Kevin Spacey Biography
- Born: Kevin Matthew Fowler on July 26, 1959
- Father: Thomas Geoffrey Fowler, 1924 - 1992
- Mother: Kathleen Spacey Fowler, 1931 - 2003
- Brother: Randall B. Fowler (Older)
- Sister: Julie Ann Fowler Keir (Older)
Kevin Matthew Fowler, a.k.a. Kevin Spacey, was born July 26, 1959, in South Orange, New Jersey. He was the youngest of three children born to Thomas Fowler, a contract technical writer, and Kathleen Fowler, a private secretary and homemaker.
As a contract worker, Kevin's father Thomas went from job to job and the family moved constantly as Thomas pursued his work. These upheavals left a young Kevin feeling uprooted and rebellious.
"When I was about nine or 10 I went through a time of real rebellion within my family. I was mad, had no focus and was interested in nothing at all. I started to play with matches, caused trouble and did stupid things that kids should not do. As a result, my parents decided to send me to military school. I stayed there for a year or so and then got thrown out, because I got in to a fight. It was not a fair fight and I did what was right, but they had rules that if you were involved in trouble of any kind you had to go. It was fortuitous. I went back to public school and some teachers turned me on to theatre and acting. That was the key moment in my life." -- Kevin Spacey, Spectrum Magazine, January 14, 2001
After his stint at Northridge Military Academy, Kevin went on to attend Canoga Park High School where he found his calling when he started acting in school plays. While performing in a school production of Arthur Miller's All My Sons, Kevin was singled out and recruited for the renown drama department at Chatsworth High School. At Chatsworth, Kevin had the opportunity to act in a number of plays and would graduate from there in 1977. During his senior year, he was cast in the role of Captain Georg von Trapp for the school's production of The Sound of Music, with classmate actress Mare Winningham cast opposite him as Maria.
It was during his high school years that Kevin officially adopted the surname Spacey, his mother's maiden name. After high school, Kevin Spacey tried his luck as a stand up comedian on the amateur comedy club circuit. While performing during those early years, Kevin also honed his skills as celebrity mimic, a skill he still displays to this day, often to the surprise and delight of his audiences. His impressions of the likes of Johnny Carson, Al Pacino, and Christopher Walken, are always dead-on.
After briefly attending Los Angeles Valley College, Kevin left on the advice of another famous Chatsworth classmate, Val Kilmer, who convinced him at the age of 19 to enroll in the drama program at Julliard in New York City.
Kevin did just that, and spent the next two years training hard at Julliard before abruptly quitting in 1981.
"I just dropped out," he said, smiling. "I had no prospects, no agent, no money, nothing. Then I got an audition for the New York Shakespeare Festival in the Park by basically browbeating the casting office. I played a messenger with, like, six lines in Henry IV, Part One. It was my first job in New York as a professional actor, and it was pretty exciting, but after that I just couldn't get any acting work. I was working as a hat-check guy in a restaurant when I decided to see Joe Papp for a job." Papp was the influential founder and director of the New York Shakespeare Festival. He gave Spacey a job as office help.
"While working there, I got cast as the lead in an off-off Broadway play, The Robbers, and got my first New York review - in the Village Voice. It was extremely complimentary, because they compared me to both Marlon Brando and Karl Malden in the same sentence, so for weeks my friends called me 'Marlon Malden. Joe Papp showed up at the play one night and fired me the next day. I was stunned, because it was paying my rent. Joe said, 'I saw an actor last night onstage, and you've become too comfortable here.' He did me the greatest favor in the world by literally shoving me out the door. Four months later, Joe Papp was in the opening-night audience of my first Broadway play." -- Kevin Spacey, Parade October 24, 1999
Kevin soon made his Broadway debut in a 1982 production of Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts opposite Liv Ullmann.
The first big break for Kevin Spacey came along when he was auditioning for the Tom Stoppard play, The Real Thing. Kevin didn't get that part, but he was approached by director Mike Nichols, who cast Kevin in his production of David Rabe's Hurlyburly.
Spacey eventually understudied for all the male leads in the play and this adaptability led Nichols to cast Kevin in his first movie role as a subway thief who mugs Meryl Streep's character in the 1986 picture, Heartburn. Two years later, the director and actor worked together once again on Working Girl, where Spacey played a small part as a sleazy businessman.
Between 1987 and 1992, Kevin did a substantial amount of television work and appeared regularly on the series Wiseguy as deranged criminal Mel Profitt. While Kevin was developing his reputation in the television and film industries, he still remained active in the theater community, and in 1991 won a Tony Award for his role as "Uncle Louie" in Neil Simon's Broadway hit Lost in Yonkers.
During this time, Kevin also had an opportunity to work with his idol and future mentor, Jack Lemmon, in a 1986 production of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night. Kevin would go on to work with Jack Lemmon in the 1988 NBC miniseries, The Murder of Mary Phagan, and once again when Spacey played Lemmon's son-in-law in the 1989 feature film, Dad.
The last time Kevin Spacey had an opportunity to work with Jack Lemmon was in 1992, when Spacey was cast as the put upon office manager in the film, Glengarry Glen Ross, and Lemmon played the harried salesman who was never given the 'good' leads. Though they would not work together again, Jack Lemmon remained a close friend and mentor of Kevin's all the way up until his death from cancer in June of 2001.
"He [Jack Lemmon] actually picked me to play one of his sons and he was like a father figure to me. He was so hard-working, so kind. Even if he was in a bad mood, he was generous. He didn't give two hoots about all the attendant stuff, he just wanted to always do good work." -- Kevin Spacey, Times Online, September 05, 2004
Spacey made his producing debut in 1994 with Swimming With Sharks, where he also co-starred as a malicious Hollywood executive. Kevin was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for his portrayal of the abusive studio executive. Also that year, he played one-half of the bickering Connecticut couple in the dark comedy The Ref, co-starring Denis Leary.
Kevin's big breakthrough year came in 1995 with the role of the enigmatic, crippled con-man "Verbal" Kint in The Usual Suspects. Kevin Spacey won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work in the critically acclaimed hit. And if that weren't enough, the same year Spacey won additional acclaim for his role as a serial killer in the stylish but creepy thriller, Seven.
Spacey made his debut as a director in 1996, working with Matt Dillon, Faye Dunaway and Skeet Ulrich in the film festival favorite, Albino Alligator. Kevin followed up that project with an outstanding performance in 1997's award winning L.A. Confidential. Kevin Spacey's portrayal of Sergeant Jack Vincennes in that film garnered awards such as the Best Supporting Actor award from both the Boston Society of Film Critics and the Society of Texas Film Critics.
Kevin also formed his independent production company in 1997, Trigger Street Productions. Spacey created Trigger Street as a venue for young writers, cinematographers, directors and actors who might not otherwise get their work in front of the right power brokers and decision makers.
"When we started it in 1997, I didn't actually expect to produce a film for a couple of years. We were really focusing on developing relationships with literary agents, with playwrights, with going out and trying to find as much content and interesting new voices and writers as we possibly could. The fact we ended up producing a film called "The Big Kahuna" a couple of years ago with Danny DeVito, and also produced "The Iceman Cometh," which is a play that I did in New York, was kind of a surprise.
"But this year really had been the year that we had sort of focused on really kind of pulling the trigger, as we like to call it, over at our place. We've done a film called "The United States of Leland," with a first-time writer/director who's 27 years old named Matthew Hoge.
We're not just giving an opportunity to somebody, but also trying to nurture them, trying to protect them, trying to give them as many resourceful tools, and a crew and a cast, to help them make their dream come true. And at the same time, help them learn what it's like to work with producers; to negotiate yourself in what's sometimes the treacherous waters of trying to make your dream happen on." -- Kevin Spacey, 'Moneyline with Lou Dobbs', October 18, 2002
In that same year, 1997, Kevin played accused murderer Jim Williams in the film version of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil which was directed by Clint Eastwood. Kevin Spacey was given an opportunity to demonstrate another of his many talents by singing Johnny Mercer's That Old Black Magic on the film's official soundtrack.
1998 began with Spacey performing alongside Samuel L. Jackson in The Negotiator, and later that year Kevin narrated the voice of a grasshopper in A Bug's Life. Also in 1998, the actor hit the boards once again, headlining in a London stage production of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh. A role he would reprise on Broadway in 1999.
When the film American Beauty was released in late 1999, critics and audiences alike were blown away by Kevin Spacey's performance as Lester Burnham in the modern masterpiece directed by Sam Mendes. Kevin's brilliant work in the role garnered him a host of awards, most notably the Oscar, for Best Actor and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Male Actor in a Leading Role.
During the Academy Awards ceremony Kevin Spacey dedicated his Oscar for Best Actor to his friend and mentor, Jack Lemmon. By winning his second Academy Award, Kevin Spacey became one of only six male actors to have won the Oscar in both the lead and supporting categories. Jack Lemmon, Robert DeNiro, Jack Nicholson, Gene Hackman, and Denzel Washington are the only others to have won both.
Kevin was greeted with quite a buzz at the 1999 Toronto International Film Festival for his role in American Beauty, but he also attended the festival to promote The Big Kahuna, a smaller film which he both co-starred in and produced.
On October 5, 1999, Kevin Spacey was honored by receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Among those who attended the ceremony were Jack Lemmon, Edward Norton, Frances Fisher, and Kevin's proud mother, Kathleen Fowler.
Kevin turned out another three films in 2001. He appeared with Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment in Pay It Forward, co-starred with Jeff Bridges as a suspected alien in K-PAX, and played a struggling reporter in The Shipping News with Julianne Moore and Dame Judi Dench.
Kevin Spacey relaunched the web site Triggerstreet.com in 2002, as an online community for unrepresented screenwriters and short film directors. The site immediately took off with thousands of online users uploading their work, reviewing work created by their peers, and participating in online competitions and short film festivals.
Spacey's new web site, TriggerStreet.com, encourages aspiring filmmakers to submit screenplays in the hope that something can get developed. 'I've done incredibly well, and I've done incredibly well because the material I found early in my career was from first-time writers, first-time directors, first-time playwrights. If it weren't for that talent, I wouldn't have a career,' he asserts. 'If one person gets a break [the web site accrued 50,000 registrations in its first month], then it's been successful.' -- Kevin Spacey, Marie Claire (UK), April 2003
Off screen, Kevin Spacey visited Africa in September 2002 along with former US President Bill Clinton to fight AIDS and encourage economic development in Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, Mozambique and South Africa. He also worked alongside Elton John in presenting a star-studded charity concert to raise funds for repairing one of London's famous old theaters, The Old Vic.
During 2003, Kevin played an anti-capital punishment advocate accused of murder in The Life of David Gale, and he also produced and had a supporting role in the independent film The United States of Leland.
Early that same year, Kevin Spacey announced that he would be moving to London to become the artistic director of The Old Vic Theatre Company, which was a new company set up to save the venerable Old Vic from neglect and decay. Spacey made a commitment to remain in that leading post for at least ten years, and to act in as well as to direct plays during that time.
Spacey has directed The Old Vic Theatre Company ever since and more recently has committed to stay in the post until 2015. His first production at The Old Vic was the September 2004 British premiere of the play Cloaca written by Maria Goos. Kevin directed Cloaca, which was also made into a 2003 television film.
At the same time he was putting on productions at The Old Vic, Spacey continued with his film career. In 2004, he starred in, directed, co-wrote and co-produced his dream project, Beyond the Sea, a biopic of singer Bobby Darin. Spacey provided his own vocals on the film's soundtrack and appeared in several tribute concerts around the time of the movie's release.
It took Spacey five years to bring the Bobby Darin project to the big screen, and his hard work and determination paid off when he received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Lead Actor and a Grammy nomination for Best Soundtrack.
"It all started, frankly, with my mother. My mother was a huge Bobby Darin fan, so I grew up in a house where Bobby Darin records were playing all the time - and Sinatra and the Big Bands. There's no question we're influenced by our upbringing and what we're surrounded by. By the time I was 15, I was pretty convinced that Bobby Darin was the coolest cat that ever walked the face of the earth. – Kevin Spacey, The Buffalo News, November 2003
Kevin Spacey dedicated the film, Beyond the Sea to his mother, Kathleen Spacey Fowler.
Oh! My mother had a huge influence in my life and I was lucky to have a woman of infinite taste and knowledge and intelligence who, I think, raised me well, who I was close with, who I sought out. My whole life I sought my mother out. And I'm glad she died knowing that this is the movie I was going to make. I was taking care of her because she had contracted a brain tumor and the last eleven months of her life I was writing the script, I was recording for rehearsal tracks and getting ready to do the movie. And she wanted me to do this movie more than any other. I think she would be quite pleased and proud that we finally made it happen. Because the movie is about mothers and sons and it just made sense to me that the film was for her. -- Kevin Spacey, Voice of America - December 16, 2004
Kevin hit the boards again at The Old Vic in 2005 taking on the title role in the Shakespearian play, Richard II, and in 2006 he convinced movie director Robert Altman to direct for the stage a little-known Arthur Miller play Resurrection Blues. Kevin then starred in Eugene O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten along with Eve Best, a show which eventually transferred to Broadway in 2007.
"I've always been a theatre rat and ended up having a film career that has surprised me, so I feel that I want to do more theatre, so I just decided that I didn't want to spend the next ten years making movie after movie after movie after movie after movie and occasionally trying to fit a play in, so I thought I'd rather do it the other way around. So I'm going to do play after play after play and occasionally fit a movie in." -- Kevin Spacey, Film Monthly, April 2004
Kevin was cast as the villainous Lex Luthor in Bryan Singer's 2006 Superman Returns, and in 2007, he co-starred with Vince Vaughn and Paul Giamatti in the comedy about Santa's disgruntled older brother, Fred Claus.
Back at The Old Vic, Spacey put on a revival of the David Mamet play Speed-the-Plow in 2008, where he took one of the three roles, the others being taken by Jeff Goldblum and Laura Michelle Kelly. In early 2009 Kevin Spacey directed Joe Sutton's Complicit, starring Richard Dreyfuss, Elizabeth McGovern and David Suchet.
Also in 2008, Kevin was cast as an MIT lecturer in the film 21 along with Kate Bosworth and Laurence Fishburne. Another project completed during the same year was Kevin's portrayal of Ron Klain, the General Counsel to Al Gore's recount committee, in the HBO film Recount. A film which Kevin also produced and for which he earned Golden Globe, Emmy, and SAG nominations for Best Actor in a TV-Movie.
Kevin Spacey continued to be just as prolific during 2009 when he took on the role of Jack Abramoff in the film Casino Jack, worked opposite George Clooney in Men Who Stare at Goats, and was cast as a disillusioned psychiatrist in Shrink. In 2010 Kevin starred as a billionaire inventor in Father of Invention and was cast as one of the horrible bosses in the comedy Horrible Bosses. Most recently, Kevin has been cast alongside Demi Moore, Paul Bettany and Simon Baker in the film Margin Call.
On November 3, 2010, Kevin Spacey was named an honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in recognition for his work in theatre. Prince Charles presented the award at a private ceremony in his official London residence, Clarence House. The CBE is only given to foreign nationals in the case of exceptional service to Britain.
"I was hugely, hugely delighted that Prince Charles has awarded me the CBE, which the Queen has so generously given to me for my services to theatre. I am so honored to live and work in Britain on behalf of the Old Vic Theatre." -- Kevin Spacey, after receiving the CBE award
The Kevin Spacey Foundation was setup in 2010 to to support young actors, writers, directors and producers with the passion and potential to succeed in the competitive worlds of film and theatre. The foundation is a homage of sorts to Spacey's own mentor, the late Jack Lemmon.
"Jack had a philosophy: if you have done well, then you're obligated to send the elevator back down for others." -- Kevin Spacey
In February 2011, Kevin Spacey held a press conference in Dubai announcing his plans to start a traveling theater arts academy in the Middle East. During the announcement Spacey revealed that the Academy would be jointly funded by both the Kevin Spacey Foundation and Badr Jafar, executive director of Crescent Petroleum and Crescent Investments.
Recently, Spacey inhabited the role of Shakespeare's Richard III, the final production of Sam Mendes' Bridge Project. The play ran at the The Old Vic in London from June until September 2011, and then toured Greece, Hong Kong, Spain, Istanbul, Naples, San Francisco, Beijing, Singapore, Sydney, and Doha prior to a U.S. engagement at the Brooklyn Academy of Music from January 10 through March 4, 2012.
Clearly, Kevin Spacey is a tireless artist who has demonstrated that he can competently fill the shoes of an actor, director, producer, writer, and an artistic director of a theatre company. Kevin is currently living in London where he is still serving as Artistic Director of The Old Vic Theatre Company which has a full schedule of plays planned for the 2011 - 2012 season.
This Everything Kevin Spacey web site is continually updated with new images, news, and project details, so be sure to check back often for the latest updates on Kevin Spacey's many creative endeavors!