Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey made an emotional return to the public eye on Monday night with a special honorary event organized by Italy’s National Cinema Museum in the northern Italian city of Turin, attended by Deadline.
For the actor, who has been keeping a low profile since a string of sexual misconduct accusations in 2017 derailed his career, the evening marked his first major public appearance in more than five years.
“My heart is very full toward the Museum of Cinema for having had the “palle” (balls) to invite me tonight,” he said to applause as he accepted the museum’s Mole Antonelliana lifetime achievement award.
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He thanked the museum’s director Domenico De Gaetano and head of international relations Marco Fallanca for pulling the event off.
“By presenting this award, they are making a strong defence of artistic achievement and for that, they should be applauded,” he said.
Some 400 guests gathered in the vast atrium of Turin’s Mole Antonelliana architectural landmark, which houses the cinema museum, including a clutch of friends who had made the trip to Italy to support the actor.
“I just want to say how grateful I am to my friends and my colleagues and my friends’ friends and colleagues who have flown in to be here tonight… I am moved by all of you being here,” he said.
Spacey paid special tribute to his manager Evan Lowenstein who was also in attendance.
“There is one person I must point out tonight because when you have a bestfriend, like I do in Evan Lowenstein, life can be pretty special and working through any challenge is worth the effort. Evan gives me so much advice, counsel, perspective,” he said.
“It’s almost impossible to tell you what he has done,” continued the actor. “He has not only stood beside me. He has stood in front of me when I needed to be led, and behind me when I needed to be shoved. He is a remarkable man, and it is his ability to take whatever setbacks we faced and somehow pick it up and keep moving forward.”
Spacey also alluded to Lowenstein’s wife Kassini Lowenstein and their four children.
“It’s not just what he does for me, it’s what I am able to witness that he does for his wife and their four incredible children and his countless friends who seek his advice.”
After receiving the award, Spacey shared a raft of anecdotes about his 40-year-career in a Q&A-style Masterclass, moderated by Domenico De Gaetano, going behind the scenes of landmark performances in films such as The Usual Suspects, Seven, L.A. Confidential, American Beauty and House Of Cards.
Spacey credited his mother with having turned him on to acting through her love of the arts and cinema.
“She used to take me to the cinema in Santa Monica. It’s still there, the Nuart,” he recalled. “It was where I discovered Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stuart, Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey and all these amazing films and genres.”
The discussion touched on his breakthrough role in The Usual Suspects, for which he won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in 1996 for his performance as Roger ‘Verbal’ Kint, or Keyser Söze. Spacey recounted how Singer kept the plot from the actors throughout the shoot.
“Bryan Singer said to me, ‘Do you go and watch the dailies of what you’ve shot the day before on the films that you do?’ I said,’ Yes, usually”. He said, ‘I’d love to ask you if on this movie you don’t. When I asked why, he said, ‘Because I need you to not at any moment in the course of the shooting to be second-guessing what you’re hiding and revealing and what’s going on. I need you to trust me that I will be paying attention to all of that,” said Spacey.
“It was a smart decision on his part because it allowed me to completely trust Bryan,” he continued. “In fact, I don’t know if anyone knows this story but there is a funny occurrence that happened the first time he brought in the cast to watch a rough cut. Afterwards, I saw Gabriel Byrne having an argument in the parking lot because he was absolutely convinced that he was Keyser Söze.”
Shortly before The Usual Suspects was due to come out, Spacey found himself hired out of the blue for the role John Doe in David Fincher’s psychological thriller Seven.e
He had been originally rejected for the role only to be called on Christmas Eve by one of the film’s producers after Fincher fired the actor first signed for the role.
He said, “David would like to get you on the plane on Sunday – it was Friday then – so you can make it here on Monday and we start shooting on Tuesday.”
Spacey revealed how he had suggested that his casting not be revealed ahead of the film’s release because he felt it would give away the plot too early on in the film if it was.
“I had just shot Swimming With Sharks, Outbreak and The Usual Suspects. I thought this movie is going to come out after those and it might be that many of these movies will be successful and my profile will be different. My worry was that if the film was billed as Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey and I didn’t show up in the first 40 minutes, the audience was going to figure it out,” he recounted.
Although the studio opposed the idea, Fincher agreed it made sense, and Spacey flew down on Sunday and began shooting on Tuesday as planned.
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