'Pay It Forward'

“I don’t want to know anything when I read a script,” Kevin Spacey. “That way when I read it, and if I like it, I can just think, ‘Wow, this is a beautiful story. I would love to play a part in it.”

That’s the process that drew Spacey to the role of Eugene Simonet, the horribly scarred burn victim and seventh-grade teacher in “Pay It Forward.”

“I thought that it was a film that had an extraordinary idea in it,” he remembers. “The idea, whether you want to call it ‘paying it back’ or whether you want to call it ‘being kind to your neighbors,’ or whatever you want label it, I thought that if that idea could come through, it would be a really worthwhile film to do.”

He also divulges that he saw the role as a chance to get into the mind and body of a character with a unique life experience, despite the fact that it meant spending five hours a day in the makeup chair.

“He was an extraordinary person who, on the one hand, seemed to have adjusted quite well to his trauma, but then was closed off in so many other ways,” Spacey says of his alter ego. “His complexity made him fascinating.”

But even with such roles, Spacey still doesn’t feel he’s gotten any one exactly right, which is one reason he remains hungry for new parts.

“I only really, honestly felt that I got close to doing what I wanted do in a role in a film, or in a play — maybe about four or five times in my life. And that doesn’t mean that I have achieved it.”

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