Q&A: Kevin Spacey

21’s star-producer talks Superman, gambling and Vegas, baby…

Your company Trigger Street produced 21. What was the appeal?

I just always thought that this was a ripe story for a film and as long as 15 years ago, I started to hear rumours from friends in Boston that there were these kids from MIT who were making money in Vegas. But it was like an urban myth. Then about five years ago, my business partner saw a cover story in Wired magazine about these kids. So we flew the writer out to Los Angeles and strong-armed him into giving us the rights.

Admit it: you just wanted an excuse to hang out in Vegas…

Everybody has that fantasy of going to Vegas and winning a pot of gold. It always reminded me of Risky Business. It’s about a young person who suddenly finds a way to make a lot of money and then corruption and greed and all the stuff that comes with that is thrown at him.

Did you meet the real MIT math-whizzes involved in the scam?

We took research trips to Vegas with them! They’re very unassuming guys. We’ve obviously gussied it up in the film but they’ll sit around and tell you, “Oh yeah, that night we made $450,ooo at one table and then we went over to that casino and made another $250,000,” and you’re just like, “Are you < i >kidding</i/> me?” One of them, Jeff Ma who the Ben character is based on, has a little cameo as one of the dealers.

Did you win any cash while they were around?

They’re not allowed to play but they were allowed to stand behind us while we played. Every time Jeff Ma wanted me to up my bet, he would sort of nudge my chair. And I won every single hand. It was great.

Is shooting a film in Sin City as much fun as it seems?

No, it’s just work. I didn’t gamble the entire time I was there shooting the movie. So it wasn’t like a party. Well, I think it was for some of the kids because they hadn’t been to Vegas before. I think a lot of them went out and lost their shirt and I’m sure Josh Gad [who plays Miles Connoly] was drinking every night.

Is it just coincidence that you keep making movies with Kate Bosworth?

I know everybody thinks that I’ve been insisting on Kate being in movies. I had nothing to do with her being in Superman, I had very little to do with her being in 21 except to say, “Yeah, she’s great.” And frankly it’s kind of nice because very often in film you work with somebody who you get along with and then you never work with them again. So it’s a happy circumstance that we find ourselves doing it for a third time.

Are you still as interested in film acting as you were, say, a decade ago?

If it’s a good part and if I’m working with people who I think have a good story to tell, yeah, absolutely. I mean, look, I have nothing to apologise for for wanting to make movies every now and then that are just fun or [offer me] the ability to make some money. Because if anybody thinks I’m in London making money running a theatre, they’re wrong. But my priority has shifted. I spent 12 years focused on having a film career; I just didn’t want to spend my time doing that anymore. I wanted to dedicate myself to something that was bigger than my own ambitions. That’s what I’ve been doing with the Old Vic and I’m incredibly satisfied doing it.

Are you excited about working with Bryan Singer again on the next Superman?

If it happens!

He’s said he’s doing it. Hasn’t he spoken to you?

Understand this: I’m contractually obligated to do a second movie, if they make it. But so far no one’s told me if we’re making it so… I’ll be there if they call and say, “Come on down.” But definitely, it would be great fun to work with Bryan again. Aside from the fact that it was my first big tentpole Hollywood movie, he’s just a genius and it was a pleasure to be a part of it.

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