The Web      Powered by


Return to Transcripts main page


Profiles of Nicole Kidman, Kevin Spacey

Aired January 15, 2005 - 11:00   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning, I'm Betty Nguyen. "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" starts in just a minute, but first, here are the stories now in the news.
Army Specialist Charles Graner is taking the stand this morning to make an unsworn statement in the penalty phase of his court martial. Now, that means he will not be cross-examined by prosecutors. A military jury found Graner guilty of abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Graner faces a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

A Utah sheriff says it would be a miracle to find anyone alive beneath a 30-foot pile of snow following a massive avalanche near Park City. As many as five people may have been buried by the snow slide near the Cannions Resort.

And they may not know the words to "Cat Scratch Fever," but some Texas high school students hope rocker Ted Nugent can help them raise money to go to President Bush's inauguration. Nugent recently moved to Crawford, Texas, and is playing to a sold-out fund-raising concert at Crawford High School. That happens tonight.

We'll have more news at the half hour. From the CNN Center here in Atlanta, I'm Betty Nguyen. "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: Next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, she's the Aussie beauty who is nearly unrecognizable in her Academy Award-winning role.


NICOLE KIDMAN, ACTRESS: It is not mine! What are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looking at my wife.


ANNOUNCER: Now, she hopes to take home a Best Actress Golden Globe for her role in the controversial movie, "Birth."


KIDMAN: You're hurting me. Don't bother me again. This is the song about life. It's about something sort of on a higher level.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ANNOUNCER: From a private romance that thrust her into the spotlight to a divorce that played out in public.


DOMINICK DUNNE, "VANITY FAIR": They were the most glamorous marriage in Hollywood.


ANNOUNCER: Three and a half years after her split from Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman has found success on her own. Get up close with Oscar winner, Nicole Kidman.


KEVIN SPACEY, ACTOR: I want it all. I want night clubs. I want Vegas, movies, TV.


ANNOUNCER: He's one of Hollywood's leading men who got to the top with unconventional style.


LEAH ROZEN, MOVIE CRITIC, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: Kevin Spacey had to prove himself based on being just one hell of a good actor.


ANNOUNCER: He made a name for himself on Broadway after tough times in the big city.


BRAD KOPENICK, FRIEND: I one time saw him on the streets of New York with this dog, and I don't think he could buy the dog a hamburger.

SPACEY: Oops, where'd my job go? I quit.


ANNOUNCER: He opened himself up on screen in movies like "American Beauty," but he wanted to keep his personal life closed.


SPACEY: The less that you, as an audience, know about me, the better I can do my job.


ANNOUNCER: Now, the enigmatic actor is lending his own voice to the role of legendary singer, Bobby Darin. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPACEY: It's a version of Bobby Darin. It's my version of Bobby Darin.


ANNOUNCER: Director, producer, and leading man, Kevin Spacey. Their stories and more now on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Hi, welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, I'm Paula Zahn. Nicole Kidman is one of the most sought after actresses in Hollywood. An Academy Award and a string of celebrated performances have propelled her into a stratosphere of celebrity all her own. And her career remains red hot even when her latest film didn't do so well, it still lead to a Golden Globe nomination. Here is Sharon Collins.


SHARON COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She's the Aussie import who happens to be one of Hollywood's highest paid leading ladies. Since Nicole Kidman split up with her megastar husband, Tom Cruise, the 5' 11" actress has been standing a head above the rest. The past three and a half years have seen Kidman come into her own as a Hollywood powerhouse -- eight movies...

KIDMAN: Come and get me, boys. It's not normal, Walter.

COLLINS: ...five Golden Globe nominations and two wins.


COLLINS: Not only did she get a star, but in March 2003, Kidman achieved her crowning moment. With parents in tow, she walked the red carpet once again. An Oscar nomination for "The Hours" had brought her to the Academy Awards, and while the buzz was in her favor, her nerves were out of control.

JESS CAGLE, SENIOR EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: On Oscar night, she had pretty much decided that she was not going to win.

KIDMAN: Renee!

CAGLE: And she probably felt that Renee Zellweger was going to get the Best Actress award instead.

RENEE ZELLWEGER, ACTRESS: No, I'm not quite finished yet.

CAGLE: Then right before they announced the Best Actress winner, Nicole Kidman's daughter leaned over and said, "You're going to win, Mommy" and she became completely panicked. Then, of course, she won.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Best Performance By an Actress in a Motion Picture Drama, Nicole Kidman, "Birth." COLLINS: Now, Kidman may get her chance to stand up on stage once again. She received her seventh Golden Globe nomination for her role in the latest film, "Birth."

KIDMAN: I've met somebody who seems to be Sean.

COLLINS: Kidman plays Anna, a widow trying to put her life back together when suddenly a 10-year-old boy shows up, claiming to be the reincarnation of her late husband. The film didn't have much box office punch, but it did stir up controversy.

Kidman's character becomes intimate with the young boy. KIDMAN: You're hurting me. Don't bother me again. I would never want to be doing something that was going to exploit a child. I mean I'm a mother and I value sort of my integrity and I'm not going to compromise that.

This film was important to me because it's very personal. It's a film about the need for love and does a great passionate love exist and once it leaves, how do you recover. I think everybody relates to it.

COLLINS: Like her character, the 37-year-old has also had to adjust to life without a husband, since her divorce in 2001.

KIDMAN: One of the daunting prospects for a woman when she goes through divorce is learning to be able to then live alone and survive alone and find your way in the world without your partner. And so now going, wow, I'm able to take care of myself. That's kind of makes you feel...

COLLINS: Despite the constant glare of the paparazzi, Kidman keeps her love life to herself.

CAGLE: One thing that Nicole Kidman learned, I think, during the life with Tom Cruise, was how damaging a lot of scrutiny on a relationship can be. And so she's been very careful to keep that part of her life as private as possible.

COLLINS: It had been a solid marriage, even by Hollywood standards. But in February of 2001, her movie star husband Tom Cruise shocked the entertainment world and Kidman herself, announcing he wanted to end their 10-year marriage.

DUNNE: Well, they were the most glamorous marriage in Hollywood, Tom and Nicole.

COLLINS: Long-time Hollywood observer and "Vanity Fair" columnist, Dominick Dunne says Kidman covered up her pain, carrying on with great dignity while promoting the film, "Moulin Rouge."

KIDMAN: I'm very excited. It's going to have a really good reception.

DUNNE: She attended the premiere. She's waving to the people. Whatever's going on inside, she kept that private. And she did. I mean that's what a star does. You know, she has obligations, and she fulfilled them.

COLLINS: The show must go on is very much Kidman's guiding motto. She'll show up no matter what.

KIDMAN: My life is my life and I'm living it and I'm a person just like everybody else and I have all those things that happen. And you know that's sort of up to forces greater than me.

COLLINS: The so very Aussie Kidman began her life in America. She was born in Honolulu, Hawaii on June 20, 1967. Her father, a biochemist and author, was studying there. His research would later take the family on to Washington D.C. But by the time Kidman was four, her family had returned to Australia to stay. Sidney became the place she'd always call home.

Kidman is very close to her younger sister, Antonia, a television reporter in Australia, as well as to her father and her mother, a nurse and educator. While growing up, Kidman's extraordinarily pale skin meant Australia's sun life was out of bounds.

KIDMAN: Instead of going to the beach or you know, the normal thing that you do in Australia, I would go on the weekends to drama school.

COLLINS: At age 10, Nicole retreated to the comfort of the rehearsal studio to strengthen her acting skills. It wasn't natural, she said, to disappear into a dark theater and she did so with her parents' approval.

KIDMAN: They both have a love of the arts. And I think they gave it great credence and value that it wasn't -- and I really respect them as parents for doing that because it wasn't sort of pooh-poohed. It was actually you know, what do you enjoy? My parents always took me to the theater when I was young. I was taken to see opera. I was taken to see modern dance. So I was exposed a lot -- to a lot of culture and I really -- that's what I try to do for my children as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You started very young acting.

KIDMAN: Oh no, which one do you've got?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have "BMX Bandits" and "Bush Christmas."

COLLINS: Kidman may cringe, but the TV film she made in 1983, "Bush Christmas," remains a national favorite and still airs every Christmas. That same year, the cult favorite, "BMX Bandits" was released. A group of kids on bikes takes on a gang of bank robbers.

KIDMAN: Well, I'll tell you one thing, they're definitely not cops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, don't worry; they can't get at us in here.

COLLINS: Kidman chose to ride away from high school at 16 to pursue a full-time acting career. KIDMAN: We are not against our troops in any way.

COLLINS: Just a year later in the Australian mini-series, "Vietnam," she won the Australian Film Institute's Best Television Actress Award. She was 17 and a rising star.

When the story of Nicole Kidman continues, the movie, "Days of Thunder," rolls into her life, bringing with it a hot Hollywood relationship.





KIDMAN: What about those people?

COLLINS (voice-over): After TV and film success down under, Australian Nicole Kidman's first Hollywood break was the seagoing thriller, "Dead Calm." Fellow actor, Sam Neill used the word "star" to describe the 21-year old Kidman.

SAM NEILL, ACTOR: She can do anything. But she does have that extra thing, which is she is a star, and that's the sort of mysterious -- that's the mysterious factor that you cannot explain. It's just one of those things.

COLLINS: Mr. Hollywood, Tom Cruise, was just coming off his divorce from actress, Mimi Rogers, and after viewing "Dead Calm" was reportedly eager to meet the dazzling new actress.

TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: How could you ignore me like that?

KIDMAN: I wasn't ignoring you.

COLLINS: That meeting came within a year. Both were cast in the film, "Days of Thunder." There was immediate on-screen and off-screen chemistry.

A quick romance followed and on Christmas Eve 1990, the two married quietly in the resort town of Telluride, Colorado. Within months, Kidman was working again with her famous husband in the 1992, epic, "Far and Away." But Kidman's resume would never read, Mrs. Tom Cruise. She was determined not to be typecast in any way.

KIDMAN: I don't know if it's conscious. It's just that I'm drawn. As soon as I've done one thing, I'm drawn to probably the complete opposite. So, and my taste in films and also just in characters and stuff is very diverse.

COLLINS: The super couple were becoming part of Hollywood royalty, and children were now part of the dynasty. The couple adopted a girl, Isabella, in 1993, and a baby boy, Connor, two years later. KIDMAN: We do it all; Tom and I. It's, you know -- it's -- you bear the priority and so that means you make compromises.

COLLINS: Any compromises were worth it to build a family legacy.

KIDMAN: We always said that when we're making "Far and Away," it would be great because then our children will be able to watch us we when we were young and in love.

COLLINS: Kidman's children often go on location with her. They see her act and in the case of "Moulin Rouge," hear her sing.

KIDMAN: I sing to them all the time. They tell me shut-up.

COLLINS: Of course, Kidman gets far more respect in Hollywood. By 1996, she was a star in her own right, moving out of Cruise's orbit.

KIDMAN: You're not anybody in America unless you're on TV.

COLLINS: It was the quirky film noir, "To Die For," that propelled Kidman to stardom. It all began when Kidman picked up the phone and begged director, Gus Van Sant, for the breakout role. Once on board, Kidman shined.

KIDMAN: I believe that Mr. Gorbeshev -- you know the man who ran Russia for so long? I believe that that he'd still be in power today if he's done what so many people suggested and had that big purple thing taken off his forehead.

COLLINS: Acclaim poured in, including a Golden Globe in 1995. Hollywood had noticed the girl from Sidney.

SYDNEY POLLACK, DIRECTOR: I think she's often times underrated because she's so beautiful that you think of her as just a pretty girl, you know. But if you look at her work in, "To Die For," and you know in Baz Luhrmann's picture, it -- "Moulin Rouge," she's always good in films. Sometimes the films aren't as good as she is, but she's always extraordinary.

COLLINS: Director, Baz Luhrmann, says he noticed how extraordinary Kidman was during a "Vogue" photo shoot a decade ago.

LUHRMANN: She did, you know, sort of a Carol Lombard. She did like a Marilyn image, if I remember. And she did a great Marilyn image, and Lucille Ball, actually. She's a real movie star, meaning she does manifest those almost icon-like qualities that those performers had in that time.

COLLINS: Qualities that include a focused work ethic.

LUHRMANN: When you work with Nicole as a professional, it's no walk in the park; because she's not an actor that says you know, I'm an empty vessel, fill me. Do I put my hand here? I mean she has as many ideas as I do, and everything is an intense experience.

COLLINS: That intensity drew Kidman into the "Blue Room," where she briefly appeared nude on stage. The 1998 London play was a huge hit. Kidman's performance was hailed as pure theatrical Viagra.

When we come back, love takes a troubled turn. Kidman and Cruise unite for a third time in, "Eyes Wide Shut," as their marriage begins a countdown to collapse.





CRUISE: Forever.

KIDMAN: Let's not use that word, you know. It frightens me.

COLLINS (voice-over): Nicole Kidman appeared in three films with husband, Tom Cruise. Their last pairing came in Stanley Kubrick's psychological thriller, "Eyes Wide Shut." She had spent nearly two years on the project and then just after okaying the final cut, director, Kubrick, died. Kidman has said Kubrick's sudden death shocked her out of her youthful naivete.

KIDMAN: I had just revered him and loved him dearly.

COLLINS: Then on February 4, 2001, another shock. Shortly after their 10th wedding anniversary, a statement was released announcing an amicable separation. Three days later, Cruise officially filed for divorce. Friends of Kidman were quoted as saying she was broadsided.

While the reasons for the split remain private, it was played out in public to Kidman's dismay.

KIDMAN: It's such a surreal experience when all these things happen in your life and they're all written about and they're all, sort of everybody watches it and somehow you have to get through it. And thank God for my mom and dad and my sister, and the people in my life who love me.

COLLINS: As her marriage disintegrated, Kidman faced the press to promote her work.

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: Ladies and gentlemen, here's Nicole Kidman.

COLLINS: Kidman used her legendary humor on the "Late Show with David Letterman" to diffuse the divorce questions.


LETTERMAN: You look fantastic. I heard you're getting divorced. How's that going?

COLLINS: Kidman was ready with a well-rehearsed line.

KIDMAN: Well, I can wear heels now.

COLLINS: Twenty-three seconds of laughter later, Kidman took charge.

KIDMAN: Now we move on.


COLLINS: Indeed she did, in black couture to the premier of her thriller, "The Others." And at midnight on that very night, August 8, 2001, the clock tolled on her marriage. Hollywood's fairy tale couple was no more.

Discreetly following on the red carpet was Tom Cruise. He had co- produced "The Others" and tapped Kidman for the starring role.

TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: I gave it to Nic, who I thought would be perfect for the role, and it's a tour de force performance for her and I'm very proud of her.

KIDMAN: Come and get me, boys.

COLLINS: Just two months earlier, Kidman had released "Moulin Rouge" to critical acclaim.

KIDMAN: I believe you were expecting me.


ROZEN: I mean "Moulin Rouge" was sort of the breakthrough part in that she got to play all kinds of emotions. She got to sing. She was absolutely beautiful, and I think it's sort of one of the first roles that she really broke through to a mass audience in.

COLLINS: And audiences couldn't get enough. Two thousand two brought a Golden Globe win for "Moulin Rouge."

KIDMAN: We never thought we'd be standing here.

COLLINS: That same role nabbed her first Academy Award nomination. In the end, Hale Berry took home the Oscar that year. But just 12 months later, it was Kidman's turn to shine. Her role in "The Hours" brought to the big screen a Nicole Kidman like we've never seen before.

KIDMAN: You do remember that my sister is coming in four weeks with the children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, ma'am, I haven't forgotten.

ROZEN: So much has been said about the nose, including, of course, the overused joke about winning by a nose. I don't think she won because of the nose. I mean she won not only for her performance in "The Hours," but also for being a big old movie star. She's a terrific actress, but she's also so darn glamorous and that combination is a big winner. COLLINS: And following the Academy win, you'd never guess the call she made immediately following the walk off stage.

CAGLE: I think a lot of people might be surprised to know that she called her ex-husband, Tom Cruise, you know, the night that she won the Oscar. As she says, you know, I think quoting a line from "The Hours," "We always had these hours together. We always had this time together." And so, he's really part of her life and I think that marriage and whatever she went through there is really a part of who she is and it makes her feel close to him.

COLLINS: Those who know her say she has clearly arrived at the top of her profession.

DUNNE: I think she's one of the five or six top stars of today. And you know I've seen them all.

COLLINS: Validated by peers, loved by fans, and seemingly at peace with her past relationship, it seems Kidman has gained not only box office clout in the past two years, but valuable insight as well.

KIDMAN: The most important thing in life is sort of knowing who your friends are and cherishing them and in a weird way, you have your -- the best of times and the worst of times, they come together and there's always balance, you know. And it keeps your feet on the ground.

COLLINS: No longer Mrs. Tom Cruise, the resilient actress is now in every way, Nicole Kidman.

ZAHN: Nicole Kidman has two new movies coming out this year, including a big screen version of the TV classic, "Bewitched" and a political thriller with fellow Oscar winner, Sean Penn, called "The Interpreter."

ANNOUNCER: Up next...


SPACEY: I can only give you love that lasts forever...


ANNOUNCER: ...will four-time nominee Kevin Spacey finally take home his first Golden Globe?


SPACEY: ...but that's all. I kind of put myself out there in such a big way on this one. I will -- you know we'll take what comes.


ANNOUNCER: His story when PEOPLE IN THE NEWS returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) NGUYEN: Good morning, everyone, I'm Betty Nguyen. "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" continues in just a minute, but first, here are the stories now in the news.

Huge plumes of black smoke are billowing over Oklahoma City this morning as firefighters battle a five-alarm blaze at an oil company. Take a look at these pictures. Officials say they are not sure if anyone is inside the facility and add that it is still just too dangerous for fire crews to enter. We'll continue to follow this story.

Meanwhile, a military jury in Texas will soon decide the fate of the man convicted of leading the detainee abuse at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison. Army Specialist Charles Graner faces up to 15 years in prison after being found guilty on nine of 10 charges relating to that abuse.

President Bush is putting the finishing touches on his inaugural address. White House speech writers have been working on the speech for weeks and the president's first practice run was two days ago. Mr. Bush says his theme will be democracy and America's mission to be its champion around the world.

We will have more news at the top of the hour. From CNN's Center here in Atlanta, I'm Betty Nguyen. Now it's back to "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS."

ZAHN: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Oscar winner Kevin Spacey is famous for throwing himself into his movies and his characters. But for years, the one role he wanted the most eluded him, at least until now. With his new film, "Beyond the Sea," Spacey has finally brought the life of 60's crooner Bobby Darin to the big screen. He's also earned himself a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor. Here's Kyra Philips.


SPACEY: The greatest trick the devil ever pulled...


SPACEY: ...was convincing the world...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know he's here.

SPACEY: ...he didn't exist.

DANNY DEVITO, ACTOR: He was really twisted in that movie, "Keyser Soze."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He saw Keyser Soze.

SPACEY: Who is Keyser Soze?

PHILLIPS: He's made a name for himself playing unlikable guys.

ROZEN: He's strongest in those roles where there's something smart but also a little snarkey about him.

SPACEY: People say I talk too much.

PHILLIPS: The mysterious conman in "The Usual Suspects," the psychopathic killer in the disturbing thriller "Se7en".

SPACEY: You're looking for me.

PHILLIPS: And perhaps his most memorable role, the miserable and dysfunctional Lester Burnham, a suburbanite on the brink of a meltdown in "American Beauty".

SPACEY: Today, I quit my job and then I blackmailed my boss for almost $60,000. Pass the asparagus.

PHILLIPS: That performance landed him a Best Actor Oscar.

SPACEY: I'm still very emotional.

PHILLIPS: It also transformed the 45-year-old Kevin Spacey from respected character actor to a coveted new role...


PHILLIPS: ...leading man. But it's an unlikely spot for this un-Hollywood guy.

ROZEN: You didn't look at him and go there's the next Brad Pitt. Kevin Spacey had to prove himself based on being just one hell of a good actor.

PHILLIPS: And that he has with two Oscars and a Tony, and a resume that includes more than 50 films. This leading man has proven he can wow audiences without a pretty face. Kevin Spacey has become one of Hollywood's hottest actors.



SPACEY: There's a lot of pinching going on a lot of the time. I can only give you love that lasts forever.

PHILLIPS: Now, Spacey is nominated for a Best Actor Golden Globe for his role as legendary crooner, Bobby Darin, in his latest movie, "Beyond The Sea."

The film has also been a labor of love for Spacey who not only starred in it but also served as its director and producer.

SPACEY: It's my version of Bobby Darin and I'm delighted that we've gotten close enough to honor him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Didn't I tell you, you're playing the culver.

SPACEY: It was risky. There were some who didn't think it was going to work, but you know I kept saying to everybody, look, the only way we can do this movie about Bobby Darin is if we're brash. You know this is a guy who was brash and brave and the only things that are really interesting in life are the things that are just on the edge anyway. So yes, we walked the edge.

PHILLIPS: But the actor who has become so famous for his onscreen roles is barely known off screen. Spacey has fought to keep details of his personal life a secret.

SPACEY: Because I haven't been someone who's offered a great deal about my personal life, then you sort of become open to speculation.

PHILLIPS: And he would become even more passionate about keeping his private life private after a painful experience with the press. The enigmatic Spacey says he was a shy guy from the beginning.

He was born Kevin Spacey Fowler in New Jersey on July 26, 1959, one of three kids to mom, a secretary, and dad, a mostly out of work writer. When Kevin was three, they moved to Southern California in search of a better life.

LARRY SUTTON, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: He dad did manual -- sort of aviation manuals. He was a technical writer. And the aviation industry was very big in California.

PHILLIPS: Once in California, they moved constantly, to mostly lower income homes and apartments all over the San Fernando Valley, an area about 45 minutes north of Los Angeles.

KOPENICK: And his dad had, I think, some health problems and it was hard. Kevin definitely didn't come from much.

PHILLIPS: The upheavals were difficult for Spacey. He became a troubled teenager.

SUTTON: And at one point, as most brothers and sisters do, they got into a fight, an argument, and he decided to set fire to her tree house.

SPACEY: I went through like a really brief period of time where I was a bit rambunctious and my dad just sent me and my brother to military school. I mean just, bang, he wouldn't have it.

PHILLIPS: He attended Northridge Military Academy, but the strict school in the valley didn't help. Spacey got into more mischief.

SUTTON: It was during a boxing match while he was there, his temper got the better of him and they say he picked up a tire and threw it at a fellow student. And for that, he was expelled from the military academy.

PHILLIPS: That expulsion turned into a mixed blessing for the 16-year-old. He transferred to Chatsworth High, a public school known for its good drama department.

SPACEY: I found sort of a theater class in school because the guidance counselor suggested that maybe I had a little excessive energy and maybe I could channel it into some more productive path.

PHILLIPS: That path led him to Chatsworth High drama teacher and mentor, Bob Carrelli.

BOB CARRELLI, FRIEND: He had teenage problems. He was able to transcend those problems by getting into other characters.

PHILLIPS: Spacey funneled his frustration and anger into acting. He soon took the lead in all his high school plays.

CARRELLI: There was a quality about Kevin that was unique. And there was something -- he had a maturity. He had sensitivity. He had intelligence.

PHILLIPS: He perfected the role of Captain von Trapp in "The Sound of Music" and proved hilarious in "Unhealthy to Be Unpleasant." He never cracked under pressure.

CARRELLI: At the end of the play, he opens the desk drawer and the bomb goes off, and it singed his hair, his eyebrows and his fake mustache. And we thought for a while that it may have killed him.

PHILLIPS: Spacey became obsessed with acting. By his junior year, he was diving into all facets of entertainment.

KOPENICK: He'd go straight home from school and write plays and set up his little manual typewriter and he was writing scripts for a television show. We thought he was crazy.

PHILLIPS: Spacey was determined. The 17-year-old even took a stab at standup comedy.

ANNOUNCER: It's The Gong Show!

SPACEY: There was -- yes, there was. I actually auditioned for "The Gong Show." It's true. And I didn't get on the show. I was kind of pre-Gonged.

PHILLIPS: But the gong didn't toll on Kevin's career. When we return, Spacey takes a chance of a lifetime, leaving home in search of fame.

KOPENICK: He literally didn't have two cents to rub together.

PHILLIPS: And later, with fame comes controversy, Spacey's private life on the cover of a magazine.

SPACEY: My first response when I saw it was that it was high time to cancel my subscription.





PHILLIPS (voice-over): By the late 70's, Spacey had become a star in L.A. area high school theaters. But the city was full of teen idols, teens who'd become breakfast club favorites like Judd Nelson and Emilio Estevez.

KOPENICK: When our friends hit it around here in L.A., it was brat pack time and everybody was famous by the time they were 17.

PHILLIPS: Spacey wanted to stand out of the pack. After graduating from high school, he headed east in search of a different audience. Before he hit Broadway, Spacey attended Manhattan's prestigious Julliard School, a suggestion from a high school friend, who later became a movie star himself.

SUTTON: Val Kilmer said, "You know, if you really want to be serious as an actor, you should go to Julliard." Kevin Spacey took that advice and went to school.

PHILLIPS: Impatient to get on stage, Spacey dropped out of Julliard early but roles did not come quickly. He struggled for years.

KOPENICK: I, one time, saw him on the streets of New York with his dog. And I don't think he could buy the dog hamburger. He literally didn't have two cents to rub together.

PHILLIPS: Spacey even tried standup again. He realized he had a gift for impressions. Later, he'd try some on prime time TV, Christopher Walken...

SPACEY: Yes, I saw the little thing you did on Saturday night. It was funny, you know, ha, ha.

PHILLIPS: ... and Marlon Brando.

SPACEY: Now, like Marlon, I should kiss you on the lips for this wonderful experience that I've had with you tonight.

PHILLIPS: But Spacey's takeoffs of his celebrity friends didn't gel on stage. He realized he wasn't going to make it as a standup comic.

SPACEY: It's the hardest job in the world. And I just remember back at some incredible times and some of the worst times, you know, when you think it's going well, but then you realize that it's not.

PHILLIPS: Twenty-two-year-old Spacey didn't give up though. He got a break when he hit off with a New York public theater producer.

SUTTON: He basically worked as the Xerox guy, the copy machine operator for Joe Papp. He also got him coffee.

PHILLIPS: But those mundane tasks eventually led to small roles in New York Shakespeare Festival productions.

SPACEY: The first play I did out of Julliard was a production of Henry IV Part I in Central Park and I played like a spear carrier and a messenger.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A small part, but Papp saw talent in his protege, so he did him a favor. He fired him.

SPACEY: At the moment, it was this, you know, shocking thing. But in fact, I only realized later, and rather quickly later, that what he was doing was actually the best thing that could have happened to me. He was like a father and pushing me out where I had to go.

PHILLIPS: Four months later, Spacey launched a stage career with his Broadway debut in "Ghosts." Theater work kept coming. He played opposite Jack Lemmon in "Long Day's Journey into Night" and years later, won a Tony for his role in Neil Simon's "Lost in Yonkers."

In the late '80s, Spacey, by now, almost 30 years old, had become a cult favorite on the New York stage but was barely known outside the theater world.

SPACEY: I couldn't get seen in film or television. And after a while, you know, things began to -- I began to get a little work here and there. And Mike Nichols was another important mentor to me.

PHILLIPS: He worked with the director on stage, then in 1986, on film. Spacey landed his first onscreen role in Nichols' "Heartburn." A small part but more would follow, including his role as Mel Profitt in the cult hit, TV series, "Wise Guy."

By the early '90s, Spacey could be seen on more theater screens than stages. He was the sinister real estate salesman in "Glengarry Glen Ross," the ruthless Hollywood producer in "Swimming With Sharks" and the creepy serial killer in 1995's bone chilling "Se7en."

SPACEY: I'd like to speak to my lawyer, please.

PHILLIPS: Spacey found the niche playing the villain and had moved to the ranks of respected character actor. But he still wasn't a household name. He'd be remembered in his next role.

SPACEY: Well, I believe in God and the only thing that scares me is Keyser Soze.

ROZEN: Once he showed up in "The Usual Suspects," a movie career was born. It was a film that got critical acclaim and audiences just embraced, especially people who couldn't see what was coming at the end, just thought it was about the coolest thing they had ever seen.

SPACEY: My guess is you'll never hear from him again.

PHILLIPS: Spacey took home a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the role. And if acting wasn't enough, the 38-year-old took a stab at directing. In 1997, he made the low budget, "Albino Alligator," starring Matt Dillon. MATT DILLON, ACTOR: Kevin is a great communicator and has great leadership qualities as a director. He had a very good game plan, very well prepared, and he was very intelligent because he worked individually with each cast member.

PHILLIPS: But Spacey's labor of love bombed at the box office. He went back to what he knew best. The scripts were still pouring in. He played a closeted murder suspect in "Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil," and won praise as the flashy detective in the murder- mystery, "L.A. Confidential."

By the late '90s, Spacey had become one of Hollywood's hottest properties. But with increasing fame came more curiosity about his private life. When we return, Spacey fights to stay in the limelight but off the gossip pages.

And later, Spacey pays it forward on and off screen.

SPACEY: I won't ever be far away from Trigger Street ever.





PHILLIPS (voice-over): In the late '90s, Kevin Spacey was in demand. He was starring in big movies, winning major awards, even appearing on popular late-night TV.

SPACEY: Hey, Loren, you were great in "Austin Powers," just so hilarious, evil, really funny.


SPACEY: And then one of my favorite things was when I got to host "Saturday Night Live" because it was a chance to sort of, you know, do more stuff that, you know, I do around the dinner table with most of my friends than maybe the way that people know from me from some of the parts in movies.

And you were great, too, Mini Loren Michaels.


PHILLIPS: But he wasn't ready for the world to get to know him that well. In 1997, Spacey was infuriated when "Esquire" magazine published an article that questioned his sexual preference.

SUTTON: The author of the article, a guy that Spacey had allowed to spend an awful lot of time with him came straight out and said, "You know, Kevin, even my mother thinks you're gay" to which Kevin replied, "Well, more power to your mother."

PHILLIPS: But Spacey denied the article's implications.

SPACEY: I was only upset that they had implied that I had come out of a closet, which I simply didn't do.

PHILLIPS: Last April, the private Spacey made public headlines after a bizarre episode in a London park. He told police that he was mugged while walking his dog at 4:30 in the morning. But then, he changed his story. He later claimed he fell while chasing a young man who stole his cell phone. But questions remain as to what Spacey was doing in the park at that hour.

Spacey has avoided talking about his personal life, promoting himself as a man of mystery.

KOPENICK: A lot of people say he's mysterious. You don't really get to know the real him. And the truth is it's one of these deals where if you see his movies, you're closer to him than you realize.

SPACEY: If you knew how free and consented I feel now, I'm like a new man!

PHILLIPS: In 1998, Spacey returned to the stage for a Tony- nominated performance in "The Iceman Cometh." A year later, the 40- year-old got the role of a lifetime. He starred in the dark suburban satire, "American Beauty."

SPACEY: Hi, I'm Lester, Janie's dad.


ROZEN: When you watched him and you said, this is a role Jack Nicholson would have played but Jack Nicholson wouldn't have brought the heart to it that Kevin Spacey brought at the end to that part.

PHILLIPS: His performance earned him a Best Actor Oscar and sent him to the Hollywood big leagues. Spacey was on the A-list, even spending time with President Clinton.

In 2000, during the final weeks of Clinton's presidency, he helped make a home video that spoofed Clinton's reluctance to leave office.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ever since I was a little boy, I wanted to be a real actor.

PHILLIPS: But hob-knobbing in the halls of power hasn't kept this leading man from helping out aspiring filmmakers. He started his own production house dedicated to developing raw talent. A Web site where screenwriters can actually submit their work and have it critiqued came later. The actor turned director turned producer's first Trigger Street Film debuted in 2000 with "The Big Kahuna."

SPACEY: How much can I pay you personally as a bribe?

DEVITO: What stands out about Kevin is his commitment to the part. He's always inventive. He always has lots of levels. There are actors who are in that category, Pacino and Deniro and, you know, a couple of guys who aren't Italian.

PHILLIPS: The movie sank at the box office but Spacey's onscreen roles kept coming. He played a string of losers in 2001, a lonely teacher in "Pay It Forward," a mental patient that might be an alien in "K-Pax"...

SPACEY: K-Pax is a planet but don't worry I'm not going to leap out of your chest.

PHILLIPS: ...and a milquetoast writer in "The Shipping News".

ROZEN: I think he's more successful when he's playing these sort of smart, somewhat calculating characters rather than, as he has shown a propensity recently, for sort of playing the milk of human kindness schlub characters.

PHILLIPS: Moviegoers agreed. All three films faded into oblivion. And although there were great expectations for the 2003 thriller, "The Life of David Gale," Spacey's role as a death penalty opponent accused of murder, didn't register with audiences. The movie tanked commercially and critically.

SPACEY: I've had a really remarkable run in film. But after "American Beauty," there were a lot of films that I did that critics didn't like. You know, almost a sense of how dare you try to play that kind of role. And my feeling is No.1 you can't live for your critics and No. 2 you have to follow your own heart.


PHILLIPS: The actor is once again following his heart with his latest film, "Beyond The Sea." For years, Spacey has yearned for the chance to play 60's songster Bobby Darin. The movie has him taking on several roles. He's both the filmmaker and the leading man. And the ever ambitious Spacey even does his own voice work.

SPACEY: Singing in the film wasn't about my ego. What people don't know is that I've been a singer my whole life. And from the time I was, you know 13 or 14 years old, I did musicals up until I was about 20.

PHILLIPS: But Spacey's enthusiasm hasn't infected audiences. The movie had made only a few million dollars since its wide release three weeks ago. And critically, "Beyond The Sea," has been panned as well.

ROZEN: Kevin Spacey is seven years older than Bobby Darin was when Bobby Darin died and you just can't get beyond that. If you're watching the film, he's supposed to playing a guy who's like 19 and you're going just a little old.

PHILLIPS: Despite the film's cold reception, Spacey's performance has earned him a Golden Globe nomination and the Oscar winner has high hopes that his role will garner even more awards in the near future.

SPACEY: Having been down the road and having been honored by my colleagues, it's a remarkable feeling and it's a feeling of accomplishment and acceptance and I guess, maybe particularly because this film has taken so long and I kind of put myself out there in such a big way on this one. Oh, you know, we'll take what comes. We're not going to -- we're not going to say no.

PHILLIPS: Broadway star, leading man, director, producer, there's no mystery, Kevin Spacey is definitely no usual suspect.

SPACEY: And like that, he's gone.


ZAHN: And Kevin Spacey has just joined the cast of "Superman Returns." He'll be playing the man of steel's arch nemesis, Lex Luther.

And that's it for this edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Coming up next week, first lady Laura Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. A look at the president's closest confidantes as his second term officially begins. I'm Paula Zahn. Thanks so much for joining us, hope you'll be back again with us next week.

ANNOUNCER: And for more people in the news, pick up a copy of "People" magazine.


On CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNN AvantGo CNNtext Ad info Preferences
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.