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Spacey in 2013
Kevin Spacey Fowler
July 26, 1959
South Orange, New Jersey, U.S.
Kevin Spacey Fowler KBE (born July 26, 1959) is an American actor. He began his career as a stage actor during the 1980s, obtaining supporting roles before gaining a leading man status in film and television. Spacey has received various accolades for his performances on stage and screen including two Academy Awards, a Tony Award, two Laurence Olivier Awards, and four Screen Actors Guild Awards. He received nominations for a Grammy Award as well as twelve Primetime Emmy Awards. Spacey received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1999, and was named an honorary Commander and Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2010 and 2015, respectively.
His first film roles were Mike Nichols's Heartburn (1986) and Working Girl (1988). He continued to act in independent films such as Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) and Swimming with Sharks (1994). Spacey gained prominence for his villainous roles in 1995 crime thriller films Seven and The Usual Suspects, receiving the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the latter. In 1997 he starred in L.A. Confidential, earning a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role nomination. Spacey received his second Academy Award, this time for Best Actor for the Sam Mendes midlife-crisis-themed drama American Beauty (1999). His other starring roles include Pay It Forward (2000), the musical biopic Beyond the Sea (2004), the superhero film Superman Returns (2006), the financial drama Margin Call (2011), and the action film Baby Driver (2017).
In Broadway theatre, Spacey starred in the revival of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night in 1986 alongside Jack Lemmon. He won a Tony Award in 1991 for his role in Lost in Yonkers. Spacey continued to act in theatre, receiving his second Tony Award nomination and first Laurence Olivier Award win for his performance in the revival of The Iceman Cometh in 1999. In 2011, Spacey portrayed Richard III in Richard III and Clarence Darrow in Darrow in 2015 in the West End. He was the artistic director of the Old Vic theatre in London from 2004 until stepping down in mid-2015 and received the Laurence Olivier Award for Society of London Theatre Special Award. In 2017, he hosted the 71st Tony Awards.
Spacey is also known for his portrayal of Ron Klain in the HBO movie Recount (2008) receiving a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Actor in a Limited Series or Movie nomination. That same year, he produced the HBO film Bernard and Doris (2008) receiving a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie. From 2013 to 2017, Spacey starred as Frank Underwood in the Netflix political drama series House of Cards, which won him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama and two consecutive Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series as well as five consecutive Primetime Emmy Award nominations for Best Actor in a Drama Series.
- Early life and education
- Awards and nominations
- Personal life
- See also
Early life and education
Kevin Spacey Fowler was born in South Orange, New Jersey, to Kathleen Ann (née Knutson), a secretary, and Thomas Geoffrey Fowler, a technical writer and data consultant. His family relocated to Southern California when he was four years old. Spacey has a sister and an older brother, Randy Fowler, from whom Spacey is estranged.
Spacey attended Northridge Military Academy, Canoga Park High School in the 10th and 11th grades. He graduated co-valedictorian (along with Mare Winningham) of the class of 1977 of Chatsworth High School in Chatsworth, California. At Chatsworth, Spacey starred in the school's senior production of The Sound of Music, playing the part of Captain Georg von Trapp, with Winningham as Maria von Trapp. He started using his middle name "Spacey", which was his paternal grandmother's maiden name.
Spacey had tried to succeed as a comedian for several years before attending the Juilliard School in New York City, as a member of Group 12, where he studied drama with teacher Marian Seldes between 1979 and 1981. During this time period, he performed stand-up comedy in bowling alley talent contests.
1981–1986: Career beginnings in theatre
Spacey's first professional stage appearance was as a spear carrier in a New York Shakespeare Festival performance of Henry VI, Part 1 in 1981. The following year, he made his first Broadway appearance, as Oswald in a production of Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts, starring Liv Ullmann and director John Neville, which opened at the Eisenhower Theater in Washington's Kennedy Center. He then portrayed Philinte in Molière's The Misanthrope. In 1984, Spacey appeared in a production of David Rabe's Hurlyburly, in which he rotated through each of the male parts (he would later play Mickey in the film version). Next came Checkhov's The Seagull alongside David Strathairn and Colleen Dewhurst. In 1986, Spacey appeared in a production of Sleuth in a New Jersey dinner theatre.
1986–1991: Broadway success and Tony win
Spacey's prominence as a stage actor began in 1986, when he was cast opposite Jack Lemmon, Peter Gallagher, and Bethel Leslie, as Jamie, the eldest Tyrone son, in Jonathan Miller's lauded production of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night. Lemmon in particular would become a mentor to Spacey and was invited, along with Spacey's high school drama teacher, to be present when Spacey received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1999.
Spacey remained actively involved in the live theatre community. In 1991, he won a Tony Award for his portrayal of Uncle Louie in Neil Simon's Broadway hit Lost in Yonkers. His father was unconvinced that Spacey could make a career for himself as an actor and did not change his mind until Spacey became well known. In 1999, Spacey won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor and earned another Tony Award nomination in 1999 for The Iceman Cometh.
2003–2015: Artistic director of the Old Vic
In February 2003, Spacey announced that he was to become the artistic director of the Old Vic, one of London's oldest theatres. Appearing at a press conference with Judi Dench and Elton John, Spacey promised both to appear on stage and to bring in big-name talent. He undertook to remain in the post for a full ten years. The Old Vic Theatre Company staged shows eight months out of the year. Spacey's first season started in September 2004, opening with the British premiere of the play Cloaca by Maria Goos, directed by Spacey, which opened to mixed reviews. In the 2005 season, Spacey made his UK Shakespearean debut, to good notices, in the title role of Richard II, directed by Trevor Nunn.
On June 16, 2016, Spacey was awarded an honorary knighthood for his services to theatre. The honor, Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, was given at Clarence House by Prince Charles. While Spacey will be permitted to add the postnominal letters KBE to his name, as a non-Commonwealth citizen the award is honorary and he will not be able to style himself as "Sir Kevin". Spacey had previously been awarded the lesser rank of honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to drama in 2010.
Spacey was a patron of the Shakespeare Schools Festival, a charity that enables school children across the UK to perform Shakespeare in professional theatres. He also sits on the board of directors of the Motion Picture and Television Fund.
In mid 2006, Spacey said that he was having the time of his life working at the Old Vic; at that point in his career, he said, he was "trying to do things now that are much bigger and outside [myself]". Spacey performed in productions of National Anthems by Dennis McIntyre, and The Philadelphia Story by Philip Barry, in which he played C.K. Dexter Haven, the Cary Grant role in the film version. Critics applauded Spacey for taking on the management of a theatre, but noted that while his acting was impressive, his skills and judgment as a producer/manager had yet to develop.
In the 2006 season, Spacey suffered a major setback with a production of Arthur Miller's Resurrection Blues, directed by Robert Altman. Despite an all-star cast (including Matthew Modine and future House of Cards co-star Neve Campbell) and the pedigree of Miller's script, Spacey's decision to lure Altman to the stage proved disastrous: after a fraught rehearsal period, the play opened to a critical panning, and closed after only a few weeks. Later in the year, Spacey starred in Eugene O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten, along with Colm Meaney and Eve Best. The play received excellent reviews for Spacey and Best, and was transferred to Broadway in 2007. For the spring part of the 2007–08 season, Jeff Goldblum and Laura Michelle Kelly joined Spacey as the three characters in David Mamet's 1988 play Speed-the-Plow.
In 2009, he directed the premiere of Joe Sutton's Complicit, with Richard Dreyfuss, David Suchet and Elizabeth McGovern. Later that year, Trevor Nunn directed Spacey in a revival of Inherit the Wind. Spacey played defense lawyer Henry Drummond, a role that was made famous by Spencer Tracy in the 1960 film of the same name. Sam Mendes directed Spacey in Shakespeare's Richard III; Spacey played the title role. The show began in June 2011, commencing a worldwide tour culminating in New York in early 2012. In March 2014, it was announced that Spacey would star in a one-man play at the Old Vic to celebrate his ten years as artistic director. He took on the part of Clarence Darrow in the play.
1986–1994: Early roles and breakthrough
In 1986, Spacey made his first film appearance in Mike Nichols's Heartburn starring Meryl Streep, and Jack Nicholson. Spacey plays a small role credited as a subway thief. In 1988 Spacey also briefly appeared in another Nichols film, Working Girl, as businessman Bob Speck. Some of Spacey's other early roles include a widowed millionaire on L.A. Law; the television miniseries The Murder of Mary Phagan (1988), opposite Lemmon; and the comedy See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989). Spacey quickly developed a reputation as a character actor, and was cast in bigger roles, including the malevolent office manager in the ensemble film adaptation of the David Mamet play Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) starring Al Pacino, as well as news reporter Harry Kingsley in a film based on a 1917 dog sled race Iron Will (1994) directed by Charles Haid. Spacey also played one-half of a bickering Connecticut couple alongside Judy Davis in the dark comedy Christmas film The Ref (1994), and a malicious Hollywood studio boss in the satire Swimming with Sharks (1995), to positive notices from critics.
1995–1999: Rise to stardom and awards success
In 1995, Spacey also appeared in the David Fincher detective thriller Seven. His work in Seven, The Usual Suspects and Outbreak earned him Best Supporting Actor honors at the 1995 Society of Texas Film Critics Awards. Spacey played an egomaniacal district attorney in A Time to Kill (1996) and founded Trigger Street Productions in 1997 with the purpose of producing and developing entertainment across various media. Spacey made his directorial debut with the film Albino Alligator (1996). The film was a box office bomb, grossing $339,379 with a budget of $6 million, but critics praised Spacey's direction. He also voiced Hopper in the animated film A Bug's Life (1998).
Throughout his career, Spacey has been well known for playing villains; he remarked in 2013: "I think people just like me evil for some reason."
In 1999, Spacey acted alongside Annette Bening in Sam Mendes's American Beauty. In the film he played the role of Lester Burnham, a depressed suburban father and advertising executive who becomes attracted to his teenage daughter's best friend. For this role, Spacey won his second Oscar, this time for Best Actor in a Leading Role. In his acceptance speech he dedicated his Oscar to Jack Lemmon, praising him as an influence, mentor, and father figure. He also stated, "[Lemmon's] performance in The Apartment stands as one of the finest we've ever had". That same year, he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
2000–2009: Continued work
Spacey played a physically and emotionally scarred grade school teacher in Pay It Forward (2000), a patient in a mental institution who may or may not be an alien in K-Pax (2001), and singer Bobby Darin in Beyond the Sea (2004). The latter was a lifelong dream project for Spacey, who took on co-writing, directing, co-producing and starring duties in the biography/musical about Darin's life, career and relationship with actress Sandra Dee. Facing little interest for backing in the U.S., Spacey went to the United Kingdom and Germany for funding. Almost all of the film was made in Berlin. Spacey provided his own vocals on the film's soundtrack and appeared in several tribute concerts around the time of its release. Spacey received mostly positive reviews for his singing, as well as a Golden Globe nomination for his performance. However, reviewers debated the age disparity between Spacey and Darin, noting that Spacey was too old to convincingly portray Darin, particularly during the early stages of the singer's life depicted in the film.
In 2006, Spacey played Lex Luthor in the Bryan Singer superhero film Superman Returns starring Brandon Routh. He was to return for its 2009 sequel, but the series was instead rebooted with the 2013 film Man of Steel. Spacey also appeared in Edison, which received a direct-to-video release in 2006.
In 2008, Spacey played an Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) lecturer in the film 21. The film is based on Ben Mezrich's best seller Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions, a story of student MIT card-counters who used mathematical probability to aid them in card games such as blackjack. In early 2010, Spacey went to China to star in writer-director Dayyan Eng's black comedy film Inseparable, becoming the first Hollywood actor to star in a fully Chinese-funded film.
2011–2016: Independent films and comedies
In 2011, Spacey starred in J.C. Chandor's financial thriller Margin Call alongside Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Demi Moore, and Stanley Tucci. The story at large takes place over a 24-hour period at a large Wall Street investment bank during the initial stages of the financial crisis of 2007–2008. The film, which focuses on the actions taken by a group of employees during the subsequent financial collapse, made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim. Spacey received the Independent Spirit Robert Altman Award along with the cast. That same year, Spacey co-starred in the black comedy film Horrible Bosses, which grossed over $209.6 million at the box office. In 2013 he executive-produced the biographical survival thriller film Captain Phillips, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
He starred as President Richard Nixon in the comedy-drama Elvis & Nixon (2016), which is based on the meeting that took place between Nixon and singer Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon) in December 1970 wherein Presley requested Nixon swear him in as an undercover agent. He next starred in the comedy film Nine Lives, as a man trapped in the body of a cat. The film was released on August 5, 2016.
In January 2016 it was announced that Relativity Media, which was just emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, had acquired Trigger Street Productions and that Spacey would become chairman of Relativity Studios, while Dana Brunetti would become the studio's president. Spacey called the move "an incredible opportunity to make great entertainment" and said he considered it the "next evolution in my career". However, when the paperwork for the studio was filed for the court, it emerged that Spacey had opted out of assuming the chairmanship of the studios, and by the end of 2016 Brunetti had also left Relativity, while both remained executive producers on House of Cards and Manifesto.
2017–present: Career controversy
In March 2017, it was announced that Spacey would portray J. Paul Getty in Ridley Scott's All the Money in the World. He shot his role in the film in ten days over the summer of 2017. However, owing to the assault allegations against Spacey, it was announced on November 8, 2017, that all of his footage would be excised, and that Christopher Plummer would replace Spacey as Getty in reshoots. In spite of the very tight schedule, TriStar Pictures completed the new version of the film in time for a December 25 release.
Spacey appeared in the film Billionaire Boys Club, which had a limited release on August 17, 2018.
1987–1994: Television debut and early roles
In 1987, Spacey made his first major television appearance in the second-season premiere of Crime Story, playing a Kennedy-esque American senator. That same year he appeared in spy thriller series The Equalizer as Detective Sergeant Cole in the episode "Solo". He earned a fan base after portraying Mel Profitt on the television series Wiseguy (1988).
2003–2012: HBO projects and other work
Spacey hosted Saturday Night Live twice: first in 1997 with musical guest Beck and special guests Michael Palin and John Cleese from Monty Python's Flying Circus and again in May 2006 with musical guest Nelly Furtado.
In 2008 Spacey starred as Ron Klain in the HBO original political drama film Recount revolving around Florida's vote recount during the 2000 United States presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. The film was written by Danny Strong and directed by Jay Roach and starred Bob Balaban, Laura Dern, John Hurt, Denis Leary, and Tom Wilkinson. The television film won three Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Television Movie. For his performance in the film, Spacey was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film. That same year Spacey produced the TV movie Bernard and Doris, an HBO semi-fictionalized account of the relationship that developed between socialite heiress and philanthropist Doris Duke and her self-destructive Irish butler Bernard Lafferty later in her life. The film starred Ralph Fiennes and Susan Sarandon and was directed by Bob Balaban. The film premiered at the Hamptons International Film Festival to critical acclaim, and Spacey was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie. Spacey portrayed the antagonist Jonathan Irons in the 2014 video game Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare through motion capture.
Spacey is well known in Hollywood for his impressions. When he appeared on Inside the Actors Studio, he imitated (at host James Lipton's request) Jack Lemmon, James Stewart, Johnny Carson, Katharine Hepburn, Clint Eastwood, John Gielgud, Marlon Brando, Christopher Walken, and Al Pacino. On The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Spacey admitted to using his vocal skills as a young actor in New York City to pretend to be Carson's son in order to obtain free theatre tickets and to enter Studio 54. Spacey's Capitol/EMI album Forever Cool (2007) features two duets with Spacey and an earlier recording of Dean Martin: "Ain't That a Kick in the Head" and "King of the Road". In December 2007, Spacey co-hosted the Nobel Peace Prize Concert along with Uma Thurman.
2013–2017: House of Cards and critical acclaim
On March 18, 2011, it was announced that Spacey was cast as Frank Underwood in the Netflix series House of Cards, adapted from a 1990 BBC political drama of the same name. He was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series at the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards in 2013, becoming the first lead actor to be Primetime Emmy-nominated from a web television series. Spacey went on to win the Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Television Series Drama at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards and Screen Actors Guild nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series at the 21st Screen Actors Guild Awards for his season 2 performance.
In 2018, Earl Blue, owner of the security company VIP Protective Services, claimed that Spacey had used racial slurs against his predominantly African-American staff when they were hired on the House of Cards set in 2012, before getting Blue fired.
2017–present: Career setback and comeback attempts
Following misconduct allegations from 2017, Spacey maintained a lower profile and his career stalled. In May 2021, it was announced that he had been cast in a supporting role as a police detective in the crime drama film The Man Who Drew God, directed by and starring Franco Nero. In August 2021, it was reported that he was filming in California for a small production titled Peter Five Eight, directed by Michael Zaiko Hall.
On November 3, 2022, Variety reported that Spacey was set to speak at the National Museum of Cinema and was going to receive lifetime achievement award on January 16, 2023.
Spacey's career has spanned thirty years across film, television, video games and theatre. His film career started in the late 1980s after small parts in the Mike Nichols films Heartburn (1986) and Working Girl (1988). In the '90s he had supporting roles in films such as Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) opposite Jack Lemmon and Al Pacino and the black comedy film The Ref before being cast in the role of Roger "Verbal" Kint in 1995's The Usual Suspects, which earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. That same year he played John Doe in Se7en opposite Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman. He went on to star in noir crime drama L.A. Confidential (1997) alongside Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce, Clint Eastwood's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997), and American Beauty (1999), for which he earned his second Academy Award, this time for Best Actor.
In the 2000s he appeared in the films Pay It Forward with Helen Hunt (2000), Superman Returns as Lex Luthor (2006), and 21 with Jim Sturgess (2008), the last of which he also produced. In 2004 he wrote, directed and starred in the biopic musical Beyond the Sea (2004). In 2011 he co-starred with Paul Bettany and Jeremy Irons in the drama film Margin Call. That same year he played antagonist Dave Harken in the comedy Horrible Bosses with Jason Bateman, a role he reprised in the 2014 sequel film Horrible Bosses 2. He played Doc in the 2017 film Baby Driver with Ansel Elgort.
From 2013 to 2017 he played Francis "Frank" Underwood in the Netflix series House of Cards alongside Robin Wright. Spacey also starred in the HBO television film Recount (2008) and produced the 2006 film Bernard and Doris.
Awards and nominations
Spacey has won two Academy Awards, a Tony Award, a Golden Globe Award, four Screen Actors Guild Awards and a British Academy Film Award. He was nominated for a Grammy Award and for 12 Primetime Emmy Awards. Spacey received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1999 and was named an honorary Commander and Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2010 and 2015, respectively.
An article in The Sunday Times Magazine in 1999 stated that Spacey's "love affair with acting, and the absence of a visible partner in the life of an attractive 40-year-old, has resulted in Esquire magazine asserting two years ago that he must be gay". Spacey responded to the rumors by telling the interviewers that he was not gay and by telling Lesley White of The Sunday Times:
I chose for a long time not to answer these questions because of the manner in which they were asked, and because I was never talking to someone I trusted, so why should I? Recently I chose to participate because it's a little hard on the people I love.
In 1999, reports suggested Spacey was dating a script supervisor named Dianne Dreyer, with their relationship possibly dating back as far as 1992. In 2000, Spacey brought Dreyer to the Academy Awards; during the acceptance speech for his Best Actor award, Spacey stated, "Dianne, thank you for teaching me about caring about the right things, and I love you."
In 2007, Gotham magazine quoted Spacey saying:
People can gossip all they want; they can speculate all they want. I just happen to believe that there's a separation between the public life and the private life. Everybody has the right to a private life no matter what their professions are.
Political views and activism
In 1976 Spacey worked on Jimmy Carter's 1976 presidential campaign.
He is a friend of President Bill Clinton, having met Clinton before his presidency began. Spacey once described Clinton as "one of a shining light" in the political process. He additionally made a cameo appearance in the short film President Clinton: Final Days, a light-hearted political satire produced by the Clinton Administration for the 2000 White House Correspondents Dinner.Spacey has undertaken activism in the domain of HIV/AIDS. In 2002, Spacey, actor Chris Tucker, and Jeffrey Epstein accompanied Bill Clinton on a trip throughout several African countries to promote AIDS awareness on the continent. He also participated in several fundraisers for HIV/AIDS healthcare, including amfAR Cinema Against AIDS in 2016 and the 25th Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Award Party in 2017.
Spacey met Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez in September 2007 but never spoke to the press about their encounter. During the trip, he donated money to the Venezuelan film studio Villa del Cine. In March 2011, following Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko's crackdown on the Belarusian democracy movement, Spacey joined Jude Law in a street protest in London against Lukashenko's regime.
In October 2008, Spacey started the Kevin Spacey Foundation in the UK to encourage youth involvement in the arts. Headquartered in England and Wales, its purpose was to provide grants to individuals and organizations to help young people study the arts, particularly theatre. The charity shut down in February 2018 following misconduct allegations against Spacey.
In September 2006, Spacey said that he intended to take up British citizenship when it is offered to him. When asked about the UK's 2016 European Union membership referendum, Spacey replied, "I appreciate you asking me the question, but I am not a British citizen, I am a resident of Great Britain. And I have never in my twelve years ever gotten involved in politics in Great Britain. I think it's inappropriate for me as a, really as a guest, in Great Britain, so I'll leave that to the British people."
- Beyond the Sea: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2004)
- "That Old Black Magic" (1997, from the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil soundtrack)
- "Mind Games" – Come Together: A Night for John Lennon's Words and Music – October 2, 2001, Radio City Music Hall
In Spanish: Kevin Spacey para niños
- List of actors with Academy Award nominations
- List of actors with two or more Academy Award nominations in acting categories
- List of actors with two or more Academy Awards in acting categories
- List of LGBTQ Academy Award winners and nominees
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