“House of Cards” star Kevin Spacey has served as the artistic director of the prestigious Old Vic theater in London since 2003, but will step down from the position in fall 2015, handing the reins to Matthew Warchus. It will perhaps come as a relief to the multihyphenate, since Spacey admits that his role as scheming politician Frank Underwood on Netflix’s “Cards” keeps him busy for six months out of the year.
In a recent Q&A with readers of British newspaper the Guardian, Spacey reflected on his tenure at the Old Vic, his presidential aspirations and the fourth wall-breakage in “House of Cards.” Some highlights:
Fans have developed a skewed form of love (or at least horrified admiration) for Spacey’s nefarious “Cards” politico, but if you were hoping the role had imbued him with real-life presidential ambitions, allow the actor to burst your bubble: “Fundamentally I like to accomplish things. I would find politics very frustrating for that reason and like Frank Underwood I would probably end up killing a lot of people,” he wryly admitted during the Guardian chat.
As for the show’s controversial habit of breaking the fourth wall to allow Frank to address the audience directly, Spacey’s a fan.
“Certainly doing ‘Richard III,’ where direct address was invented, was incredibly informative in how to approach it in ‘House of Cards.’ In ‘Richard III’ I’m looking at the audience, in TV down the barrel of a lens. But it was that memory that aided me for ‘House of Cards.’ (As) a theatrical device, it’s a remarkable idea that a character will break the fourth wall. The audience become their co-conspirators. They provide a chance for the audience to root for and be terrified by the character at the same time,” he said.
One reader asked Spacey whether he considered Frank a patriot or a cynic, but the actor demurred. “I avoid any judgments about the people I play,” he said. “It’s my job just to play them.”
The actor touched on a number of diverse subjects during the freewheeling chat. One commenter asked whether he considered the American public or the British more obsessed with celebrities, to which he bluntly replied, “I don’t want to answer a question with that word in it. Celebrity. It’s a disgusting word.”
On a lighter note, Spacey weighed in on his “top three all-time favorite Kevins,” revealing, “My favourite Kevins are the ones I’m constantly mistaken for. I was in a bar in Boston with these policemen — it was one year on from the marathon bombing. This girl sidled up and said, “Oh my god, it’s you … Kevin Bacon!” And all of us, went, AAAARRRRGH. How brilliant is that? I get Kevin Bacon, I get Kevin Costner. My favorite thing is people congratulating me on movies I wasn’t even in. ‘You were so good in Reservoir Dogs!’ They walk away and I wonder: who am I supposed to be? Am I Steve Buscemi? Am I Harvey Keitel? I’ll be anyone they want me to be.”
The actor fondly reminisced about his time at the helm of the Old Vic, revealing what he considered his greatest achievement: “When I started out, my goal was that whatever we did the work that we would create would continue long after I was gone. For me the greatest achievement is that Matthew Warchus has just been announced as my successor, and so that it’s going to continue for years to come.”
As for what the future holds, Spacey was nonchalant. “‘House of Cards’ takes six months of the year. At the moment it’s enough for me to be doing that and a few concerts. Other than that, I’m busy with the work of my foundation, which is focused on using theater and film as an education tool. People are assuming Clarence Darrow is my last play at the Old Vic. It’s not. The exciting part is that I don’t really know what’s coming next.”
Read Spacey’s full Q&A with Guardian readers here.