Why Oscar winner Spacey loves the theatre

CENTRE STAGE: Spacey sporting a hunchback and a club foot as Richard III, in a performance at the Old Vic in London.


    May 05, 2014

    Why Oscar winner Spacey loves the theatre


    KEVIN Spacey, a two-time Oscar-winning actor who now stars in House Of Cards, an online streaming series that has won critical acclaim, leans forward and says that even with his lofty status in Hollywood, he still has a personal point to prove.

    In his new documentary, Now: In The Wings On A World Stage, Spacey lets his personal passion for theatre roar in a film that introduces audiences to his career on the stage.

    It documents his company's production of William Shakespeare's historical play Richard III, which is currently on tour around the globe.

    Spacey, 54, who has been artistic director at London's Old Vic theatre since 2003, said the move to cut back on his Hollywood career and devote his time to the stage struck many as a self-defeating project.

    "A lot of people looked at me like a dog that's sort of a little puzzled," he said with a smile. "Like, 'why do you do theatre, and why did you go off and run this theatre for 10 years? I don't get it. And isn't theatre boring? Why don't you just do movies and make a lot of money?'"

    The documentary, which is directed by first-time film-maker Jeremy Whelehan, takes a behind-the-scenes look at the trans-Atlantic theatre group known as the Bridge Project - a three-year venture between the Old Vic, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and director Sam Mendes.

    Now: In The Wings follows the project's final production through rehearsals, as well as its international tour to locations such as Singapore, Beijing, Doha, San Francisco and Greece's ancient amphitheatre at Epidaurus.

    Shakespeare's 16th-century play, based on England's King Richard III, dramatises his bloody advance to the throne, all the while giving it a black comedy turn. For the part of Richard, Spacey dons a hunchback and affects a club-footed gait that emphasises the anti-hero's crumpled physical appearance.

    Spacey's love of theatre comes out front and centre in the film. He sees the stage as the ultimate actor's realm, whereas film and TV belong to directors, editors and producers.

    "I think for the actor, working in film, you learn how to work in two- to three-minute segments," he said. "But in theatre, you have to be up there for three hours - and you get to do it once. You have no second take."

    Spacey has seen his screen career catch a second wind with his starring role in Netflix's popular political thriller, House Of Cards. Interestingly, he credits his move back to the stage with helping him grasp the role of ruthless politician Francis Underwood, which is coincidentally based on Richard III.

    "I wouldn't have been ready for House Of Cards 10 years ago," he said. "But I was ready this time, and that's because of the theatre."

    Spacey, who won a best actor Oscar for his role as an unhappy suburban father in Mendes' 1999 film American Beauty, grows animated as he talks about theatre, likening playing the same role nightly to an athlete improving his game.

    "I always try to remember that no matter how good I might be in a film or a television show, I'll never be any better. It's frozen," Spacey said.

    "In the theatre, I can be better. I can be better tomorrow night than I am tonight."