Summer 98
Volume III
Issue 3

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The spin on
Kevin Spacey

by Jeff Weinstock
photos by Jeff Katz

"I was so on to that movie. He master-minded the whole thing. Kobayasha was just a name he made up. He made up the story from the bulletin board as he went along. Some of it was true, but some wasn't." What bulletin board? There was a bulletin board?

We were arguing about The Usual Suspects. She got it; I didn't. I'm the sort who needed Cliffs Notes for Happy Gilmore. So the most I can tell you about Suspects is as follows: Kevin Spacey is Keyser Soze. If there is a Keyser Soze, I should say, it's Spacey, who is also Verbal Kint, which I believe is like Soze's pen name. Who is Keyser Soze? Don't start on that. Next you'll want to know who's on first. Here's the answer straight from Spacey: It depends on what lens you're looking through. Not sure I get that, either.

"Let me tell you a funny story about that movie," Spacey says. "At the end of the screening for the cast and crew, Gabriel Byrne got up and went over to the director, Bryan Singer, and took him outside, and they got into this huge, heated discussion because Gabriel was absolutely convinced that he was (to play) Keyser Soze. I remember this incredible argument going on. Gabriel was screaming, 'I thought I was Keyser Soze! I was Keyser Soze!"'

Which one was Gabriel Byrne, again?

Anyway, Spacey was Soze, the killer, and that's that, and the rest of that movie sailed over my head like an overthrown Frisbee. Frankly, a more treacherous matter is, who is Kevin Spacey? Soze is a tap-in compared with unraveling Spacey, who is more concerned about clarifying who he is not. He's not any of the assorted fruitcakes, swindlers, and nut jobs he's played on screen. He isn't that wormy faker Verbal Kint. He isn't that sadistic tumor Buddy Ackerman. He isn't the brilliant psycho John Doe, who made Soze look like a hall monitor. And no matter how cravenly Esquire tried to pin it on him, he isn't the patrician queer Jim Williams. From every- thing that's been written about him, so clever is he at simulation, his most convincing turn yet is that he may not even be Kevin Spacey.

Right now he's Johnny Carson, one of the many spot-on impersonations Spacey does. To make ends meet in the beginning of his career, Spacey did stand-up comedy, and his keynote bit was his Johnny Carson. "I just found him hysterically funny and, for some reason, easy to do," says Spacey. "There was something about his voice and about his particular manner. I don't know why, but I was able to go into Johnny at any moment." And instantly he's Carson. It's startling, even jarring, to see him vanish into Carson with nary a hiccup or a nose twinkle as a segue. He's got Johnny nailed - the necktie tug, the clipped chuckle, the lip bite, the head-scratching. Hell, he even glances at Ed.

He does William Hurt, of all people; a portentous, sneering William Hurt that would burst you.

"I was the understudy in (the play) Hurly-Burly for the role that I just played on film," says Spacey, whose movie version of Hurly-Burly comes out this fall. "Bill Hurt terrified me, completely terrified me. He was the best actor around - everything I thought an actor should be. He would walk into a room, and I was freaked out by him. I used to sneak into the theater to rehearse because I was an understudy and they never let you rehearse on the stage. You'd have to sneak in. I was out there one day, and I looked up and Bill Hurt had walked onto the stage. He'd gotten there early. This is literally what he did to me. [Arms folded, he sizes me up.] 'My, my, my, what have we here? A dedicated actor? What are you doing?"'

For the conclusion of this article, see the Summer 98 issue of SMOKE magazine,
available at a tobacconist near you.

SMOKE - Summer 98

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