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Spacey to lead Old Vic theatre

Spacey said the Old Vic is his favourite theatre
Spacey said the Old Vic is his favourite theatre

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LONDON, England -- Oscar winner Kevin Spacey is the new artistic director for his "favourite" theatre, London's Old Vic.

The theatre made the announcement on Wednesday ahead of a star-studded benefit performance by Spacey and Sir Elton John, chairman of a trust which bought the 185-year-old theatre in 1998.

Spacey, 43, won Oscars for his roles in "The Usual Suspects" and "American Beauty" and has appeared at the theatre in "The Iceman Cometh." He was already on the board of the Old Vic Theatre Trust 2000.

"It is something that I feel deeply about, have put over two years of thought towards and frankly is something I am utterly overjoyed at having reached a decision upon," Spacey told reporters.

"My passion for this project and my excitement at what I believe this new company can achieve towards the revitalisation of the Old Vic Theatre is focussed and clear.

"I can only hope that the community will urge us on."

In addition to his role as artistic director, Spacey will become director of a new theatre company and is expected to bring major stars to the stage as well as nurturing new talent.

Spacey pledged to appear twice a year on the London stage as well as try his hand at directing.

Though his new role will demand a "significant commitment" in terms of time, Spacey stressed he would not be giving up movies or quitting America for good.

Old Vic
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"In no way should this decision be viewed as abandonment of my own country," the actor said.

"The truth is I hope this new venture will help continue to strengthen the cultural bridge between our two countries for there could not be greater allies than the relationship enjoyed between the United States and the United Kingdom.

"In addition to the theatre being my primary allegiance I am a film actor as well and I intend to remain a film actor, as well as the head of a production company.

"However, I do not underestimate the level of commitment this project is going to require of me."

John announced Spacey's new role at a news conference at the theatre.

"Kevin's talent is exceptional, but what has truly inspired me is his passion for, and commitment to, this theater. I know that under his leadership a permanent company at the theater will bring a totally new dynamic so that the Old Vic remains one of the most important theaters in the world," John said.

In a statement distributed earlier to reporters, Spacey said his relationship with the Old Vic began during boyhood trips to London with his parents.

"I remember seeing Shakespeare and other productions on the Old Vic stage," Spacey said.

"To have grown up to act on the stage itself was a dream come true. To find myself in the role of director of the Old Vic Theatre is beyond my wildest imaginings."

Spacey has said the Old Vic "continues to be the favourite theatre I've probably ever played in."

Some of Britain's elite thespians have tread the boards at the historic theatre, including Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Alec Guinness, Vivien Leigh, Judi Dench and Maggie Smith.

But the Old Vic, built in 1818, is decaying and needs repairs. The roof leaks, walls have grown mould and cracks can be seen between the bricks and masonry.

The Old Vic Theatre Trust 2000 was set up to save the 1,000-seat building from being turned into a bingo hall by a potential buyer.

Theatregoers have paid up to 1,000 to attend Wednesday evening's event, raising what organisers hope will be a total of 700,000.

Among those reported to appear are Sinead O'Connor, rising British star Ms. Dynamite, Sharleen Spiteri from Scottish band Texas, Lulu, Canadian jazz star Diana Krall and her new partner, Elvis Costello.

Also expected to appear is singer Courtney Love, who was arrested as her flight landed at London's Heathrow airport on Tuesday. (Full Story)

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