- Simon Garner
Actor of the Week: Kevin Spacey
Another week has flown, and it’s time to praise another actor. This week's Actor of the Week is an easy one - Mr Kevin Spacey! I saw Baby Driver this week, and whilst he wasn't a main character, he was brilliant whenever he was on screen. Playing “Doc”, he organised the operations for the various gang members available to him, including his ‘lucky charm’ Baby.
Spacey has been on the scene for what seems like forever, winning an incredible two Oscars during his illustrious career. He has a win for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, for 1996’s The Usual Suspects, and a win for Best Actor in a Leading Role, for 2000’s American Beauty. Alongside these wins, he has several Golden Globe nominations to his name, as well as one win in 2015 for House of Cards.
This leads me nicely to my first two points. Firstly, American Beauty. Spacey means a lot to me personally due to this film alone, as it’s one of my favourites. Spacey plays Lester Burnham, a man going through a mid-life crisis due to the meeting of, and subsequent obsession with, his daughter’s best friend. The film is narrated by Spacey’s Burnham from beyond the grave, telling the story of the weeks leading up to his death. We see a deteriorated marriage and a daughter, Jane, who has a hatred for both parents as a result. The stories of several individuals intertwine when new neighbours move in next door. Chris Cooper plays one of these neighbours, Colonel Fitts, a militaristic and homophobic man, and Wes Bentley plays his son Ricky, who falls in love with Jane almost as instantly as Burnham does with Mena Suvari’s Angela. Darkness descends on this story very quickly, with several secrets being hidden on all parts, some misconception, and the general stagnation that mundane, everyday life brings. Winning 5 Oscars, this film certainly doesn’t need me to sell it, and if, amazingly, you haven’t seen it yet, then get on with it!
My second point comes in the form of a television series. As previously with our first AotW, Mads Mikkelsen, I felt it was important to touch on a TV series of high quality here, because it’s become a huge part of my life, along with many others. This TV series is House of Cards. Spacey plays Francis “Frank” Underwood, a corrupt politician who is willing to do whatever, and I mean whatever, it takes to get himself to the very top, and with the help of his wife Claire, played by Robin Wright, he will get there. Similarly to American Beauty, Frank and Claire’s relationship has a darkness to it. They love each other on a deep level, but not on a physical level per se, with other parties coming into the equation along the way. It’s one of many elements that make House of Cards a fascinating creation, and again, one that you need to see if you haven’t. The best part of the entire thing is Spacey’s breaking of the fourth wall. While everything around him continues, he engages with the camera, with us, and this serves many purposes. One of them is just sheer entertainment, with Spacey’s Underwood coming out with classic ruthless lines and cutting humour. Another, perhaps most important, is the use of this feature to explain things of complexity. Due to the highly political nature of the programme, it keeps us informed, and therefore interested, and this, I feel, is critical to the enjoyment and the longevity of House of Cards. You can check out one of the great examples of this below.
Another string to the bow of Spacey is voice work. He has appeared in the Call of Duty video game series as Jonathan Irons. He lends his voice to ‘The Rainforest’ in the TV series Nature Is Speaking. But my favourite voice work of his comes in 1999’s A Bug’s Life. He plays Hopper, the leader of the grasshopper gang, who slave-drive the ant colony into harvesting supplies enough for both themselves and to feed the grasshoppers. Hopper’s catchphrase ‘let’s ride’ has become a staple in my house, with us using it any time we need to go anywhere at all!
Other notable performances, in terms of diversity, come in the form of Superman Returns, where he plays criminal mastermind and Superman nemesis Lex Luthor, and a comical role in Horrible Bosses, where he plays Dave Harken. He’s got the lot in his arsenal, and he is fascinating to watch whenever he deploys any attribute. There are plenty more, but I'd be here for ages!
Spacey is a genius, and I am constantly on the lookout for anything he may be up to, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Thanks Kev, keep ‘em coming.