful approach to his work.
''I approach movies the same way I did high-school plays. I respond to the story. I don't want to know who else is in it, or even who's directing it. I just go, 'This is a great story. I want to play this part,' '' he says. ''It's no different if you're auditioning for 'Oklahoma' in your school auditorium or a $100 million Hollywood movie.''
He has been a part of some of Hollywood's best movies in the last decade. Spacey won an Oscar for playing a suburban man dissatisfied with his life in ''American Beauty'' and another for the slick crime film ''The Usual Suspects.''
These days he stars in two of the most highly anticipated movies of the fall and winter season. Around Christmas, he has the lead in ''The Shipping News'' with Julianne Moore. First up is ''K-PAX,'' opening Friday. Spacey plays a mysterious man wandering through New York's Grand Central Station. When police nab him, he insists that he isn't nuts. Nope, he's just an alien from another planet. A kindly doc at the mental hospital he's sent to actually begins to agree that he might be telling the truth.
''A couple of years ago, I read a script for a movie called 'K-PAX' and fell out of my bed because it was so good,'' he recalls. ''I talked to my agent and said, 'I want to do this part of Prote.' My agent said, 'Kevin, stop. That's not the part they want you for. They want you for the psychiatrist.' ''
Casting this movie was a bit like playing musical chairs. ''At first, Will Smith was playing Prote. I was so disappointed,'' Spacey says. ''Not that I don't like Will Smith. But for whatever reason it came around back to me with Jeff Bridges playing the psychiatrist.''
Spacey stepped in and saved ''The Shipping News'' from languishing in development hell after John Travolta pulled out of playing the lead role. ''I read the script years ago and wanted to do it, but it was John Travolta's movie, so I dismissed it from my mind,'' Spacey says. ''Now six years later, I'm going to play the lead role in this extraordinary, beautiful love story.
''The film coming back to me this way was truly a gift.''
The gifted Spacey hails from South Orange, N.J., where his father worked as a technical writer. At age 3, the family moved to Los Angeles where a young Spacey started acting in school plays opposite classmates Mare Winningham and Val Kilmer. He began directing, writing and acting in one-act festivals and also hit the standup comedy circuit, where he learned to do impressions.
Spacey made his film debut mugging Meryl Streep's group therapy class in ''Heartburn.'' He got noticed by critics for his role in ''Glengarry Glen Ross'' after Al Pacino personally recommended him for the role. Spacey won a Tony for ''The Iceman Cometh'' and then went on to win an Oscar for ''The Usual Suspects.'' He won another Oscar for his role as an unhappy suburban man in ''American Beauty.''
As for the Oscar, he says, ''I'll tell you when I started to realize the weight of it. It was about two days after the Oscars when a friend of mine sent me a list of all the actors who had won the best actor trophy. Seeing that list and seeing names like Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda and Spencer Tracy blew my mind. It is immeasurable how much they have meant to me,'' he says. ''That more than the night itself stunned me.''
Also a bit stunning were his first public bashings for the sentimental ''Pay It Forward,'' which was a huge flop. ''There was a danger in that type of movie,'' Spacey says. ''It's what I call the goo-factor. If people feel the movie is sentimental or has a do-gooder factor to it, people say, 'Oh no!' But I loved the sentiment of that movie. It asks you to look at that heinous part of yourself, the dark spot we all have, and say, 'Can't you find it in your heart to be kind to another person or maybe a poor little actor?' ''
His feelings toward stardom waver ''Fame could only hinder me if I changed the way I make choices,'' he says. ''It's not easy to keep those things at bay, but I continue to call myself a character actor, no matter how many times people call me a movie star.''
Distributed by Big Picture News, Inc., Copyright 2001, Digital Chicago Inc.
Dark Horizons Presents...
THE ALIEN WORLD OF KEVIN SPACEY
Kevin Spacey/K-PAX Interview by Paul Fischer in Los Angeles
Two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey has that uncanny ability to hide behind every screen portrayal, that we rarely get a repeat of a Spacey performance. His latest film, K-Pax, gives us a greater insight into his diversity as an actor. In the film, Spacey plays a mysterious man, Prot, who may or not be from outer space and the planet K-Pax. Largely set in a mental hospital in urban New York, sceptical psychiatrist Jeff Bridges tries to unravel the truth. Spacey recently talked to Paul Fischer in Los Angeles. [N.B. IF YOU ARE NOT FAMILIAR WITH THE BOOK OR THE DETAILS OF THIS STORY, MAJOR SPOILERS ARE INCLUDED IN THE FIRST PART OF THIS INTERVIEW. THESE WERE UNAVOIDABLE DUE TO THE SPECIFIC NATURE OF SPACEY'S RESPONSES TO MY QUESTIONS.]
Question: Did you and Jeff Bridges ever compare notes about playing aliens?
Answer: I kid Jeff to this moment that he now has the Karen Allen part. In the beginning of rehearsals we had a lot of talk about all the movies that have been done that deal with this subject including Starman, partly because we talked about tone. Some movies that deal with the idea of an alien subject they're very, comedically broad. In the case of (Starman) Jeff was playing a character that's embodying a human's body. So it was almost like he didn't know how to move and it was all mechanical and was an incredible physical performance. In our movie, we wanted Prot to be eccentric on a certain level but we didn't want it to go so far or be so broad in terms of its comedy that the film couldn't make the turn it has to make about an hour and forty-five minutes into the movie. So it had to FEEL real. We did discuss that film and his performance. And in what we were trying to do in this movie in terms of finding the right tone.
Question: It's clearly important for the audience to believe that Prot was an alien. How important was it for you, as an actor, to also believe in that reality?
Answer: It's a funny thing but I do have an absolute and complete belief in both stories because I had to. In order for the ambiguity to work for an audience I had to put the movie on two separate tracks: I had to have an absolutely complete story for Prot: who he was, how long he's been on earth, what his planet was like, what was he doing on earth, what he's writing in that book. All of that had to be absolutely real to me, and was. I also had to have a complete back-story, an absolute life for Robert Porter. The two of those ideas had to be able to co-exist so that they both could be possible.
Question: How did you do it?
Answer: That's the trick! That took some doing because there was a lot more in the book that was descriptive about the planet that was very helpful to me. There was more about Robert Porter that was ALSO helpful to me. From that you make decisions and offshoots about how do I make these things co-exist. So if this is true and completely true, then this can also be completely true and the two can co-exist and you don't have a conflict where suddenly you're in the middle of shooting a movie and go, Wait a minute. If I'm this, how can that be? You find yourself really screwed because then you can't commit in your head and heart to this idea. It's then a question of: If you're able to successfully navigate that in your preparation, then you take these two ideas and hand them to the director, and you put yourself in the hands of a skilled director who's able to balance and negotiate the mystery for the audience of how the evidence stacks up on this side. I can't do that. My job as the actor is to give the audience both possibilities and try to convincingly play both possibilities, and let him be the person who's balancing it. I trust his direction. In particular, the scenes that were the most dangerous were the hypnosis scenes because there was something about making the choice to revert to a childlike voice several different versions of that, to the attitude that the young Robert Porter had, sort of an arrogant sort of thing. What most interested me about those sessions were, and I had a lot discussions with a psychiatrist and people who are experts at hypnosis who were working with us, usually when you put somebody under hypnosis, if they are a delusional character or if they're suffering from some sort of anxiety or multiple personality, you get to the core person. What fascinated me about all of those sessions was he never ceases being Prot. He was always Prot. That, to me, is what allowed us to get through those sessions with a certain trajectory because even though he took on the personality of another person and talked about this other person, he was never not Prot. Always from K-PAX. If they'd gotten to Robert Porter, then I think the movie would have been over because then it would have been saying, He's pretending to be this other person.
Question: Was the book also ambiguous?
Answer: The book went into a lot more detail, which was helpful to track both sides of the story. Gene's written a follow up called The Return of Prot.
Question: Did you study tapes of people under hypnosis?
Answer: I looked at a number of tapes and had a lot of discussion with a number of our consultants about what the process is like and what have your experiences been, have you seen anything like this. I went to a lot of mental facilities and met patients and the first question I would ask the staff was, Is there anybody here who thinks they're from outer space? They'd say, Oh, yeah. Like 12 or 13 people.
Question: Did you talk to any of them?
Answer: Yeah. They have tin foil on their buttons and on their ears because you get better reception.
Question: Do you believe there's life on other planets?
Answer: Sure. I do. There must be. When you just think about how much life there is on earth. I don't think there are little green men but I do believe that we can't be the only thriving intelligent life in the universe. It's too vast.
Question: Do you think any of them have come here?
Answer: I believe that on many occasions I've worked with them.
Question: What about the observations Prot makes about humanity, especially in the light of recent events?
Answer: If they are, we didn't intend it to be. What will happen and what is happening. I can drive down a street and hear a song I've heard a million times and suddenly the lyrics take on a meaning that they didn't have before Sept. 11. What I like most about the way Prot looks at the world is that he just accepts people as they are. He doesn't look at them as patients or statistics. We tend to in this country and in this world think, THERE'S a politician, THERE'S a sports star. There's an actor. There's a journalist. The human being part of that equation very often gets.. it's dismissive. Prot just accepts people and asks them incredibly logical questions. Sometimes it's the person who's the most logical who we call crazy.
Question: You performed Mind Games at a recent benefit. Do you plan to pursue singing?
Answer: That was an incredible evening and I wanted to do something that would be surprising and uplifting because New York really needed something. We all felt what was originally intended as a celebration of John Lennon on what would have been his 61st birthday. The fact that he was taken from us on the streets of NY, and that he was a New Yorker just seemed right that we expand the evening to be a benefit. They taught me that song on Saturday and like a madman I walked out there and sang in front of Yoko.
Question: What did she say to you?
Answer: She was very pleased. She was incredibly kind because that song meant a lot to her because it wasn't a hit for John and she says John always says that it should have been.
Question: You were the breakout guy at this benefit.
Answer: It probably was the surprise of it. I've been singing my whole life. When I started out in theatre, I did more musicals than anything else. It's always been a part of my life and slowly I'm getting to a place where music is important to me. I don't envision myself going on the road, necessarily. Unless you're really going to do it and stop acting and commit yourself to it. First of all, the music world is going to say, oh, does he need more? He's not happy with what he's got. From a musical context, it would be right. That will show its face at the right time.
Question: Have you thought about doing musical theatre?
Answer: Over the years I looked at musicals and wanted to find one that's original. I've been offered things that have been revivals. But I want to do something that's brand new.
Question: Your bio says you were kicked out of school and mentions this tree house incident.
Answer: This is the first thing you learn: if you say it once, it gets repeated and then it actually expands. I read things that I was a bad kid and I was this terror.
Question: How much of this is exaggerated and how much is true?
Answer: A lot of it is exaggerated. I did get kicked out of military school because I got into a fight. I wasn't happy in military school. It was after that that this guidance counsellor recommended that I go into theatre. I had a lot of energy. I was 13 years old and immediately found the theatre. I wasn't a bad kid like getting arrested.
Question: The tree house thing's not true?
Answer: It's not true. I must have said something about my sister had a little thing in the back yard. We knocked it down and it turned into we burned down a tree house. At a certain point I decided I'm not going to respond to those things. There's a whole industry that has nothing to do with you. The most interesting one recently was I met the family of Spencer Tracy and they said to me, Is it true that you changed your name because of Spencer Tracy. You (combined) Spencer with Tracey and made Spacey? I said, I read that on the internet too. It's actually in bios in the internet on certain sites. Nothing could be further from the truth. My great grandfather's name was Spacey. It's a Welsh name. It's my middle name and I've been using it my whole life.
Question: You're seen as eccentric?
Answer: Maybe that's the way you view me. But I don't know if everybody views me that way.
Question: Who were your mentors?
Answer: When I was 14 years old I met Jack Lemmon for the first time. I went to this seminar and he signed an autograph for me which I still have to this day. I stood next to him and asked him questions about being an actor. He talked to me for like 15 minutes and told what I ought to do: go to New York and study. He was so warm and encouraging and 11 years later I got an audition for a play that he was starring in. I ended up working with him for a full year doing that play and we ended up doing 4 things together. He became sort of a second father to me, particularly when my father passed away. You don't need any lesson in the world about how to treat other human beings or about professionalism then to be in the presence of Jack Lemmon.
Question: What can you say about your Shipping News character?
Answer: I read the book about six years ago and thought it was an incredible story. At the time, it was a John Travolta film and then it was a Billy Bob Thornton film. I waited and tracked it and made strategic phone calls along the way: It worked out that it was worth the wait. It was a great character to play. He's such a strange pathetic guy in the beginning. It's just so sad. Very gradually. Lasse [Hallstrom] has done an extraordinary job of allowing the story to unfold like an onion. It's unlike anything I've ever done. There's not a cynical, visceral, ironic bone in his body. He's just trying to get through the day and be a good father. He's not trying to do anything. Usually a character has an arc.
Question: You have to tell me about eating those peeled bananas in K-Pax.
Answer: It always was in the script that Prot ate every ounce of produce. He thought all of it was good. The scene was always written that way. When it came to shoot the scene, they made some fake bananas. They just looked wrong. I knew on film they wouldn't work, so I said to the prop guys just go to the store and get bananas and wash them and let's do it.
Question: What do they taste like?
Answer: It's bitter and I had to eat a lot of them. It was an amazing potassium high.
K-PAX OPENS NATIONALLY ON FRIDAY
October 21, 2001
K-PAX star finds renewed sense of purpose
by Bruce Kirkland
HOLLYWOOD -- Tears wash up in Kevin Spacey's eyes, his hushed voice starts to crack like parchment paper and he slumps deep into the sofa, overcome with emotion.
It's not a scene in a movie. It's not a scenario he has orchestrated to impress the media. It is a moment of self-revelation for this Oscar-winning actor. He has been talking about his profession and his country and his fragile state of mind in the aftermath of terrorism. He has been talking about fundamental changes he sees happening in America.
And he has been talking about how his own new movie -- the strange, often amusing and sometimes tragic drama K-PAX -- feels like a sliver of joy in a huge upwelling of hope.
"I really do see it and I really do feel it," Spacey tells The Sun, "and not just from my friends and the people in the business that I'm in close contact with. Just walking through the streets, you just see it, you sense it."
Tragedy has brought out the absolute best in most people, Spacey says, even politicians. "That's been remarkable. That's what events can do."
With its origins in the Gene Brewer novel, K-PAX, opening Friday, is the story of a seemingly insane homeless man, played by Spacey, who claims to be an alien visitor from a faraway planet. Jeff Bridges serves as the doubting yet curious psychiatrist who treats him in a mental ward.
With its themes of healing, hope and optimism, K-PAX is redemptive in the aftermath of Sept. 11, says Spacey, a 42-year-old New Jersey native.
"Who knew?" he queries rhetorically.
Movies are no longer just movies, Spacey says. All entertainment has new meaning for him. "I guess, for all of us, I think we're going to hear lyrics in songs in a way that we've never heard them before and we're going to see old movies that we love that will suddenly speak to us in (new) ways. I think that everything has changed.
"What is really great, and the only thing to me that has made this sadness and this tragedy bearable, is the way in which people have responded to it. Maybe now the good thing is that people are actually stopping and taking the time to listen to each other. Maybe people are realizing that there are consequences to what you say and what you do and how you treat other people.
"And, if that affects the entertainment business, I don't think that can be a wrong thing. We have been living in a really kind of dismissive, glib, selfish place for a while and I think all of that changed Sept. 11.
"I mean, I tried my whole life to do things that I thought were important, but I tell you, I don't want to do a trivial thing for the rest of my life! That's how much it's affected me personally and I think almost everybody I know."
Predictions that the effect on Hollywood will just be temporary and that the movie industry will quickly get back to exploitation are just useless cynicism, Spacey says.
"I think so," he says quietly but with absolute authority. "I'll tell you the last time I felt this was when John Lennon was killed and what you sensed in New York City for weeks afterward (was that) people were engaging each other and trying to reach out. It didn't last because I don't think we knew how, but I think we know how now. I think this has been a profound, life-changing event for the world."
As for K-PAX, Spacey's character calls himself Prot and convinces the other patients in the mental ward that he is truly an alien who may merely be occupying a human's body during his visit. The movie never answers the questions it raises and allows audiences to speculate. The movie also reinforces the notion that Spacey is inspired by oddball or at least off-centre characters.
"I don't know," he says with a sly grin. "I think maybe I like characters that are not perfect. To me, flaws are what make us human. Sometimes I read scripts in which the characters, they are all just really perfect and everything is all great and it all works out -- and I just don't buy it."
In addition, of course, Spacey is subject to the whims of Hollywood. He ends up in movies such as The Usual Suspects (winning an Oscar as best supporting actor), American Beauty (winning an Oscar as best actor) and the forthcoming Newfoundland drama The Shipping News (Miramax is mounting an Oscar campaign for the film) because he is an eccentric, edgy, technically flawless actor who, with his rough skin and round face and rugged looks, could never be the conventional handsome leading man.
"You only do the movies that you get offered," Spacey says. "You can only do the films that come down the pike to you and there are only so many films and plays that you do in the course of a year. There are a lot of times where I read something and think, 'God, I'd love to do that!' -- but I'm unavailable to do it, I'm committed to something else."
Spacey committed to K-PAX for a lot of reasons, including his participation in the development of the project. He helped select British filmmaker Iain Softley (Wings Of A Dove) as the director. And he loved the story's themes.
"My favourite thing about the book," says Spacey of the novel, "is the last line and the word 'wonder.' "
K-PAX has an ambiguous ending, especially with the enigmatic yet enticing look on Spacey's face as the camera moves in for a closeup. There are no neat wrap-ups.
"So," Spacey says of what audiences will get out of K-PAX, "it depends on what you bring into a film, how much your own makeup informs you. Some people didn't buy E.T. Other people say it's the greatest movie ever made."
K-PAX may not inspire that kind of debate, but it will get people talking and is part of the change in attitude he sees in people.
"I mean, we didn't intend it to be more profound than it was a year ago when we made it, but maybe it is."
Sun Media: Calgary Sun / Ottawa Sun / Edmonton Sun / London Free Press /
Copyright © 2001, Canoe Limited Partnership. All rights reserved.
edited by Jeffrey Wells
< snip >
"In the late '80s I was a graduate student at a rinky-dink SUNY school in upstate NY. Though my main movie fare consisted of guns and car chases, not only did I know about Man Facing Southeast but I saw and enjoyed it. The flick was not that obscure. It had a ton of publicity, considering what it was. Premiere covered it, as did the old AFI magazine. So 15 years later, I find myself watching a trailer for K-PAX. "Neat," I thought, "they're remaking Man Facing Southeast with Kevin
by-God Spacey!" I literally didn't realize it wasn't a remake until I read your column.
"Having said that, I think it's very possible Mr. Brewer was unaware of Man Facing Southeast when he wrote his novel. God knows how many bright, original ideas I've had that I've subsequently seen on the best-seller list or at the cineplex. It is not such a stretch to believe that Mr. Brewer and Mr. Subiela, working in different mediums, spontaneously came up with similar plots. Hollywood, however, is an entirely different story. To say that the scores (hundreds?) of Hollywood film
professionals involved in the making of K-PAX knew nothing of a movie that one redneck grad student was very aware of is disingenuous, to say the least.
"It's not like K-PAX is destined to be a huge hit, right? It's going to be one of those middling do-gooder films that Hollywood feels compelled to make every now and again. So give some credit where it is due. Throw Mr. Subiela a few bucks. Chances are he made the better movie anyway."
— Jack Olcott
< snip >
Copyright © 2001 Reel.com
K-PAX a Rip-Off?
Is Kevin Spacey's new film a rip-off of the 20-year-old Argentinean film Man Facing Southeast?
by Brian Linder
Is K-PAX a rip-off of Eliseo Subiea's Hombre Mirando al Sudeste (Man Facing Southeast)? Some think so. Our coverage of the film, including Stax's script
review, prompted several emails from observant readers that informed us of the similarities in the two movies. Now a new feature at Reel.com pointedly addresses the emerging controversy.
The site spoke with Gene Brewer, author of the 1990-written novel K-PAX, on which the Kevin Spacey-Jeff Bridges film is based. When asked about allegations that took inspiration from Subiela's 1986 art-house film he says, "Nothing could be further from the truth... it's a total coincidence... if you want to say it's the same generic idea, maybe, but if you see the movie you'll find an enormous amount of
The plot of Man Facing Southeast goes a little something like this: A new patient mysteriously appears in a psychiatric ward. He claims to have come from another planet to study human behavior. The "alien" is gentle but criticizes humans for their
harsh treatment of each other. The assigned psychiatrist is himself unhappy, and affected by the patient's insight. But he is ordered to treat the patient according to institutional procedure.
The plot of Universal's K-PAX goes like this: A mental patient named Prot (Kevin Spacey) claims to be from a distant planet called K-PAX. His psychiatrist, Dr.
Mark Powell (Jeff Bridges), tries to diagnose and possibly help him, even though he thinks he's faking. But Dr. Powell slowly begins to realize this so-called alien is having a startling effect on the mental health of the hospital's other patients, and he begins to wonder.
Despite the similarities, author Brewer tells Reel that he'd never even heard of the Argentinean film when he was writing K-PAX in the late 1980s. He says he lived in a small Ohio town, "in the middle of nowhere with no art theaters close by." "We didn't see it until four or five years after I finished the book. We got it on video."
Reel.com tried reaching Man Facing Southeast director Eliseo Subiela through a friend, Argentinean director Fabian Bielinsky, but Subiela is currently out of the
country. Bielinsky claims that the Subiela "knows about the film." He says, "I talked to his wife about [K-PAX], and they're going to do something about
I'm certainly not saying anyone ripped anyone else off, but I find it curious that many of our readers knew about this film and the folks involved with K-PAX
are pleading ignorance. Reel spoke with the agent of Charles Leavitt, the film's screenwriter who says simply, "I never heard of it." Also, a studio publicist is quoted as saying, "[Ian Softley, the film's director] doesn't know anything about it. He never saw it." That claim has also been made by the film's producers.
So is there anything to this controversy? Maybe, but this is Hollywood and as Brewer says, "Similar ideas come up all the time."
(c)2001 Snowball.com.Inc. All rights reserved.
EMPIRE ONLINE (UK)
September 19, 2001
Altman Launches London Festival
The director of Gosford Park, Robert Altman, tore himself away from the editing suite this morning to help launch the Regus London Film Festival. Speaking to Empire Online. Altman explains that the film was, 'an upstairs, downstairs conceit. Actually most of the action takes place downstairs.'
So how was it filming a British film for the first time? 'I've never had such an enjoyable experience,' Altman enthused, before adding that he didn't expect to make much money out of it. 'Whenever we go into these things we have to sign our souls away. There's no way I'm going to make a penny out of this film from start to finish. But I'm not in it for that anyway.'
The film's cast which includes such luminaries as Maggie Smith, Alan Bates, Helen Mirren, Kristin Scott-Thomas and Jeremy Northam must be one of the best ensemble casts for years. 'The screen is thick with it,' agreed Altman. 'You're looking at 23 actors on stage at the same time and they're all brilliant.' So how did he manage to persuade them all to come on board? 'It's like having a party - I sent them an invitation.'
Gosford Park, which will open in the US at Christmas and in the UK in February will open the London Film Festival on 7 November 2001 at the Odeon Leicester Square.
The full slate of film for the festival was announced today - you can find a list at the Official RLFF site here. The main galas include the international premieres of Monsters Inc, Windtalkers and Novocaine.
Stars expected to attend include Martin Sheen - who will be talking about Apocalypse Now Redux, Bruce Willis who will be in town for the premiere of his movie Bandits and both Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey who will be here for the closing gala movie K-Pax.
Empire Online will be covering the festival, which runs from 7-22 November 2001 in depth, talking to the stars, and covering all the gala premieres. So make sure you make us your bookmark for the Regus London Film Festival.
© Copyright EMAP Digital Limited 2001
From The Hollywood Reporter:
Big b.o., awards potential for Uni's 'K-PAX'
Sept. 11, 2001
By Martin A. Grove
Prot potential: After the summer's popcorn movies, it's refreshing to suddenly be seeing films that lend themselves to thoughtful discussion.
A case in point is Universal's drama "K-PAX," directed by Iain Softley ("Wings of the Dove"), opening Oct. 26 at about 2,000 theaters. Starring are Kevin Spacey as Prot, a mysterious stranger who says he's from a distant planet and Jeff Bridges as a psychiatrist who, like the audience, isn't sure whether to believe him or not. Its screenplay by Charles Leavitt is based on the novel by Gene Brewer. Produced by Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin and Robert F. Colesberry, "K-PAX" was executive produced by Susan G. Pollock.
After an early look at "K-PAX," I'm anticipating that it will continue Universal's winning streak at the box office -- five of the studio's last six releases have opened in first place -- and have excellent potential for Golden Globes and Oscar consideration in some prime races.
Liking "K-PAX" as much as I did, I was particularly happy to have an opportunity to talk about the film with Gordon, whose long list of producing credits includes such hits as "48 HRS," "Predator," "Die Hard," "Die Hard 2" and "Field of Dreams." While serving as president and chief operating officer of 20th Century Fox in the mid-'80s, Gordon oversaw the production of such major box office successes as "Cocoon," "The Jewel of the Nile," "Aliens" and "Broadcast News."
" 'K-PAX' was a novel that we found," Gordon told me. "It was brought to us (in 1995) by Sue Pollock, the executive producer of the movie, who works out of New York. She brought us the book and we immediately all read it and loved it. When we read it we knew it was going to be a long journey (to the screen) because it's not high concept. But we liked it very, very much and set about trying to get a screenplay. It became a labor of love and we wouldn't let it go."
Asked what initially attracted him to the material, Gordon explained, "I just felt it was a special story and very unique. It got to me. When I was reading the book it brought tears to my eyes. I couldn't figure it out -- is he or isn't he (from another planet)? And will he or won't he leave (to return home as he says he must)? It was just one of those things. If you've been doing this a long time, (there's) certain material you read and you say, 'I have to get this done.' "
When he read it, Gordon said, he didn't have any immediate ideas about casting. "I always think in terms of getting a screenplay and then worrying about who's going to do it," he noted. "And that's what we did. We kept working and working on the screenplay until we got a screenplay that we felt was good enough to go out to people. Then we started the arduous process of trying to get (the project) together. From the first time we got the material until we got our green light on the film was several years. We had more than one writer and finally Charles Leavitt came in and we just found out (late last week) that he's going to get sole credit on the film, which is the way we had proposed the credit. He really turned it around. So we're very happy about it. He wrote and rewrote and rewrote and he's still rewriting as we go into our final mix. He's still doing some lines for us for the mix."
Although I was very impressed with "K-PAX," Gordon pointed out, "The film you saw is not a finished film. We still have to go in and do our final mix on the film (which began on Monday of this week)." Gordon also commented that as much as I liked the movie that I saw, the final result that goes into theaters "will be 20% better." Gordon's been around the track long enough not to be doubted about this, but, frankly, the picture really was in very good shape in terms of content when I saw it. The improvements Gordon anticipates will be involve very specific things like color correction, music and sound effects.
He readily agreed with me that Spacey and Bridges are outstanding working together. "For me, I call it an acting event," he said. "I think Kevin and Jeff together are just amazing. Separately, they're fantastic actors and together they're just pushing each other (to greater heights) and without trying they just became better and better and better. To make the film and to be on the set was a pleasure because you just got to see these marvelous talents. It was like watching a great play every day."
Spacey came on board first. "Kevin had basically let us know that he would be interested in it," Gordon recalled. "This was after the script had been around for a long, long time. It may have even gone to Kevin at one time. Kevin very much wanted to make the film. But that still wasn't the end of getting the film made. We still had obstacles (to overcome). It's always hard to get a film made."
I reminded Gordon that he'd told me in an interview some years ago that it's so hard to make any movie that he's always surprised that any films ever get made. "I used to always say that if all the students studying in film classes knew how films are made, they wouldn't have the nerve to stay in school. They'd do something else," he replied. "It's always a miracle when one gets made. And I've been on both sides of the desk, so I know what it's like to green light them and I know what it's like to try to get the green light. It's scary. After 40 years I'm still surprised!"
Given Spacey's busy schedule with other film commitments, timing the start of production was necessary in order to make his participation possible. "He had a particular time he wanted to do it and we were able to convince the studio to go at that time," Gordon said. "Then Kevin and I sat down and talked about directors and we both very much wanted Iain Softley. That was a concentrated effort and Iain came in and we all wanted Jeff."
Clearly, any actor cast as the psychiatrist examining Spacey's character Prot would have to be able to hold his own opposite Spacey. "That's the thing, otherwise it'd be like putting a weak heavy with Schwarzenegger," Gordon said. "Kevin wanted an actor that he felt was his equal, if not better, and Jeff's the man. You know, I sit down now and think about who would have done this and I just don't know if we couldn't get these two guys."
Although the film is set in New York, only exteriors were shot there. "We shot some in New York and a lot of it here (in Los Angeles)," Gordon said. "Basically, it's an L.A.-based shoot. It was the nicest film (during production). I think all of us had an absolutely great time. We had no problems. I hate to say this, but we really didn't. We had a wonderful shoot. Everybody got along just unbelievably well. We started shooting on Nov. 13, 2000 and we finished on Mar. 3, 2001. I think we shot a total of about three weeks in New York."
Asked about the biggest challenges during production, Gordon referred to the sequences when Spacey's character, who may or may not be from the planet K-PAX, has been hypnotized by Bridges' character, Dr. Mark Powell, in an effort to learn more about the mysterious Prot. "The hypnosis scenes were very difficult to make interesting and not bore an audience," Gordon said. "There was a lot of emotion to be shown. I felt that a couple of those scenes -- especially the scene where Kevin breaks down during hypnosis -- that was just amazing watching that. The crew and everybody (on the set then) applauded. It was like watching an amazing play. It was very difficult for the actors. I've been involved in some very big action films and it wasn't that kind of difficult (production challenge), but this was every bit as difficult because of the acting challenges."
Gordon, of course, has produced more than a few action adventure blockbusters over the years, but with "K-PAX" he's given us a film that certainly will give moviegoers something to talk about when they're on their way home from theaters. "I don't want to say too much about (thoughtful films versus popcorn movies) because everybody's entitled to what they like, but I think this is a film that stays with you past the concession stand," he observed. "And, by the way, it's still with me and I've seen it 50 times. Every time I see it, I see something else and I feel something else. I just hope we have something that people are going to enjoy."
Director Iain Softley's first feature "Backbeat," the 1992 film about the Beatles' early days, attracted critical acclaim. He went on to direct "Hackers," about the dangerous side of the computer world, and "The Wings of the Dove," based on the Henry James story, both of which were well received. Calling him, "a wonderful director," Gordon said, "I think he directed this with great sensitivity and talent. I'm very impressed with him and I only hope I get to work with him again. It was a challenge to get it made. It was worth it because I think it's brought us as much pleasure as you can get in making a movie. He's a very smart guy and a very nice man. That was the thing about this film -- it ended up that everybody actually likes everybody else."
Driving Mr. Spacey!: The positively untrue life and times of Kevin Spacey, with a few real facts thrown in for fun. All collages and photo enhancements were done by me using Microsoft® Picture It!® 99
© 2001- 2002 Driving Mr. Spacey!