Kevin Spacey: I started stuffing envelopes for Jimmy Carter in 1976
The star may appeal to Emmy voters for his turn in HBO's "Recount."
Kevin Spacey, right, with Laura Dern, returned to TV in late May on HBOs Recount, the acclaimed examination of Floridas role in the 2000 presidential race between George W. Bush and Al Gore that may very well be on the short-list of Emmy contenders. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Long before he won his Tony for "Lost in Yonkers" and his two Oscars for "The Usual Suspects" and "American Beauty," Spacey, 48, was a familiar face on the small screen appearing on such TV series as "Wiseguy" and "The Equalizer," and the acclaimed "American Playhouse" presentations of "Long Day's Journey Into Night" and "Darrow."
George W. Bush and Al Gore that may very well be on the short-list of Emmy contenders.
The film, which was executive produced by its director Jay Roach and Sydney Pollack, who died the day after "Recount" premiered, stars Spacey as Ron Klain, who was Vice President Al Gore's former chief of staff, and a scene-stealing Laura Dern as the cosmetics and voter's rights abusing Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris. Spacey's company Trigger Street Productions was also involved in the film's productions.
Spacey talked about the film, Pollack and Klain during a recent phone interview.
Sydney Pollack was originally supposed to direct "Recount" but had to pull out when he got cancer. He did live, though, long enough to see it premiere.
He did. I know he was incredibly pleased with it. He was probably the single reason I got involved because it was Sydney who called me first about the project now over a year ago. Even when he was forced to pull out, he was incredibly encouraging and I know a guiding force for Jay.
Was "Recount" ever considered for a theatrical release?
There was probably a very clear decision that if you look at how the films that have had a clear political center to them have done at the box office, let's say the last five years or decade, I think none of us, Sydney and all on the producing side didn't want to be in a position where this movie's ability to be seen by a wide public would be determined by a big first weekend or not. So I think that it is on HBO and the kind of film HBO does so well and it means they will be able to air multiple times...
You're company Trigger Street Productions was involved in producing the film. Did you have a say in the casting?
I think I was quite successful in convincing Denis Leary to come on board. Denis and I go back many, many years, 'The Ref,' that was directed by our dear late friend Ted Demme, and we have remained friends ever since. There was just something the way [Michael] Whouley is that I thought -- and fortunately did Jay and everybody else on the production- -- that Denis would be a great choice. I think he did a terrific job.
In fact, many people have talked to me about that scene he and I have in the alley outside the strip mall where they were working out of. You do for the first time, I think, suddenly understand what was wrong with the ballots and how those ballots worked and how easily they could not function the way they should function.
I think that was a great cinematic way to explain something that was quite complicated. I think he did a terrific job. It's really surprising when you see the end credits which use real footage of these real characters and you realize how much everybody looked like the people they were playing.
Did you spend a lot of time with Ron Klain?
What many people may not know is that I knew Ron. I did an enormous amount of work for the Democratic Party. I started stuffing envelopes for Jimmy Carter in 1976 when I was in high school. I worked for Ted Kennedy when he ran in 1980. I worked for the Clintons and the Clinton administration. As a matter of fact, I hosted the Tennessee Ball for Al Gore in the second inaugural. I had spent that afternoon in Ron Klain's office. I could never have imagined years later I would end up playing him.
Ron was incredibly open and helpful. I had a whole series of conversations over the phone before I started shooting and then he was down on the set a little bit. Subsequently, now that the film is done he has been at several of the screenings. I really like Ron a lot.
In many ways I think it was such a brilliant stroke of [screenwriter] Danny Strong to use Ron as the sort of centerpiece just from a dramatic selling point of view. You kind of always follow the underdog in these kinds of stories and there was never a time in this whole 36-day battle that the Democrats weren't the underdogs. To follow him and to follow the Democrats in the way that he does and the Democrats in the way that he does, I think gives the film a great balance. I think what the film shows us is that our electoral process is not equipped to handle margins of victory so small.