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Academy Award winning actor and first-time director Kevin Spacey was in Brisbane to present Albino Alligator at the Brisbane International Film Festival, prior to its national release on August 28, 1997. Spacey gave a polished performance at his press conference, with his engaging manner and an obvious enthusiasm for his art. DAVID EDWARDS reports:

Spacey first saw the script of Albino Alligator in October 1994. He had been looking around for a script to direct for some time. At that time it was in a very different form. In the original draft, everyone died. "I mean everyone died" Spacey said, "Even the TV reporter died." Spacey then met with the writer and developed the script. Part of that development was to explore and emphasise the moral dilemmas faced by the characters, particularly the question of how far a person is prepared to go to stay alive, and what they are prepared to live with.

Albino Alligator got an immediate green light and was shot in 34 days with a budget of US$ 5 million. The cast and crew did the film "for love, not money." It was labelled an "indie" project. Spacey says that "independence" in that sense is something of a state of mind. However, he believes there will always be a place for independents to make smaller-budget, but interesting and provocative films.

The film certainly has violent content, but Spacey says that he wanted to show the audience that "real violence has consequences". To that end, he wanted to treat the violence realistically, but not to actually show it on screen. So there are only two or three scenes of depicted violence in Albino Alligator. The rest of the violence is implied by the use of sound - or left to the imagination.

In a reference to some big-budget Hollywood productions, Spacey noted that some had treated violence as a cartoon. "I mean, if 37 people get blown up in the first reel, it is a joke, and is presented as such."

SID SAID . . .

In making the film, Spacey sought the advice of the legendary Sidney Lumet. He saw parallels with Lumetís classic film, Twelve Angry Men, which like Albino Alligator, takes place essentially in one room. Although budget restrictions prevented the use of some of the techniques used by Lumet in his film - such as building the set on wheels, so that as the film progressed, the walls could literally close in on the characters - Spacey was able to gain valuable tips from Lumet on creating an atmosphere of claustrophobia.

Drawing on his extensive theatre experience, Spacey first rehearsed his cast and then shot the bar scenes, in which the majority of the film takes place, in chronological sequence. The experience was, he says, a pleasant one. Next to acting in the theatre, directing Albino Alligator was his "most satisfying experience".

The transition from actor to director did not create much difficulty for Spacey. He said that as an actor, he always tried to understand what a writer was trying to achieve with a script. As director, he adopted the same approach, but with the larger task of having to deliver the vision of the script in its totality.

Spacey has just wrapped shooting Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, directed by Clint Eastwood (pictured). He describes Eastwood as "one of the most Zen directors Iíve ever worked with" and came to appreciate that a director doesnít have to say a lot provided he is "speaking your language".


On Midnight..., Spacey worked with Australian actor Jack Thompson. He has also recently completed L.A. Confidential with Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe (pictured). Of course, he has also worked with Judy Davis (on The Ref). He therefore has something of a history of working with Australian actors.

Spacey praised the work of Pearce and Crowe on L.A. Confidential, saying that the pair will be "known by the rest of the world" after the film is released.

Given his associations with Australians over the years, Spacey said he had wanted to come here for some time, but had not had the opportunity. Asked about possibly making a film in Australia, Spacey said that he hadnít found the right script yet, but it "wouldnít take much" to entice him back.

Spacey, of course, has a reputation for playing what he describes as "dark" characters. Responding to a question about whether he would "ever play a nice guy", Spacey explained that he had 16 years in theatre and film playing characters other than those in the "dark area" which had become prominent in that last few years. Spacey (who had something of a comic turn in The Ref) says that he would like to play comedy again, but the trouble was that much of the comedy in scripts he had seen was at "such a low level". As a result, he had passed on projects which ended up being very successful financially. He would however keep looking for the right script.

Whether Spacey gets the opportunity to do that is rather doubtful. He says that he would like to pursue his first love, theatre. He is soon to appear in a London production of The Iceman Cometh. But he would like to direct plays. Spacey describes it as "very difficult to get plays going in the US". Notwithstanding, he says that he may stop doing films in 3 to 5 years in order to direct theatre full time. The commitment required to do so is such that Spacey feels he could not do it "piecemeal."


Discussing his awards, Spacey said that the important thing was to acknowledge and honour the people who gave them by not doing things that demean them. He doesnít want to be one of the actors about whom people say "Whatever happened to..."

Spacey says that, apart from Lumet, he particularly admires the work of Stanley Kramer and John Huston. Asked how he felt about the comparisons being made between Albino Alligator and some of the films of Quentin Tarantino, he said that he thought people tended to reference too much, and that a film should be discussed on its own merits.

He named other directors with whom he would like to work as Martin Scorsese and Stanley Kubrick. "I would play a fly for him" he said of the latter. So far as other actors are concerned Spacey said that he would like to work with Judy Davis again (pictured in Absolute Power), Meryl Streep, William Hurt and Mare Winningham, with whom he had gone to high school.

Kevin Spacey, while in Australia to promote Albino Alligator is also taking a little rest and recreation in north Queensland.

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