“Edison,” directed by David J. Burke, co-starring Morgan Freeman.
Growing lip-synching Bobby Darin songs to a hairbrush, Kevin Spacey never imagined he’d actually be portraying Darin in a biopic.
That dream that seemed far out of reach when word of the film first surfaced in 1988.
“I was a relatively obscure New York theater actor,” says Spacey, “and I thought, ‘I’m the guy!’ ”
Then, by the time his film career took off in the mid-’90s, the dream seemed to be slipping away.
Spacey was able to get the project from Warner Bros., but when he met with Darin’s manager, Steve Blauner, Blauner told him bluntly, “I don’t think you should direct it, I don’t think you should sing it, and you’re too old to play it.”
Spacey won over Blauner and Darin’s surviving family with both his determination and admiration of the singer’s accomplishments. Then he spent five years learning how to belt out the tunes.
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“One thing I knew: If the music wasn’t right it wouldn’t matter what else was.”
Music was hardly new to him; Spacey performed in many musicals as a young man. But getting in front of a microphone and laying down tracks was a far cry from anything he’d done before.
“When I hear those early tracks from when I was first starting, I wince,” he says.
The film’s music producer, Phil Ramone, coached him and helped him sneak singing gigs for more than three years. He even spent four months learning a drum solo.
He took charge of weaving years’ worth of drafts into a new movie-within-a-movie structure. (Spacey shares screenplay credit with Lewis Colick.) He sought directors, but it turned out that the helmers he wanted would entail a two-year wait, so, realizing that then he really would be too old, he decided to direct himself.
By 2003, in a narrow window before he become artistic director of a stage troupe at London’s Old Vic, he geared up for shooting — only to lose his financing at the last minute.
But the cast and crew stuck with him and the financing was replaced. Shooting started in summer ’03, tinged with a bit of sadness; his mother, who’d always wanted to see Spacey in the film, died a few months earlier.
“Some things in life happen through sheer force of will,” says Spacey. “That’s how this movie got made. Not just my will, the will of all the cast and crew.”
Sometimes, you just can’t take no for an answer.”