"Those who think one-sided, who choose to perceive life as half empty rather than half full glass will tell you that in difficult times, the first thing that should be cut is the money for culture," said Kevin Spacey. "And I can say this with certainty because one of the biggest issues I face as an Art director of Οld Vic, is whether they will be money available for the theater."
February 2011, Kevin Spacey is the big attraction at the Berlin festival. He is there for the promotion of "Margin call", one of his latest films, hence the meeting with a small group of journalists from around the world. Dressed in a simple gray suit and rather "extreme" white loafers, the American actor seems to be in good mood. His film was well received, and he eagerly awaits the start of rehearsals for "Richard III”, directed by Sam Mendes. This will be their last collaboration within the theater cycle “Bridge Project”.
The Art director position in Οld Vic will almost monopolize the conversation - and the reason is the global economic crisis. "An interesting contradiction is that", the actor continues, "in difficult times, even today, theater can still triumph. Do you know what is the greatest tourist attraction in the US today? Broadway. In London's West End the tickets sold in 2010 by the theatrical performances were the most in its entire history! What does this tell me? It tells me that people save money in order to gain a theatrical experience. Because they need it. We all need it, it is a necessity."
His words about the economic crisis and its connection with culture are consistent with the spirit of the film “Margin call”: in the dramatic framework of only one day, the film directed by Jay S. Sandar reveals backstage games in the attic of the illuminated skyscrapers of Manhattan, where a handful of people can decide the future of millions.
“Margin call”, where Spacey is the head of a chosen cast, including Jeremy Irons and Paul Bettany, is an economic thriller that returns to the first stages of the economic crisis of 2008 and follows the collapse of an investment company. Kevin plays the right hand of the president of the company (Irons), who realizes not only the catastrophe, but the impasse. "I haven’t played such a significant role in a film for quite some time," says the actor, "and it has been a while since I had seen a movie that speaks so candidly about the economic nightmare we have been seeing in recent years. This of course does not mean I'm not optimistic."
All about Οld Vic
The fact that Spacey was busy finding funds for Οld Vic played a key role in his participation in “Margin call” - turning to the people the film analyzes—in other words—bankers. "So, on one hand what interested me in the film was the human aspect - how ordinary people are affected by an economic crisis like the one we are experiencing today, and on the other - how the people who are directly involved or even responsible for the crisis are affected - like my character in the movie."
In any case, Spacey believes that art should be grateful to banks. "Without Bank of America, without Barclays, without Morgan Stanley, without sponsors like Richard Kerig, Philip Green and Robert Earl, I could not have done my job in Old Vic. The same goes for many other cultural organizations. 70% of my time I dedicate to try and convince people who have a lot of money, to invest them in art."
When asked "how does he manage it?" he automatically transforms. His eyes light up, raises his hands high as if posing. "With some songs, some dancing," says he with a singsong voice, "anything can happen." Suddenly he becomes serious: "There are two ways to convince someone. First, the art argument, as I mentioned, that art is necessary for all of us. Second, the financial argument, which is much stronger than most people can imagine."
When some tell him that according to statistics, income from art is 3%, he gives the example of London South Bank, which at any time of day is full of people. “Then I raise the simple question: would the bank be so full on a Sunday afternoon, if it were not for Tate Modern, the British Cinema Institute, Shakespeare’s Globe, Old Vic, New Vic, the London Film Festival, the National Theatre and the Chocolate Factory? I do not think so. Companies close to all these organizations are gold mines - restaurants, hotels, taxi companies, bookstores. Art brings economy. Therefore, culture in all major centers in the world is economy. And I do not want to see another commercial monster village without a trace of cultural value in it. Its meaning will be lost this way."
Kevin Spacey’s diligence and dedication in what he has undertaken are legendary. Thanks to his famous name he manages to make Old Vic a profitable company. As an artist, once he takes on something, he never steps back. In Berlin he announced that the rehearsals for "Richard III” begin in May and then until March 2012 he will not be able to do anything else. The tour covers nine cities around the world, and after a short break (for Christmas) will be transferred to the Academy of Music in Brooklyn. "Even if David Lee came back from the dead and wanted me to work with him, I couldn’t tell him 'yes'," ends with laughter the actor.
WHEN AND WHERE
"Richard III” by William Shakespeare, Ancient Theatre Epidavros, July 29 and 30. Duration: about 3 hours. Ticket prices: 50, 40, 30, 20, 15, 10 euros. Ticket sales begin on July 8