BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Kevin Spacey is grateful for his two Academy Awards. But he also is grateful for the absence of Oscar hype before his movies come out.
The 42-year-old actor has nothing against the little gold men. With K-PAX, and The Shipping News set to open here on Christmas, talk about nominations may come up.
It's just Spacey wants the buzz generated by folks who actually have seen the movies, and not by publicity machines. "If a film earns a place of merit in people's ... hearts, then [the buzz] will come honestly," he said.
Spacey is most famous for winning a best actor Oscar as the suburban dad in 1999's American Beauty, and a best supporting actor Oscar as a con man in 1995's The Usual Suspects.
But studios would be ill-advised to use his Academy cache in their marketing. The weepy dud Pay It Forward, in which Spacey's schoolteacher inspires a young boy's do-good campaign, was a prime example. "Unfortunately, they used the Oscar bait before the movie was seen," Spacey said.
Wearing a black leather sports jacket and bags under his eyes, Spacey sipped a tall coffee to get through a recent press day at the Four Seasons Hotel.
In The Shipping News, which is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by E. Annie Proulx, Spacey plays Quoyle, a novice newspaperman. He said the character is a complete departure for him because Quoyle doesn't have a cynical, ironic bone in his body.
Spacey's mild looks are spiced up with viper intensity and a hustler's charm. Jeff Bridges, who co-stars in K-PAX, said Spacey brought a contagious joy to his work. And another K-PAX co-star, Mary McCormack, described Spacey like this: "There's a secret in his eye and a smirk under his face."
The actor never knows when he'll want to pull something new from his bag of tricks - such as his heretofore unexpected ability to carry a tune. Earlier this fall, he shocked viewers and Yoko Ono with a spirited rendition of "Mind Games" at the John Lennon/Sept. 11 benefit. "I wanted to do something surprising and uplifting because New York really needed something," said Spacey.
And that's not the actor's only outreach effort. His production company made The Big Kahuna (1999) with a first-time writer and director, and is looking for more new talent. "I think there's a big responsibility that if you have reached a certain point in your life, where you can, it is your duty to send the elevator back down," he said.