Afternoon Tea with Kevin Spacey and The Usual Suspects at the Jameson Cult Film Club

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One time when I was a singer in a Barber shop quartet in Skokie Illinois I sang with Verbal Kint. Yesterday in Dublin I spoke with Kevin Spacey.

A splendid time has been had in Dublin at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival and Jameson Cult Film Club for a screening of The Usual Suspects.

The meet was to take place in the Merrion Hotel. It was just me and some journalists from Latvia, Russia, Bulgaria, Greece, Spain and Poland. About 17 of us in total. We had a plan and were going to stick with it. The plan was to get as much info as we could from Mr Spacey….the plan changed.

This is how it went down.

We were told that it would be a quick meet and greet and no cameras or recording equipment allowed. Therefore what follows is a result of the notes I took straight after the meeting ended.

We in the elegant Wellington Room of the hotel, four small tables, a few chairs with tea and coffee for all.

We waited and before you could say “He’s the killer in Se7en” in walked Kevin Spacey. A surreal moment for yours truly and I am sure Mr Spacey felt the same. Wearing a dark grey suit and matching sneakers he went around the room shaking hands and asking where everyone was from.

Then he asked for questions. As he answered them he would either walk around the room or sit opposite you.

Before I go any further let me just say that he is a very cool, funny, and well spoken chap. Passionate about acting, theatre and the movies.

As I said I don’t have a word for word transcript of the conversation, but here is the information gleaned from the time spent with Kevin. I was lucky enough to ask a couple of questions.

– Asked about his friendship with Mikhael Gorbachev he said that he was a great man and Kevin would be hosting Mikhael’s 80th Birthday Celebration with Sharon Stone.

– Were the rumours true that he had cast Kate Moss in a Shakespeare play? That was a big no. Just a rumour because he was friends with Kate and had spent some time with her at a recent dinner party.

– He mentioned the recent Laureus Sport Awards in Abu Dahbi and how he beat Rafael Nadel at Table Tennis.

– I asked him did he want to be the Bond villain in Bond 23 as Sam Mendes was directing it. Spacey would have loved to have played the part and looks as if he would have if it had not been for Richard III. Sam Mendes is also directing that, but Spacey goes on tour with the play while Mendes goes on to direct Bond. Neither Sam or Kevin were happy about it but nothing could be done.

– Asked about whether government’s have a responsibility to support the arts he thought they had an incredible responsibility. using London’s South Bank as an example he explained that without theatres such as the Old Vic, art galleries and museaums would the public go there and use the restaurants, shops and more? Although the theatres and galleries may only bring in a small revenue the surrounding infrastructure would suffer.

– The representative from Latvia’s Playboy asked what was the best way to win over a girl. “Be charming, have a yacht and a helicopter,” was his response.

– As he is a producer on The Social Network he was asked how he felt about the success of the film. He was incredibly proud of it and the fact that it had no gun shots, explosions, sex scenes or any of the other typical Hollywood blockbuster. He was also extremely happy that his former assistant now business partner was up for an Oscar.

– I asked which of his many roles he was most proud of. You could tell theatre holds his heart, but he moved onto his film roles. He felt his best work was still ahead of him, but he was proud and felt lucky that he had been in a few films that would stand the test of time – Se7en and The Usual Suspects being the examples he mentioned.

– Regarding The Usual Suspects he went on to say that it was a great script with a great director. Because of the script they assembled a superb cast. While they were shooting (the shoot only took 26 days which is just incredible) Bryan Singer asked Kevin not to watch the dailies as he did not want him second guessing the character of Verbal Kint.

– One interesting point came out of the question “Why theatre?” It was because that was where he began aged 11 in drama class and did not step in front of a movie camera until in his twenties. Speaking on the subject of acting. He felt that the best actors are those who come from a theatrical background. This gives an actor the ability to craft a character and could mean they would be around for more than five years.

Then like that he was gone.

So many more questions I wanted to ask. His thoughts on Pete Postlethwaite passing away? Would he consider going into politics? What would his last words be if a movie monster got him? The first film he remembered watching and the other Live for Films standards but it was not to be.

Instead it was off to a Dublin warehouse for the screening of The Usual Suspects.

I have been to a few of these Jameson Cult Film screenings now and I can say that this is the best one yet. For starters it was warm.

The warehouse was full of cargo containers, big screens, a DJ behind the bar and boxes of Jameson Whiskey. The set dressing was great.

I wandered around drinking Jameson cocktails and listening to the ebb and flow of conversation. Police Women walked through the crowd taking questions for the Kevin Spacey Q & A after the film.

The smell of fish and chips filled the air and quotes from The Usual Suspects were mixed in with the soundtrack.

The film was introduced with some look a likes recreating the iconic line up scene and telling us to switch off mobile phones, be quiet and Verbal Kint said we would see him later.

Taking a seat amongst the 500 strong crowd I sat and watched the film. It has been a few years since I last watched The Usual Suspects and I had forgotten just how good it is.

There were also some great set pieces. As the Hungarian screamed out the name Keyser Soze from his hospital bed on the big screen a hospital bed was pushed from the wings by two doctors and the patient carried on screaming Keyser Soze’s name as they pushed him down the aisle.

During the heist in the car park, masked gun man ran over the cargo containers and through the crowd adding to the power of the scene – still a great shoot out with Stephen Baldwin taking out the two bad guys.

Best of all was when Verbal tells the tale of Keyser Soze and we see the long haired devil walking through the flames the curtains parted beneath the screen and out walked Keyser Soze, long hair and black suit, who stalked through the crowd.

As the film came to a close a spot light traced over the crowd and rested on a screen. The silhouetter of Keyser Soze stood there, lit a cigarette and out walked Kevin Spacey.

The crowd cheered and we than sat for a Q & A.

He covered many of the points we had spoken about earlier, but he did do his impressions of Christopher Walken, Jack Lemmon, Morgan Freeman and Bill Clinton.

We learnt that if he could be any other actor it would have been Spencer Tracy and not just because their names rhymed. He also pointed out that if you watch Spencer Tracey enter a scene he is usually looking down for his mark and only raises his head when he reaches it.

He also got his big break when he stole an invitation to a party hosted by Jonathan Miller. He had been at a talk by Miller when an elderley lady next to him fell asleep. Looking down he noticed the invite in her bag. Being young and wanting to get an audition for a Jonathan Miller play he borrowed the invite and went along. He met Miller, Kurt Vonnegut and more and managed to get himself an audition for Miller’s production of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night and ended up working with Jack Lemmon.

A fantastic experience which was nearly matched by a tour around the Jameson Distillery followed by a Whiskey tasting.

My thanks to Kevin Spacey, Jameson Cult Film Club, Mauricio and the European journalists who thought I was weird but in a good way.

Check out the Jameson Cult Film Club for their next screenings.

Kevin Spacey can next be seen on screen in Margin Call.

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