Long-time MPTF supporter Kevin Spacey was honored during Reel Stories, Real Lives 2015. In this story you’ll get a glimpse of how he got his start and what it means to keep a promise.
Watch Kevin’s story, performed by John Stamos (Full House, ER) and written by Beau Willimon (House of Cards, The Ides of March) below. You can also read the full text from the script below the video.
If you look at Kevin Spacey’s very first film credit, you’ll find a 1986 movie called Heartburn, starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. Kevin’s role is simply listed as “Subway Thief.”
Well, Kevin’s come a long way in the past 30 years. He’s graduated from Subway Thief to Subway Killer.
Of course, that Killer has a name: Frank Underwood, the ruthless and indomitable politician that Kevin has made iconic on Netflix’s House of Cards.
A year before Kevin first stepped in front of the camera as Underwood, he inhabited another role–perhaps the greatest villain ever written–Shakespeare’s Richard III.
The production was part of the Old Vic’s Bridge Project; a collaboration between Kevin and Sam Mendes which aimed to build a cultural “bridge” between two of the world’s most important theater cities–London and New York.
Richard III–or as it came to be called among the company, “Dick the Shit”–was the culmination of this project. It toured the world, building bridges to Epidaurus, Istanbul, Hong King, Sydney, and Singapore–four continents in less than a year. And when Kevin took his final bow after the 99th performance, it was not an ending, but a beginning: Richard III left no shadow of a doubt that the Old Vic had become one of the most renowned theaters on the planet.
It wasn’t always that way. Only a decade before, the theater was a shadow of its former self. Built nearly two centuries ago, the regal South London building–only a stone’s throw from Waterloo station – had endured many incarnations. It survived bombing raids during World War II. It served as the temporary first home of Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre. By the end of the last century, it nearly succumbed to the ownership of those who wanted to turn it into a lap-dance club.
Then, something extraordinary happened. In 2003 Kevin Spacey founded the Old Vic Theater Company and became its first Artistic Director. He made a pledge–not to serve for just one year, or two, or three…but for ten years.
There were many skeptics at first–those who thought he’d never fulfill that commitment. They didn’t understand one important thing:
When Kevin Spacey commits himself to something, you can be certain he will follow through. He never blanches at criticism, never gives up, never loses sight of his goal.
Kevin mounted production after dazzling production. Critics raved. Shows sold out. The Old Vic began to beat with a vigorous, healthy heart. Even the skeptics changed their tune, lauding Kevin for his achievements.
But Kevin built more than a theater; he built a community. He provided free tickets to students and local residents. He launched a foundation to support young artists. He became a cultural leader that all of England could take pride in.
Most importantly, he kept his word. He served for the full ten years, just as he said he would. You see, Kevin has something that can’t be said of everyone in show business–an unwavering, profound sense of integrity. Relationships are important to him. Loyalty is paramount. Commitment–not just to projects and institutions–but to people–is a way of life for him.
Kevin’s relationship with MPTF is another shining example of Kevin’s sense of commitment.
Fifteen years ago, Kevin hosted an event for MPTF called “Celebrating our Future, Remembering our Past.” That event actually inspired Reel Stories, Real Lives–the very event you’re attending right now. If the Old Vic is any proof, Kevin doesn’t just launch something and walk away. He sticks with it for the long haul. And during the past 15 years, Kevin has remained dedicated–actively working to ensure MPTF’s continued growth and success.
You see, Kevin’s sense of commitment stems from a core belief that there’s always room to improve, that we should always endeavor to be better.
He touched upon this during his acceptance speech for Best Actor in a Drama Series at the most recent Golden Globes. This is what Kevin said:
“The last time that I saw Stanley Kramer–one of the great filmmakers of all time–was at the Motion Picture & Television [Fund] home. I was sitting with him and he was in a wheelchair. He was ill at this time. And as I was about to leave, I realized I had never told him what I thought about his work. How much his work had meant to me. So I said to him, ‘The films you made, the subjects you tackled, the performances you got out of some of the greatest actors that have ever walked the face of the earth, the Oscars you won–your films will stand the test of time, and will influence filmmakers for all time.’
I didn’t know whether he had really retained what I said or not. Sometimes he did, sometimes he didn’t. But as I stood up to leave he grabbed my hand, and he said as clear to me as anything he’d ever said, ‘Thank you so much for saying that. That means so much to me. I just wish my films could have been better.’
And so, as I stand here tonight, as someone who has enjoyed such an extraordinary career, I just want it to better. I just want to better.”
So Kevin–just as you turned to Stanley Kramer and told him how much his work meant to you, please allow us to tell you how much your work means to all of us..
Thank you for your work. Thank you for your commitment. Thank you for making us better.
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