In the early 1990s, almost nobody knew who Kevin Spacey was – unless you frequented Broadway. 10 years later, he was an internationally loved talent with two Oscars on his mantle (for The Usual Suspects and American Beauty). While many actors of a similar demand would continue reaping in big roles on the screen, Spacey returned to the stage – he previously won a Tony in 1991 for Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers – and became the artistic director of London’s Old Vic theatre.
During his time shifting from the stage to the screen and back again, he remained close friends with his American Beauty director Sam Mendes, an enormous presence in the theatre world. Along with Mendes, Spacey worked on a unique production of Richard III as part of the Bridge Theatre Project in 2012, in which he played the lead role.
With a group of British and American actors, the cast of one of Shakespeare’s most frequently staged dramas spent 10 months traveling around the world with their production. More than 200 shows later, their creative and international journey is the focus of the new behind-the-scenes documentary titled NOW: In the Wings on a World Stage, which Spacey executive produced and is distributing from his own website.
We recently landed an exclusive interview with Spacey while he was on a press tour supporting the film. Among other things, he spoke about self-distribution, why theatre is like tennis and playing the villain.
Check it out below, and enjoy!
Was it always your intention to chronicle this 10-month, international experience and turn it into a documentary?
Kevin Spacey: It was a series of conversations that I remember starting with Sam Mendes initially when I was sitting next to him in the Epidaurus Theatre watching Simon Russell Beale do The Winter’s Tale, which was one of the first productions in the first year of The Bridge Project. I was like, “we have to come here. Whatever it is we do, we have to come to this theatre.” Then Jeremy Whelehan, who has now directed [NOW: In the Wings on a World Stage], came to me and said that we should document this production of Richard III, and that ignited the decision to really do it.
Why did you choose to self-distribute the film from your website? Does it have to do with how Netflix is shifting the way audiences consume our entertainment?
Kevin Spacey: It’s just continuing my disruptive behaviour. I sort of think that it’s been kind of exciting to watch the last couple of years, how technology and creatability are having this intersection and so many people are finding ways to self-produce and self-distribute to get their work out there. I just decided I wanted to walk the walk.
Many of the actors in the documentary talk about how Sam Mendes really let them find their own way of doing their performance rather than subscribe to his vision. It was a personal journey for them. Was it a similar process for you as the title character, or did he really collaborate with you to create this portrayal?
Kevin Spacey: See, I don’t understand how those two things aren’t related or are the same thing. I’m a member of a company. The relationship with the cast has everything to do with how a performance develops, and in a sense that while you’re discovering a play in the course of rehearsal with the director, you’re also discovering it with your fellow actors. We’re all in it together.