Fresh off of his now viral cameo appearance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, two-time Academy Award®-winning actor Kevin Spacey was back in Washington and at the MPAA last week for a special evening honoring his career and philanthropic work. Together with Capitol File magazine, who featured Spacey on their most recent Power Issue, the MPAA played host to the real life Verbal Kint, Lester Burnham, Jack Vincennes, and of course, Congressman Frank Underwood for a lively discussion moderated by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer were also in attendance.
Spacey’s illustrious film career includes winning the Academy Award® for Best Supporting Actor for The Usual Suspects and Best Actor for American Beauty, as well memorable performances in Casino Jack, Swimming with Sharks, Se7en, LA Confidential, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Negotiator, The Shipping News, Superman Returns, Beyond the Sea, 21, Horrible Bosses, and Margin Call. For the past decade, Spacey has been the Artistic Director of The Old Vic Theatre Company in London, overseeing all productions on the main stage and appearing in many as well. And most recently, he served as executive producer and star of the Netflix political drama House of Cards, playing the smooth-talking, ethically challenged House Majority Whip Frank Underwood.
MPAA Chairman and CEO Senator Chris Dodd opened up the evening, drawing an interesting comparison between his and the guest of honor’s professional origins:
“My political career had a fairly typical beginning. I graduated college, joined the Peace Corps, served in the army, practiced law for a while, and then was elected to the House of Representatives. Kevin, on the other hand, started off as a subway thief at age 27 in Heartburn, in his thirties became the most feared criminal mind in the world in The Usual Suspects, then in his forties sat on death row in The Life of David Gale, and now he is serving as the House Majority Whip from South Carolina.”
Capitol File President and Editor-in-Chief Sarah Schaffer, the event’s co-host, commented that “our readers are just obsessed with House of Cards," a major reason the publication featured Spacey on their most recent cover. She added she believes the show’s popularity is “a testament to Kevin’s keen ability to pull back the curtain and expose a character’s true humanity.”
Spacey and Matthews discussed a variety of topics, from how he reads a script to the evolution of television as a storytelling medium to his passion for theater and the importance of arts to our youth. For this Washington DC audience, however, his latest work in House of Cards dominated the conversation: “Politics is always ripe for drama,” said Spacey.
Spacey also spoke on one of the most unique aspects of his new show, his character routinely breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly into the camera: “I first did it during a play, and I remember the glee, the naughtiness of it. It’s such an interesting area to be with an audience, to see what they are willing to accept.”
Finally, in a time when audiences have more ways to watch their favorite movies and TV shows than ever before, Spacey offered his own take on House of Cards as the first original series to use Netflix as a delivery mechanism: “Give the people what they want, when they want it, at a reasonable price, and they'll watch it, and they won't steal it.”
From Left to Right: Sarah Schaffer, Senator Chris Dodd, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Kevin Spacey
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer asks a question to Kevin Spacey
Photo Credit: Alfredo Flores