"There are some films where you look around and say, 'Why do they need all these trailers?' Lately I've been more used to doing independent films where you don't have a lot of money or time, so by virtue of not having money you actually do reduce your carbon footprint," says Kevin Spacey, who stars in the title role as lobbyist Jack Abramoff in the movie "Casino Jack," out Dec. 17. "It was not a film with a huge budget," Spacey says of the movie, which was shot in Ontario, Canada, standing in for Washington, D.C. "We shot the whole thing in five weeks." Although he's aware he's racking up the air miles flying to promote the film and between the U.S. and his home in London, where he's the artistic director of the Old Vic Theatre Company, Spacey is mindful of his electricity consumption and has put all his lights and appliances on a master system that kills the power with one switch.
Spacey was attracted to "Casino Jack" for the chance to work with director George Hickenlooper, who died suddenly Oct. 30, and to delve into the true story of political ambition and corruption. "What happens when power and money damage our political system? When you're in an environment where it's what everyone is doing, you don't stop and think about it," he says. "You don't see the forest for the trees. And then it all came crashing down."
To avoid forming an opinion, he held off on research until he met Abramoff in prison and got to know the human side of the movie-loving lobbyist, who he found to be funny, faithful to his family and Jewish religion, and fond of doing celebrity impressions. "The job is to play him so the audience will have some empathy and understand in the end how something like this happened," says Spacey, who subsequently met with other lobbyists, friends and enemies of Abramoff, and viewed articles, commentary and footage. "The more people we met, the more things we heard, the more we were able to infuse the script with humor as a way of making its point. The script expanded, changed, and got better."
Although he has the Wall Street drama "Margin Call" due in April and "Inseparable" and "Horrible Bosses" also set for 2011 release, Spacey is fully committed to his theater job, a role that he says "has changed my life in lots of ways." He explains that while he'd worked hard to achieve a successful film career, he felt somewhat unfulfilled. "I didn't want to wind up being an actor that's fighting to be on all those lists and in every movie. I felt like I'd done it and wanted something else. I didn't know what that was until it was staring me in the face. What I discovered is when you put your effort into something outside of your own ambition, and something that's bigger than you, it completely changes and shifts your focus. It's been the most satisfying, challenging, difficult, brilliant experience of my life." In June, Spacey will star in the Old Vic production of Shakespeare's "Richard III," under the direction of Sam Mendes.