In the first decade of his career Kevin Spacey made 20-plus movies and appeared in dozens of TV shows. In the process he took home two Academy Awards — Best Actor for American Beauty, Best Supporting for The Usual Suspects — and became one of the best known actors in Hollywood. But these days he’s not as ubiquitous a presence on screen as he once was, and that’s by design.
“I made a choice that I was going to focus on theatre for 10 years,” he says on the line from his home in London, “because I had focused on film for nearly 12.
“I got to a point where I thought, That went better than I could possibly have ever hoped. Now what? Am I going to spend the next 10 years chasing the same dream? I thought, A: I don’t need to top myself and B: I’d like to take all the incredible personal good fortune and attention that came to me and put it toward something that isn’t about me. That is about putting myself back into something that has always been my first love.”
To that end he took over one of England’s oldest theatres, the Old Vic, as artistic director in 2003, creating a company of actors and educational programs. It’s work that keeps him busy.
“Let me tell you the honest truth. I don’t have time to make movies that often, so I’m not offered that many movies. Sometimes I get the feeling from journalists that they think you sit around and decide which movies you’re going to do. I’ll let Tom Hanks do that one and George Clooney can do that one but I’m going to do this one. That’s not the way it works. There are only two reasons I do movies. One: because they offer it to me and two: am I available to do it. There’s no great design. Trust me, I’m not sitting around with a magic wand picking my parts like I have a deli in front of me of choice. That’s a myth. It’s a nice myth, but it isn’t true.”
He took a break from the stage long enough to play one of the evil employers in Horrible Bosses, a new comedy co-starring Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston.
“I love all these actors,” he says, adding, “It’s great fun to pretend to be a horrible person for a couple of weeks.”