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Spacey unveils first season at Old Vic



Story by Jack Foley

IT MAY have been a torrid week for Hollywood actor, Kevin Spacey, on a personal level, but he finished it on a high, by unveiling his first ever season as artistic director of London’s Old Vic Theatre.

The Oscar-winning star of films such as American Beauty and The Usual Suspects maintained that theatre was now his priority, before putting forward several mouth-watering prospects for his coming season.

Among them is Sir Ian McKellen’s appearance as the pantomime dame, Widow Twanky, in a production of Aladdin, and a revival of The Philadelphia Story, for which Spacey is rumoured to be courting some big Hollywood names.

Needless to say, the 44-year-old actor did have to fend off intrusive questions about his private life, following the revelation that he had been mugged of his mobile phone in a London park during the early hours of the morning, while out walking his dog.

But he dismissed them with suitable aplomb, joking that he was simply honouring a deal with David Beckham, in a bid to get the football star off the front pages for a while. Although contrary to some rumours, he added, Beckham had not made a donation towards the theatre’s funds.

But once the tabloids had been put in their place, the actor got on with the serious business of unveiling the programme, which certainly looks to have honoured his promise to bring serious, quality theatre to the historic venue.

Together with producer, David Liddiment, he announced details of four productions, two of them British premieres. He will also direct one, and appear in two others.

Aside from the presence of McKellen, however, there were no big names, or ‘stunt names’, announced, as Spacey maintained that ‘it would be impossible to be in any discussions with any actress’, until a director was named.

It is thought that the revival of The Philadelphia Story could be the one to attract a Hollywood star, but even though Spacey acknowledged there ‘are some beautiful women out there’, he candidly hinted that ‘this could also be a role for an unknown’.

"There is a responsibility to put bums on seats, but we are not into stunt casting," he added.

Spacey also said that while there were no Shakespeare plays in his first season, classic works would feature in future.

"There are some remarkable Shakespearean parts I want to tackle," he said. "But we felt our primary goal was to create an exciting season of work."

The four productions are:

l Cloaca (September 16 - December 11, 2004) - A new play, by Maria Goos, whom Spacey credited with being ‘a writer at the peak of her game who is completely unknown outside her native Holland’. Spacey will direct a cast including Neil Pearson and Stephen Tompkinson, of Drop the Dead Donkey.

l Aladdin (December 17, 2004 - January 22, 2005) - Sean Mathias will direct the ‘classic family pantomime’, with Sir Ian McKellen fulfilling a lifetime ambition, and appearing as Widow Twanky. It is sure to be a huge Christmas hit. Said Spacey: "It's unusual that you get a sir and a dame in the same night."

l National Anthems (February 1 - April 23, 2005) - This production will mark Spacey's first acting role at the Old Vic, as well as the UK premiere of Dennis McIntyre’s 1988 play. Spacey told reporters that he had performed this play, in 1989, and felt so strongly about it, that he has ‘held onto the rights ever since’.

l The Philadelphia Story (May 3 - July 23, 2005) - The second of Spacey’s star turns, in Philip Barry's Broadway comedy, famously turned into the 1940 feature film, starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn.

Concluding the round-up, the actor said it would be ‘a fantastic and fun way to finish off our first season’, before stressing that the Hepburn role had yet to be cast.

Film fans fearing that the star was about to give up his Hollywood connections and turn his back on movies, however, were reassured that Spacey would still devote some of his time to that medium - most notably in the form of Beyond The Sea, his biopic on the singer, Bobby Darin, which co-stars Kate Bosworth.

However, ,the Old Vic Theatre Company and his Trigger Street production company will be his ‘primary focus’, as he seeks to honour the commitments he made upon being appointed artistic director - a role he has relished ever since he first visited the London venue.

"I don't view coming here as running away from anything; it will be extraordinarily satisfying and bring me great happiness," he concluded.

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