Actor Kevin Spacey in the film "Casino Jack."

Actor Kevin Spacey in the film "Casino Jack."

Two-time Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey has spent much of his career playing morally ambiguous characters. In his upcoming film “Casino Jack,” Spacey plays disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff who served time in prison on fraud, bribery and tax evasion charges. Spacey has also won acclaim for his work on the stage. He has been the artistic director of the Old Vic theater in London since 2003. Last week he was made an Honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire by the Queen of England in recognition of exceptional service to the U.K.


  • Kevin Spacey Actor, screenwriter, director and producer. His films include "The Usual Suspects," "American Beauty," "Beyond the Sea” and "Recount." His upcoming film is "Casino Jack."

“Casino Jack” Official Trailer


  • 11:06:54

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. Kevin Spacey is a two-time Academy Award-winning actor, director, screenwriter and producer. He stars in the upcoming film, "Casino Jack," in which he plays disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

  • 11:08:29

    MS. DIANE REHMWhoa, that's Kevin Spacey and Kelly Preston in a scene from the new film, "Casino Jack." The film opens in December. Kevin Spacey joins me in the studio. And of course as always, you are welcome to join us as well, 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to, free to join us on Facebook or Twitter. How lovely to have you here.

  • 11:09:12

    MR. KEVIN SPACEYAt the tone, the time will be, 11:10 a.m. (laugh).

  • 11:09:17

    REHM(laugh) I knew you were gonna do that. Kevin Spacey should I call you lord? I mean, what did that mean to be named an honorary commander of the order of the British empire?

  • 11:09:34

    SPACEYWell, in the first place, it means a great deal to me. I've now been living in London for eight years. We're in the middle of seventh season of work at the Old Vic Theatre, which is what brought me there. And the Queen decided that I should receive this honor for my services to theatre, so very grateful for that. I'm in that country as a guest. I have so enjoyed the work that we've been able do in revitalizing the Old Vic. And although it would be nice to be called lord, the truth is, what you do become is a commander. So my friends are calling me Commander K, but it's not a sir, because you can only be a sir if you're a British citizen. So this is as close as you can get...

  • 11:10:26

    REHMOh, I see.

  • 11:10:26

    SPACEY...until one becomes a British citizen.

  • 11:10:27

    REHMYour wearing a very thin tie. Are you setting a new style?

  • 11:10:35

    SPACEYWell, you know, this is really an old style.

  • 11:10:38

    REHM(laugh) I do know that. That's why I'm asking about it.

  • 11:10:41

    SPACEYI like thin lapels, I like thin ties. I think it's one of those, you know, things in fashion that never goes out of fashion. And I particularly like, you know, when you look at some of the great people who used to wear this, you know, the Kennedys wore these kind of ties.

  • 11:11:03

    REHMSo did my husband.

  • 11:11:05

    SPACEYOh, that's why you noticed.

  • 11:11:06

    REHMWore thin ties. Tell me about why you chose to play Jack Abramoff.

  • 11:11:14

    SPACEYWell, you know, certainly in this town, people would know and remember who he is from, probably what was a 24/7 news about the case, what he ultimately went to prison for. I -- so I knew vaguely about the case because at the time, I was living in England. And then I heard that -- I mean, actually, people may not know that I was actually cast in this film on Facebook because George Hickenlooper, who was our director, who sadly passed away a little more than a week ago, quite unexpectedly at the age of 47.

  • 11:11:54

    SPACEYGeorge had written on his Facebook page that he thought I'd be a good actor to play Abramoff and my business partner, producing partner, Trigger Street Danny Bernetti found out about this and he called me and said, do you know about this project? And I said, well, I know who Abramoff is, but I don't know about the project. So he poked George as one does on Facebook and they began a correspondence.

  • 11:12:17

    SPACEYAnd then George flew to London, now a little more than two years ago, and we spent an entire day together talking about the script, where it was at that point, Abramoff as a figure and a character, what he had learned up to that point about it. Our mutual interest and fascination in American politics and I walked away from that day feeling that I had met somebody who had an incredible view and a remarkable amount of enthusiasm.

  • 11:12:49

    REHMSo that was the first time you had met George?

  • 11:12:54

    SPACEYYeah, although I had been absolutely aware of his work and people would know his work from not only "Factory Girl," which was a film he made about Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick, but I think he probably made the definitive documentary about filmmaking with "Hearts of Darkness," which is the film about the making of the "Apocalypse Now."

  • 11:13:13

    REHMI know to prepare for this, you spent time with Jack Abramoff, you and George Hickenlooper both, while he was in prison. Tell me about that.

  • 11:13:28

    SPACEYWell, it was a great opportunity to have a chance to spend, you know, over six hours with him and George in Cumberland, Md. prison, where at the time he was serving. He's out now and I found it a really fascinating and very helpful afternoon. He was very forthright, he was very off the record, very upfront. And, you know, he may well have had an agenda of, you know, saying from his point of view how things worked, but I knew that wasn't going to be my only bit of research. It was helpful in terms of his personality, in terms of his sense of humor, how funny he was. I could absolutely see that when he was in three-piece suit in Washington circles why he owned the room.

  • 11:14:13

    SPACEYAnd was -- and I think, if I'm not mistaken, the most successful Republican lobbyist in the history of Washington. But then I had a whole other set of, sort of, detective work to do because it was only after I met him that I decided to start reading all of the commentary and some of the press that had been out during the case. And that didn't quite reconcile with the person I met...

  • 11:14:35


  • 11:14:35

    SPACEY...and then unearthing, then, the facts, not the myths, not the, quite frankly, lazy reporting in a lot of places it had been done, but the facts. What actually happening, what did he actually do and what for this man, who was laid out to be the greediest, most horrible devil that ever walked the face of the earth, I couldn't figure out what he did with the money?

  • 11:14:59

    SPACEYYou know, he was making all this money, what was he doing with it? And what I discovered was, unlike some other figures who have shown enormous excess, like a Bernie Madoff, you know, he clearly -- Madoff is a character who was stealing money from his clients, living high off the hog, flying all over the world, having fabulous villas here and, you know, summer houses there and jets, yet Abramoff wasn't doing that.

  • 11:15:27

    REHMHe wasn't even paying his own mortgage.

  • 11:15:30

    SPACEYNo, he wasn't even paying his own mortgage. He was, in fact, as it turned out, giving away a tremendous amount of money, in many cases, to people he didn't know. So you then have to try to reconcile the public image that was carved, maybe some of the reasons for that, which I think have to do with, a, a very selective justice system in this country, where high profile people like, I'm sure you remember the Leona Hemsley case, right?

  • 11:15:56


  • 11:15:56

    SPACEYWell, let's throw her in jail and show that we're cleaning up the tax system in the United States. Well, let's throw Abramoff and show that we're cleaning up the lobbying industry, which is just not true. I think we've just gone through a mid-term election that shows that influence and power and money are at an all-time high and I think it dampens the political process. I think it, in many ways, it dampens people's enthusiasm about public service, which I think is a shame.

  • 11:16:24

    SPACEYSo in a sense, you've got all these various things to look at and, you know, all these clues. And my job ultimately as an actor is to try to understand what was motivating this person. How did he get involved in these things, how were these decisions made? Was he caught up in kind of a culture where everyone was doing similar things? And I hope that, to some degree, what I've been able to do is not sympathize with him, but have a certain degree of empathy and humanize him because it's not particularly interesting to play a kind of one-sided villainous character.

  • 11:17:05

    SPACEYI don't even know how you go about playing villainy as an active thing to do as an actor. So what I've tried to do in the film and what George wanted to do with this movie was to make a very entertaining -- you know, we almost can call this move a comedy because we've approached it in such a way that, you know, when you look at the circumstances and you look at the behavior, you look at some of the choices, it's absolutely outrageous. I mean, it's crazy.

  • 11:17:26

    REHMIt's crazy.

  • 11:17:28

    SPACEYAnd therefore, inherently funny. And I think if you were to look back at a film I did in 2008 called, "Recount," which was the film about the 2000 election between Bush and Gore, again, Jay Roach, our director, Danny Strong, our screenwriter, Sidney Pollack, the late Sidney Pollack, our producer, we approached that movie in a very comedic way was well in a sense that it's so crazy, you couldn't write this stuff and therefore, I think that movie and this move were a lot funnier that people could've imagined.

  • 11:18:00

    REHMBut it's not funny to see Jack Abramoff handing envelopes of money to Tom Delay, to Congress Menai. I mean, we know about this because we read it, but I'm darned if it's funny.

  • 11:18:20

    SPACEYWell, you know, a, it's not funny, b, we've tried to approach it in such a way that the humor is there. Yes. Is it time to say what time it is again?

  • 11:18:30

    REHMIt's time to say what time it is.

  • 11:18:33

    SPACEYThe time at the tone will be 11:24.

  • 11:18:35

    REHMAnd we'll take a short break. When we come back, more with Kevin Spacey.

  • 11:21:26

    REHMAnd that is the opening monologue from "Casino Jack." That is, of course, Kevin Spacey in his role as Jack Abramoff standing in front of the mirror looking at yourself. Tell me about that.

  • 11:21:46

    SPACEYWell, it's an interesting scene because we didn't write that scene until about halfway through shooting. And the reason was because George and I both felt that as we were shooting and we were beginning to look at the stuff we'd shot, we were beginning to look at how the story and the narrative were shaping. A lot of events were happening to Jack, but we weren't getting a chance to have him as a character defend himself. So we wrote this scene and it played in the movie originally. The very first cut that George showed me, it played about an hour and 30 something minutes into the film. And I called George after I saw that first cut, 'cause we had a really great collaboration. He was so open and so willing to work with me directly in terms of how it all developed.

  • 11:22:27

    SPACEYI said, George, you know, the problem I have with the cut is how it begins. I said, unlike "Recount" which started with the event, which was a voter in a voting booth on Election Day voting and everything stems from that, we don't have a single event in this film. It's about a lot of events so at the end of the day, to me, the event is Jack Abramoff. And I would like you to try pulling that monologue in front of the mirror and starting the film with it because I think it establishes who he is, it shows us the way he thinks in the height and the moment when it was all crumbling around him. And George tried it and he loved it and that's why the movie starts that way now.

  • 11:23:11

    REHMTell me about George. I was shocked that he died at 47.

  • 11:23:19

    SPACEYYeah, you know, no one -- none of us are prepared for someone's passing. You know, even when you know that someone is ill. I mean, I remember when my mother passed away and I'd known for a long time she had a brain tumor and you think that you're prepared for it, but you aren't. And in the case of somebody who is so young, so vibrant with so much energy, he was like a kid, George.

  • 11:23:43

    SPACEYAnd also because out of Toronto, through some screenings we had last week -- last year, people were really beginning to start to talk about George as a filmmaker. They were discovering his work. He was getting a tremendous amount of attention and accolades. He'd just been at the Austin Film Festival. He had taken "Casino Jack" to Denver, which is where he passed away, and he was about to show it there at their film festival.

  • 11:24:13

    SPACEYAnd, you know, all we know is that he apparently died in his sleep. And it was a very -- two things that I feel. One, it did not surprise me that because of his deep, deep, deep interest and affection and curiosity about American politics, that the last evening that he lived, he spent at his cousin's political rally. His cousin was John Hickenlooper, who was running for the governorship in the state of Colorado.

  • 11:24:47

    REHMAnd won.

  • 11:24:48

    SPACEYAnd he won and he won by a wide margin. And it was also -- there was this strange moment in -- AMC had done a documentary in which they followed George and four other directors around during the Toronto Film Festival. Sort of everywhere George went, there was a camera. And there was this strange moment where he was having his hair cut and he suddenly started talking about dying. And he said that his greatest fear about death was that it would be boring. And I hope that people get a chance to see this movie, because if they do, they'll find out that the last thing that George Hickenlooper was, was boring.

  • 11:25:30

    REHMTell me about how you now feel about Jack Abramoff having completed this movie. We know he's no longer in prison. He's at a pizza parlor -- a kosher pizza parlor...

  • 11:25:49

    SPACEYI believe it's a kosher pizza parlor.

  • 11:25:50 Baltimore.

  • 11:25:51


  • 11:25:52

    REHMAnd he's not making pizza, he's helping with promotion.

  • 11:25:57

    SPACEYMy feeling about Jack is that -- first of all, I was very grateful that he agreed to meet with me, that he was as forthright about what he went through, with me. It was very helpful to me. I found him a fascinating figure and, you know, complex and not easy to get your finger on and sort of say, ah, this is exactly what he's like. I mean, I think that what always ends up happening very often in cases like this is that it's not as black and white as it's portrayed. It's much more gray and much more human. And so I would say at the end of the day, if I'd been able to humanize him, if people walk away from this movie having an understanding of how he ended up making some of the decisions he made, then I've done my job.

  • 11:26:53

    REHMWould you like to see whether prison has changed him?

  • 11:26:59

    SPACEYOh, I have no doubt it has. I mean, I have no doubt that -- I don't think you can be under lock and key for nearly six years and...

  • 11:27:08

    REHMIt wasn't a country club.

  • 11:27:10

    SPACEYNo, no. I mean, but, I mean, it's primarily white collar criminals. I mean, he wasn't...

  • 11:27:14


  • 11:27:15

    SPACEY...he wasn't in, you know, the kind of prison where, you know, murderers and that sort are, but it's -- you know, I was there, it's probably not a pleasant place to have to live for six years.

  • 11:27:27

    REHMTell me how and why you became an actor.

  • 11:27:33

    SPACEYWell, you know, I think part of it stems from a very simple thing, which is that when I discovered as a very young boy that I could make my mother laugh. She was my first audience and I think that because my mother and father were such arts and culture freaks. Loved -- you know, we used to read on Sundays from the great books. We'd read from plays, we'd go to theatre, we'd travel to London, we'd -- there were a lot of experiences that I was introduced to in terms of the creative industries as a young man.

  • 11:28:14

    REHMBut you did not always behave.

  • 11:28:18

    SPACEYOh, well, that's -- there's been more made out of that stuff than you can imagine.

  • 11:28:22

    REHMTell me.

  • 11:28:23

    SPACEYNo. It's just, you know, I was a normal kid.

  • 11:28:26


  • 11:28:26

    SPACEYAnd I did normal things that normal kids do. And you say one thing and it's -- it's like myth. You know, someone makes more out of that than you ever intended it to be made out of and then suddenly, you were a bad kid as a child.

  • 11:28:37

    REHMSo how...

  • 11:28:39

    SPACEYI had a very great relationship with my family. I had a fantastic relationship with my mother and father.

  • 11:28:42

    REHMBut how did your sister's dollhouse get burned down?

  • 11:28:47

    SPACEYWell, you know, these things happen.

  • 11:28:48

    REHMYeah, right (laugh).

  • 11:28:49

    SPACEYThese things happen...

  • 11:28:50


  • 11:28:50 know, when you're seven and you've got some matches. No. I think that I was very fortunate. I also got -- because I got introduced to so many incredible performances and I grew up watching Spencer Tracy and Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn, all these extraordinary actors. So I think that from about the age of eight, I always wanted to be an actor and I was very encouraged by my parents to pursue it and I got lucky.

  • 11:29:16

    REHMHere is a message from Facebook and Marie says, "Can you talk about your great impersonations and how you'd be a great late-night host?"

  • 11:29:33

    SPACEY(laugh) Well, the only way to answer that, of course, is to -- is to do Johnny Carson...

  • 11:29:36

    REHMOf course.

  • 11:29:37

    SPACEY...who we miss, don't we? I tell you, I miss Johnny every night. Problem is, he doesn't work Mondays. No. I got very lucky when I was -- when I was -- sort of in my teenage years, I discovered that I could do voices and that I was good at it and it's all just about your ear, it's all about how it sounds, you know, in your own head.

  • 11:29:59

    REHMYour chair is giving you trouble.

  • 11:30:00

    SPACEYMy chair is having a problem. And I love doing it. I love -- you know, as I say, it all, I think, stems from the fact that I could make my mom laugh. And...

  • 11:30:10

    REHMThe Katharine Hepburn.

  • 11:30:11

    SPACEYKatharine Hepburn I did and I've actually recently have been cultivating a new impression, which is Morgan Freeman. That's right. Morgan Freeman learned a long time ago that if he takes just the right amount of pauses, why, he can sound like he's reading poetry. Thank you, thank you very much (laugh).

  • 11:30:36

    REHMWhat do you do with your jaw, with your throat, with your face to create?

  • 11:30:46

    SPACEYWell, part of it is sound and part of it is what happens with certain -- like Carson, for example. A lot of people in the Midwest, they talk in the back of their throat. There's a kind of -- it gets way back there (laugh). So it's just -- it's about listening, it's about -- mostly if you have an ear and it's how you hear it. It's not how you think other people hear it, it's how you hear it, then you can sort of have fun with it, you know.

  • 11:31:10

    SPACEY'Cause I'll tell you, I just recently was in New York for the Clinton Global Initiative and he loves it when I do -- in fact, Ben Stiller was the host of this particular night for the Clinton awards and he brought me out as Clinton. And we spent a whole lot of time talking and it was fun. He was upset he wasn't invited to Chelsea's wedding, but I said, look, it was just our good friends. And he said, but Ryan Seacrest was there. I said, yeah, it was just our good friends.

  • 11:31:40

    REHMI wanna hear Katharine Hepburn.

  • 11:31:41

    SPACEYOh, you do. Well, you have to ask me a question. You know, what would you have asked Hepburn if you'd ever had a chance to interview her?

  • 11:31:47

    REHMI would have asked her why she chose to wear trousers against the fashion.

  • 11:31:57

    SPACEYBecause it was very comfortable.

  • 11:32:01

    REHMAnd she was.

  • 11:32:02

    SPACEYAnd she was.

  • 11:32:03

    REHMShe set the style.

  • 11:32:04

    SPACEYYeah, yeah, she was -- I was very -- I don't know if you know this, but I was very lucky. When I was a young kid in my drama class, we used to be able to go and see great productions and one of them was a play that she did at the Ahmanson Theatre called "A Matter of Gravity," which co-starred Christopher Reeve as her grandson, pre-Superman by many years. And I found out where she parked her car. She drove a station wagon. She parked it in the loading dock at the music center and so I waited after this performance with a bouquet of flowers. And she came down out of the door of the loading docks, she stopped and she saw me. And I was the only person around. I mean, everyone was waiting at the stage door, but I had cleverly gone another way.

  • 11:32:48

    SPACEYAnd she stopped and she looked at me and her eyes narrowed. She went, you waited for me, how lovely. And she came down and took these flowers and put them in her car and she sat on the bumper of her car and talked to me for 15 minutes about Spencer Tracy and questions I had. And then years later, when I was doing "Long Day's Journey into Night" on Broadway with Jack Lemmon, there was a knock on my door after a matinee performance. And I opened the door and it was Katharine Hepburn and she walked in. And then I -- we began a correspondence that lasted very late in her life for many, many years. I have a whole series of letters from her that are framed and very close to my heart.

  • 11:33:29

    REHMWhat kinds of things were in those letters?

  • 11:33:32

    SPACEYWell, her letters are very short, my letters are very long. And I've said this before, but she -- you know, I wrote her these sort of long letters about how my career was going and what I was doing and she'd write me back and say, oh, good for you. And that was sort of all I'd get back, but (laugh).

  • 11:33:45

    REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We've got lots of callers. Let's open the phones, 800-433-8850. First to Margate, Fla. Good morning, Anthony.

  • 11:34:04

    ANTHONYGood morning. Mr. Spacey, I've been watching you since "Wiseguy" when you played Mel Profitt, "The Usual Suspects," "K-PAX." I love your acting. How did "Wiseguy" playing Mel Profitt influence your acting?

  • 11:34:19

    SPACEYYou know, it's -- thank you for the comment and also for the question. It's actually a great memory of mine is that when I was offered "Wiseguy," I was very reluctant to jump into a television series and I hadn't actually seen it. And it wasn't until Steven Cannell showed me the last hour of the Ray Sharkey arc in the previous series on "Wiseguy." But it was really a phone call that I made to Jack Lemmon because I was quite -- I didn't know whether I was going to do it or not and I remember that all during the time that we were doing "Long Day's Journey," Jack used to talk about the golden age of television.

  • 11:34:58

    SPACEYAnd I called him and I said, why was it golden? I mean, other than the nostalgia of it, why do you guys talk about it in such reverent ways? And Jack said -- well, he said, at the time, it was a new medium and nobody knew what was gonna work and what wasn't gonna work and so you could do a comedy, you could do a drama, you could do an outrageous thing, you could do this, you could do musical. He said, there was a kind of abandon. And I thought, abandon. That was not a word that I associated with sort of network television shows.

  • 11:35:27

    SPACEYAnd I remember saying to Steven Cannell, if you let me do this the way I think I'd like to do it, it may not make a lot of sense in editing, but I'm trying to create an arc of a character that you'll get to know over a number of episodes. And they really did allow me to do it and it was, for me, an extraordinary experience. I had a great time with the writing and it was that show that led to Bryan Singer and Chris McQuarrie writing "Usual Suspects" for me.

  • 11:36:59

    SPACEYI literally have not heard that for so long. That was a great transition, by the way, all of you in the booth. Excellent work. And at the tone, the time will be, 11:36.

  • 11:37:11

    REHMAnd we'll take just another short break. When we come back, your calls, your e-mails, your questions.

  • 11:41:54

    REHMKevin Spacey, I have to tell you, I hated that movie.

  • 11:42:01

    SPACEYYeah, I know, I know, I know. I think maybe it struck a chord, you know. Some people found that movie very disturbing.

  • 11:42:08


  • 11:42:09

    SPACEYI think, you know, it captured a time and I -- just listening to that again, I haven't listened to that in a very long time, that scene, but it just reminds me how brilliant Annette Bening is, was.

  • 11:42:23

    REHMAh, she is.

  • 11:42:23

    SPACEYI'm so delighted that she's getting great notices for her film "The Kids Are All Right," I think that's the title, this year. I'm just delighted for her.

  • 11:42:32

    REHMIs that seat falling on you again?

  • 11:42:34

    SPACEYYeah, it's just me. I just keep kicking it.

  • 11:42:36

    REHMAll right. Let's go to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Hi, there, Judy, you're on the air.

  • 11:42:43

    JUDYGood morning. My question for you, Kevin, is one of my favorite movies that you were in is "The Negotiator." And there's a scene with Samuel L. Jackson. I think it's the first time that you meet him face to face. And he's pleading his case to you. And you have a little nod of your head, a little twitch of your head. And I always loved that because to me, it was so subtle, but it was speaking volumes in that you all of a sudden were going to his side.

  • 11:43:18

    SPACEYHmm. I don't remember that particular twitch, but I'm glad that it evoked what that scene was supposed to evoke. You know, one has to say that when you're paired with an actor of the great magnitude and ability to deliver lines like Sam Jackson, you know, it raises your game. And a, I'd love to work with Sam again, b, I'd love to get him to London before I'm done at the Old Vic to get up on stage. He's a great stage actor, you know. He hasn't done as many plays in the last decade, but he's a phenomenal actor. I think he should come back to the stage. And that was a really fun film to do, so thank you very much.

  • 11:44:03

    REHMThanks for calling, Judy. I want to go back for a moment to Jack Abramoff because he mentions -- you mention in the film what he did to John McCain in South Carolina and then you go on to do the film "Recount." So how political an individual are you? How involved in what's happening here in the United States politically do you feel yourself?

  • 11:44:43

    SPACEYWell, I mean, I haven't lived, you know, full-time in the United States since 2003, so I have had a rather -- having been involved in politics and certainly done a great deal of work for the Democratic party when President Clinton was in office. The thing I tended to avoid was going to other states and campaigning for people who were running for office in states I don't vote in. I always thought that that would be a misuse of my position and I feel the same way about living in England. I'm not a -- I'm a resident. I'm not a citizen or a subject, as they would call you. And I don't think it's right for me to tell the British people how to vote. I certainly watch things now with a certain bemused, sometimes slightly appalled perspective.

  • 11:45:31

    SPACEYBut I -- I believe I politics, I believe in public service. I wish that we were in a country where the networks would stop charging for ads. I think if that was removed from our process, then you wouldn't have to raise the kind of money that you have to raise, there wouldn't be the kind of corruption that there is and there wouldn't be the ability for people to try to buy their way into office.

  • 11:45:58

    SPACEYI was at least encouraged by the fact that there were a few people who seemed to have spent astronomical amounts of money running for office who lost, so maybe ideas can't be outspent sometimes. And I think that as you look at the way in which the process has become so ugly, that we have people who call themselves journalists who spend a great deal of time spreading their own propaganda.

  • 11:46:24

    SPACEYI long for the days of ideas. I long for the days of public discourse that is intelligent and it makes me miss Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King and other great leaders like Ted Kennedy who understood inherently the troubles and the difficulties that a lot of Americans are going through and don't play politics in the way that politics is played. Certainly in this town and across the country, it's depressing and there's -- it's no wonder that most people don't vote.

  • 11:46:59

    REHMWhat do you think of Jon Stewart?

  • 11:47:02

    SPACEYI like Jon. I mean, I think that Jon is -- you know, look, first and foremost, Jon is a comedian. Let's not forget that. And I think he's been brilliant at carving out a fantastic niche for himself. I think his ability to use humor, to use the sort of mocking ability that he has to underscore the ludicrousness of some of the things that -- who are people in our political system and commentaries of our political system say and do. I -- I think he's done a brilliant job.

  • 11:47:33

    REHMYou're also a singer. Tell me about Bobby Darin.

  • 11:47:42

    SPACEYWell, Bobby Darin, you know, was for me, a huge idol and it was an incredible honor and I will forever be grateful to the Darin family, Dodd Darin particularly, Stephen Blauner, who was Bobby's manager, for having been so encouraging about allowing me to do a film about his life and for allowing me to sing as opposed to lip synching, which often happens when musical biographies are done. And so I trained a lot to not do an imitation of him, but to sound enough like him to get myself around his way around a song and it was an incredibly satisfying experience.

  • 11:49:04

    REHMTell me about learning to sing.

  • 11:49:08

    SPACEYHmm. Well, I -- I've sort of been singing my whole life and from the time I was, like, I'd say 14 until I was 19, I did a lot of musicals in high school. I think by the time I was 19, I did "Dames at Sea," "The Boyfriend," "Westside Story," "Gypsy," "The Sound of Music," which by the way, I did in my senior year at Chatsworth High School with the wonderful Mare Winningham as Maria. And I love singing. I'd like to do more of it. I'd like to, you know, maybe over the next couple years do another album, but not a Christmas album, sorry.

  • 11:50:08

    REHMI wanted to talk with you about the Old Vic and what you're trying to do there.

  • 11:50:17

    SPACEYWell, it's been a remarkable journey because I think many people might assume that I replaced somebody as the artistic director at the Old Vic, that there was a company in existence, but there wasn't. From 1976, for all intensive purposes, until we started our company in 2004, the Old Vic became a place you could rent when the National Theatre moved to their own home on the South Bank. With two exceptions, when Jonathan Miller came and ran a couple of seasons there quite successfully and Peter Hall, the great Sir Peter Hall, attempted to start a company there in the late 1990s. It was simply a booking house. It had lost its glow. It was no longer a destination theatre for audiences. I mean, occasionally, it did have a hit play.

  • 11:51:07

    SPACEYBut what I wanted to do when I came there and decided to start a company was to create a company that not only would look at its extraordinary history -- because for people that don't know, the Old Vic, I would say really from its beginning, 'cause it went through many, many different kinds of changes, it was a music hall. It was where the National Ballet began. It was where the National Symphony began. It was where the National Theatre began under Lawrence Olivier in 1964. Judi Dench made her debut there. John Gielgud ran the theatre, Ralph Richardson ran the theatre, Olivier ran it in the 1940s with Ralph Richardson, Tyrone Guthrie ran it, Peter O'Toole ran it, Richard Burton played Hamlet on that stage.

  • 11:51:51

    SPACEYSo it has a remarkable history and a true spirit, that building. It's a 1,040 seat theatre. The oldest working theatre in London built in 1818 and I wanted it to not only return to its glory as a great staging theatre for great actors to do great performances, but I also believe very much in education. I believe in using the tools and the art of theatre as a way to help kids learn about their own self-esteem, their own sense of collaboration, their own sense of themselves. And so we have a huge, I would say probably now the biggest educational program going in London and we also have a big outreach program that we do within our community.

  • 11:52:36

    SPACEYWe actually, this week, I discovered a new space. I've taken over a new space. I found these old Victorian tunnels underneath Waterloo Station, which is two blocks from the Old Vic Theatre, and we've now taken them over as our new space and they're officially now called the Old Vic Tunnels. We built a bar down there called the Bunker Bar and got a liquor license, which is nice. But this week, we're doing community work called Platform in which we have rather ambitiously cast 120 people from around the Lambeth and South Bank area who have devised their own play about London. And it's been sold out all week. They just started performances two nights ago. I saw it a week ago when they were in tech rehearsals.

  • 11:53:21

    SPACEYAnd we also have a big program called Old Vic New Voices, which is our work that we do with emerging talent. So we have now five companies between the ages of 18 and 25, 31 actors in each company, six producers, six directors, six writers and they work together as companies. We have now 3,000 or so members in our Old Vic New Voices club. We do work in New York with our exchange program with our partner, the Public Theater. And so all of the work that we are doing there has been extraordinary, incredibly challenging and I'll keep going it for another five years.

  • 11:53:54

    REHMKevin Spacey and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Tell me about the award and how you felt receiving it from Prince Charles.

  • 11:54:10

    SPACEYWell, I've known Prince Charles now for more than a decade because I've been an ambassador to the Prince's Trust, so I've done many, many events with Prince Charles. He was remarkably generous. I told him I'm working on my impression of him by the way 'cause, you know, he does talk sort of marvelous, you know, so incredible, the work you're doing, it's fantastic. He said he didn't know how I could possibly do an impression of him because he doesn't think he does anything distinctive.

  • 11:54:35

    SPACEY(laugh) But anyway, it was a very, very intimate ceremony at Clarence House. The medal itself is quite beautiful and it meant a great deal to me that I'd been awarded this particular personal honor, but I do have to say that I share it with my staff at the Old Vic who are extraordinary people and who come to work every day dedicated to the work that we're doing, have been such a great comfort and my friends for these past eight years that I've been in London. I'm very lucky to be able to go to work with a group of people who understand our ethos and embrace it and I'm a very happy man.

  • 11:55:14

    REHMNext film?

  • 11:55:16

    SPACEYNext film that will be out I suspect will be a film I've done about the collapse of the banking industry called "Margin Call," that I've done with Jeremy Irons and Paul Bettany, Simon Baker, a wonderful cast and it was a really interesting role, again, of playing somebody who was not a big CEO, not the person making the decisions about how this particular dramatized firm colluded into the incredible collapse of the banking industry we had in 2008, but a man who was quite morally ambiguous about things he was being told to do and sort of the moral compass of the film. And that's a film that will be out next year.

  • 11:55:54

    SPACEYAnd then I did a big comedy for Warner Brothers called "Horrible Bosses" in which I play Jason Bateman's horrible boss. And that was a lot of fun, sort of echoes "Swimming With Sharks," if anyone remembers that film I did many years ago. And so, yeah, I'm doing, you know, a little bit more film lately, but I feel like I can now that the Old Vic is sort of up and running.

  • 11:56:17

    REHMBeen great to have you here. Thank you.

  • 11:56:20

    SPACEYThank you very much.

  • 11:56:22

    REHMAnd Kevin Spacey, his new film "Casino Jack" will be out in December.

  • 11:56:52

    ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture and Monique Nazareth. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Dorie Anisman answers the phones. Visit for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our e-mail address is and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.

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