Kevin Spacey
Spacey at South Street Seaport in 2009
Kevin Spacey Fowler

(1959-07-26) July 26, 1959 (age 64)
Alma materJuilliard School
Occupation(s)Actor, director, producer, comedian
Years active1986–present

Kevin Spacey Fowler KBE (born July 26, 1959) is an American actor, film director, producer, and comedian. He began his career as a stage actor during the 1980s before obtaining supporting roles in film and television. He gained critical acclaim in the early 1990s that culminated in his first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the neo-noir crime thriller The Usual Suspects (1995), and an Academy Award for Best Actor for midlife crisis-themed drama American Beauty (1999).

His other starring roles have included the psychological thriller Seven (1995), the neo-noir crime film L.A. Confidential (1997), the drama Pay It Forward (2000), the science fiction-mystery film K-PAX (2001), and the role of Lex Luthor in the superhero film Superman Returns (2006).

He was the artistic director of the Old Vic theatre in London since 2004 until stepping down in mid-2015. Since 2013, Spacey has played Frank Underwood in the Netflix political drama series House of Cards. For his role as Underwood, he has won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama.

Early life

Spacey was born in South Orange, New Jersey, to Kathleen Ann (née Knutson; December 5, 1931 – March 19, 2003), a secretary, and Thomas Geoffrey Fowler (June 4, 1924 – December 24, 1992), a technical writer and data consultant.[1][2][3] He has two older siblings: a sister, Julie, and a brother, Randy. He has Swedish (from his maternal grandfather), English, and Welsh ancestry.[4] His family relocated to Southern California when Spacey was 4 years old.[5] He attended Northridge Military Academy, Canoga Park High School (in tenth and eleventh grades), and then Chatsworth High School in Chatsworth, Los Angeles, California where he graduated valedictorian of his class.[6][7]

At Chatsworth, Spacey starred in the school's senior production of The Sound of Music, playing the part of Captain Georg von Trapp with Mare Winningham as Maria von Trapp. He took "Spacey" (his middle name and his paternal grandmother's maiden name) as his stage name.[3][8] Several reports have incorrectly suggested that he took his name in tribute to actor Spencer Tracy, combining Tracy's first and last names.[8] He had tried to succeed as a comedian for several years, before attending the Juilliard School in New York City, where he studied drama,[9] between 1979 and 1981. During this time period, Spacey performed stand-up comedy in bowling alley talent contests.[10]



Spacey's first professional stage appearance was as a spear carrier in a New York Shakespeare Festival performance of Henry VI, part 1 in 1981. The following year, he made his first Broadway appearance, as Oswald in a production of Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts, starring Liv Ullmann. Then he portrayed Philinte in Molière's The Misanthrope. In 1984, he appeared in a production of David Rabe's Hurlyburly, in which he rotated through each of the male parts (he would later play Mickey in the film version). Next came Anton Chekhov's The Seagull. In 1986, he appeared in a production of Sleuth in a New Jersey dinner theatre.[11]

His prominence as a stage actor began in 1986, when he was cast opposite Jack Lemmon, Peter Gallagher and Bethel Leslie as Jamie, the eldest Tyrone son in Jonathan Miller's lauded production of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night. Lemmon in particular would become a mentor to Spacey.[12] He made his first major television appearance in the second season premiere of Crime Story, playing a Kennedy-esque American senator. Although his interest soon turned to film, Spacey remained actively involved in the live theater community. In 1991, he won a Tony Award for his portrayal of Uncle Louie in Neil Simon's Broadway hit Lost in Yonkers. Spacey's father was unconvinced that Spacey could make a career for himself as an actor, and did not change his mind until Spacey became well-known.[10]

Some of Spacey's early roles include a widowed eccentric millionaire on L.A. Law, the television miniseries The Murder of Mary Phagan (1988), opposite Lemmon, and the comedy See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989). He earned a fan base after playing the criminally insane arms dealer Mel Profitt on the television series Wiseguy. He quickly developed a reputation as a character actor, and was cast in bigger roles, including one-half of a bickering Connecticut couple in the dark comedy film The Ref (1994), a malicious Hollywood studio boss in the satire Swimming with Sharks, and the malevolent office manager in the ensemble film Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), gaining him positive notices by critics. His performance as the enigmatic criminal Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects won him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.[9]

Spacey appeared in the 1995 thriller film Seven, making a sudden entrance late in the film as the serial killer John Doe after going unmentioned in the film's advertisements and opening credits. His work in Seven, The Usual Suspects, and Outbreak earned him Best Supporting Actor honors at the 1995 Society of Texas Film Critics Awards.[13][14] He remarked in 2013: "I think people just like me evil for some reason. They want me to be a son of a bitch."[15]

Spacey in 2006

Spacey played an egomaniacal district attorney in A Time to Kill (1996), and founded Trigger Street Productions in 1997, with the purpose of producing and developing entertainment across various media. He made his directorial debut with the film Albino Alligator (1996). The film was a failure at the box office, grossing $339,379 with a budget of $6 million, but critics praised Spacey's direction. He also did voice work in Pixar's A Bug's Life (1998) voicing Hopper, the leader of a vicious gang of grasshoppers.[11]


Spacey won universal praise and a Best Actor Oscar for his role as a depressed suburban father who re-evaluates his life in 1999's American Beauty;[9] the same year, he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Spacey won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor and earned another Tony nomination in 1999 for The Iceman Cometh. In 2001, Spacey co-hosted, with Judi Dench, the Unite for the Future Gala, a UK fundraiser for the British Victims of 9/11 and Médecins Sans Frontières at London's Old Vic Theatre, produced by Harvey Goldsmith and Dominic Madden.[16]

He played a physically and emotionally scarred grade school teacher in Pay It Forward (2000), a patient in a mental institution who may or may not be an alien in K-Pax (2001), and singer Bobby Darin in Beyond the Sea (2004). The latter was a lifelong dream project for Spacey, who took on co-writing, directing, co-producing, and starring duties in the biography/musical about Darin's life, career, and relationship with actress Sandra Dee. Facing little interest for backing in the United States, Spacey went to the United Kingdom and Germany for funding. Almost all of the film was made in Berlin.[12] Spacey provided his own vocals on the Beyond the Sea soundtrack and appeared in several tribute concerts around the time of the film's release. He received mostly positive reviews for his singing, as well as a Golden Globe nomination for his performance. However, reviewers criticized the age disparity between Spacey and Darin, noting that Spacey was too old to convincingly portray Darin, particularly during the early stages of the singer's life depicted in the film.[17]

Spacey at HBO Post Emmys Party, 2008

Spacey hosted Saturday Night Live twice: first in 1997 with musical guest Beck and special guests Michael Palin and John Cleese from Monty Python's Flying Circus, and again in May 2006 with musical guest Nelly Furtado. In 2006, Spacey played Lex Luthor in the Bryan Singer superhero film Superman Returns. He was to return for its 2009 sequel, but the series was instead rebooted with 2013 film Man of Steel. Jesse Eisenberg has since replaced Spacey as Luthor for Man of Steel's 2015 sequel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.[18]

Spacey also appeared in Edison, which received a direct-to-video release in 2006. In 2008, he played an MIT lecturer in the film 21. The film is based on Ben Mezrich's best seller Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions, a story of student MIT card-counters who used mathematical probability to aid them in card games such as blackjack. In early 2010, Spacey went to China to star in writer-director Dayyan Eng's black comedy film Inseparable, becoming the first Hollywood actor to star in a fully Chinese-funded film.[19]

Spacey is well known in Hollywood for his impressions. When he appeared on Inside the Actors Studio, he imitated (at host James Lipton's request) James Stewart, Johnny Carson, Katharine Hepburn, Clint Eastwood, John Gielgud, Marlon Brando, Christopher Walken, Al Pacino, and Jack Lemmon.[20] As a young actor in New York City, he used his skill to pretend to be Carson's son to obtain free theater tickets and enter Studio 54.[21]

Capitol/EMI's album Forever Cool (2007) features two duets with Spacey and the voice of the late Dean Martin: "Ain't That a Kick in the Head" and "King of the Road". Spacey is a patron of the Shakespeare Schools Festival, a charity that enables school children across the UK to perform Shakespeare in professional theatres.[22] He also sits on the Board of Directors of the Motion Picture and Television Fund.[23]

On March 18, 2011, it was announced that Spacey was cast as Frank Underwood in the Netflix series House of Cards.[24] He was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series at the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards in 2013 becoming the first lead actor to be Primetime Emmy nominated from a web television series.[25] He eventually went on to win the Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Television Series Drama at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards and Screen Actors Guild nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series at the 21st Screen Actors Guild Awards for his season 2 performance.[26][27]

In July 2011, Spacey co-starred in the black comedy film Horrible Bosses, which grossed over $209.6 million at the box office.[28] He executive produced the biographical survival thriller film Captain Phillips in 2013, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.[29][30]

Spacey portrayed founder and president of the private military corporation Atlas Corporation, Jonathan Irons, in the 2014 video game Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare through motion capture.[31][32] He became chairman of Relativity Media's film division, Relativity Studios, on January 6, 2016 after Relativity acquired his production company Trigger Street Productions.[33]

The Old Vic

Spacey in 2006

In February 2003, Spacey announced that he was returning to London to become the artistic director of the Old Vic, one of the city's oldest theatres.[34] Appearing at a press conference with Judi Dench and Elton John, he promised both to appear on stage and to bring in big-name talent.[35] Spacey undertook to remain in the post for a full ten years. The Old Vic Theatre Company staged shows eight months out of the year. Spacey's first season started in September 2004, and opened with the British premiere of the play Cloaca by Maria Goos, directed by Spacey, which opened to mixed reviews.[36] In the 2005 season, Spacey made his UK Shakespearean debut, to good notices, in the title role of Richard II directed by Trevor Nunn.[36]

In mid-2006, Spacey said that he was having the time of his life working at the Old Vic; at that point in his career, he said, he was "trying to do things now that are much bigger and outside himself".[37] He performed in productions of National Anthems by Dennis McIntyre, and The Philadelphia Story by Philip Barry in which he played C.K. Dexter Haven, the Cary Grant role in the film version. Critics applauded Spacey for taking on the management of a theatre, but noted that while his acting was impressive, his skills and judgment as a producer/manager had yet to develop.[38]

In the 2006 season, Spacey suffered a major setback with a production of Arthur Miller's Resurrection Blues, directed by Robert Altman.[39] Despite an all-star cast (including Matthew Modine and future House of Cards co-star Neve Campbell) and the pedigree of Miller's script, Spacey's decision to lure Altman to the stage proved disastrous: after a fraught rehearsal period, the play opened to a critical panning, and closed after only a few weeks.[37] Later in the year, Spacey starred in Eugene O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten, along with Colm Meaney and Eve Best. The play received excellent reviews for Spacey and Best, and was transferred to Broadway in 2007. For the spring part of the 2007–08 season, Jeff Goldblum and Laura Michelle Kelly joined Spacey as the three characters in David Mamet's 1988 play Speed-the-Plow.[40]

In January 2009, he directed the premiere of Joe Sutton's Complicit, with Richard Dreyfuss, David Suchet and Elizabeth McGovern.[38]

In September 2009, Trevor Nunn directed Spacey in a revival of Inherit The Wind. Spacey played defense lawyer Henry Drummond, a role that was made famous by Spencer Tracy in the 1960 film of the same name.[38]

Sam Mendes directed Spacey in a Shakespeare's Richard III; Spacey played the title role. The show began in June 2011, commencing a worldwide tour culminating in New York in early 2012.[41] In March 2014, it was announced that Spacey would star in a one-man play at the Old Vic to celebrate his 10 years as artistic director. He took on the part of Clarence Darrow in the play.[42]


Spacey's brick in front of the Lucas Theater in Savannah, Georgia, US

Spacey was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters (Hon.Litt.D.) from the London South Bank University in November 2005.[43]

In June 2008, he was appointed as Cameron Mackintosh Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theatre at St Catherine's College, Oxford, succeeding Patrick Stewart in the post. He was officially welcomed on October 13, 2008.[44]

On 3 November 2010, he was appointed an Honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Prince Charles at Clarence House, on behalf of the Queen, for services to drama.[45] Spacey was promoted to an Honorary Knight Commander of the same Order (KBE) in the 2015 Queen's Birthday Honours for services to theatre, arts education and international culture.[46][47] As he is not a British or Commonwealth subject, he does not have the right to use the title of 'Sir', but can use the post-nominal letters 'KBE'. After hearing the news, Spacey said that he felt like “an adopted son” on being recognised for services to international culture.[48]

On 12 April 2015, he received a Special Olivier Award recognising his contribution to British theatre during his eleven-year tenure as Artistic Director of The Old Vic.[49]

Personal life

A 1999 Sunday Times article stated that Spacey's "love affair with acting, and the absence of a visible partner in the life of an attractive 40-year-old, has resulted in misunderstanding and Esquire magazine's bet-hedging assertion two years ago that he must be gay".[50] He responded to such rumors by telling Playboy and other interviewers that he was not gay,[51] and telling Lesley White of the Sunday Times, "I chose for a long time not to answer these questions because of the manner in which they were asked, and because I was never talking to someone I trusted, so why should I? Recently I chose to participate because it's a little hard on the people I love."[50]

In an interview with Gotham, Spacey said, "I've just never believed in pimping my personal life out for publicity. I'm not interested in doing it. Never will do it. They can gossip all they want; they can speculate all they want. I just happen to believe that there's a public life and there's a private life. Everybody has a right to a private life no matter what their profession is."[52] In 2000, he took his girlfriend of several years to the Academy Awards and thanked her during the acceptance speech for his Best Actor award.[52] Reports in 1999 and 2000 suggested that she was a script supervisor named Dianne Dreyer.[52][53][54][55]

In September 2006, Spacey said that he intends to take up British citizenship when it becomes available to him.[56][57] He is a Democrat and a friend of Bill Clinton, having met the former U.S. President before his presidency began. He described Clinton as "one of the shining lights" of the political process.[10] According to Federal Election Commission data, as of 2006, Spacey had contributed $42,000 to Democratic candidates and committees.[58] He additionally made a cameo appearance in the short film President Clinton: Final Days, a light-hearted political satire produced by the Clinton administration for the White House Correspondents Dinner.[59]

In September 2007, Spacey met Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. Neither spoke to the press about their encounter, but hours later, Spacey visited the government-funded film studio Villa del Cine.[60] In December 2007, he co-hosted the Nobel Peace Prize Concert with Uma Thurman.[61] In March 2011, following Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko's crackdown on the Belarusian democracy movement, Spacey joined Jude Law and others in street protests against Lukashenko.[62]



Year Title Role Notes
1986 Heartburn Subway Thief
1988 Working Girl Bob Speck
1988 Rocket Gibraltar Dwayne Hanson
1989 Dad Mario
1989 See No Evil, Hear No Evil Kirgo
1991 Henry & June Richard Osborn
1991 Darrow Clarence Darrow
1991 A Show of Force Frank Curtin
1992 Consenting Adults Eddy Otis Nominated – Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor
1992 Glengarry Glen Ross John Williamson
1994 The Ref Lloyd Chasseur
1994 Iron Will Harry Kingsley
1995 Seven John Doe
1995 The Usual Suspects Roger "Verbal" Kint
1995 Swimming with Sharks Buddy Ackerman
1995 Outbreak Major Casey Schuler
1996 Looking for Richard Himself
Duke of Buckingham
1996 A Time to Kill District Attorney Rufus Buckley
1997 Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil James "Jim" Williams Society of Texas Film Critics Award for Best Actor
1997 L.A. Confidential Detective Sergeant Jack Vincennes
1997 Albino Alligator Director
1998 Hurlyburly Mickey
1998 The Negotiator Lieutenant Chris Sabian
1998 A Bug's Life Hopper Voice
1999 American Beauty Lester Burnham
2000 Ordinary Decent Criminal Michael Lynch Also producer
2000 Pay It Forward Eugene Simonet
2000 The Big Kahuna Larry Mann Also producer
2001 The Shipping News Quoyle
2001 K-PAX Prot / Robert Porter Nominated – Saturn Award for Best Actor
2001 Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure Narrator Voice
2002 Austin Powers in Goldmember Himself Playing Dr. Evil in a film
2003 The Life of David Gale David Gale
2004 Beyond the Sea Bobby Darin
2004 The United States of Leland Albert T. Fitzgerald Also producer
2006 Edison Wallace Direct-to-video
2006 Superman Returns Lex Luthor
2007 Fred Claus Clyde Northcut
2007 Hackers Wanted Narrator / Himself Unreleased - Leaked in 2010
2008 21 Mickey Rosa
2009 Shrink Henry Carter
2009 Telstar Major Banks
2009 Moon Robot ("Gerty") Voice
2009 The Men Who Stare at Goats Larry Hooper
2010 Father of Invention Robert Axle
2010 Casino Jack Jack Abramoff Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy\
2010 The Social Network Executive producer
2011 Margin Call Sam Rogers
2011 Horrible Bosses Dave Harken
2011 Inseparable Chuck Wall Street Journal's Top 10 Most Notable Asian Films of 2011
2012 Envelope Evgeniy Petrov
2013 Captain Phillips Executive producer
2014 Horrible Bosses 2 Dave Harken
2014 Unity Narrator Documentary
2014 NOW: In the Wings on a World Stage Richard, Duke of Gloucester Documentary
2015 Elvis & Nixon Richard Nixon Filming
2016 Nine Lives Filming
2016 Billionaire Boys Club Ron Levin Filming
2017 Boss Baby Voice


Year Title Role Notes
1987 The Equalizer Detective Sgt. Cole Episode: "Solo"
1987 Crime Story Senator Rourke Episode: "The Senator, the Movie Star, and the Mob"
1988 Wiseguy Mel Profitt 7 episodes
1989 Unsub Benton Episode: "Clean Slate"
1990 When You Remember Me Wade Television film
1990 Fall from Grace Jim Bakker Television film
1992 L.A. Law Giles Keenan Episode: "Guess Who's Coming Murder"
1993 TriBeCa Chris Boden Episode: "Heros Exoletus"
1994 Doomsday Gun Jim Price Television film
1997, 2006 Saturday Night Live Himself (host) 2 episodes
2008 Recount Ron Klain Television film
2013–present House of Cards Francis "Frank" Underwood Main role; also executive producer
2013 2014 Breakthrough Prize Ceremony Himself (host) TV special
2014 The Colbert Report Frank Underwood Episode: "1,394"
2014 The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Himself Played the game "Wheel of Impressions," doing Halloween-themed impressions of Johnny Carson, Christopher Walken, Bill Clinton, and Michael Caine, October 31, 2014[64][65]
2015 The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Himself Played in a game called "Phone Booth" (August 14, 2015)[66]
2015 The Late Show with Stephen Colbert Himself Did impressions of James Stewart[67][68][69]

Video games

Year Title Voice Notes
2006 Superman Returns Lex Luthor
2014 Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Jonathan Irons[31][70] Motion capture[31]
Nominated – BAFTA Games Award for Best Performer
Nominated – The Game Award for Best Performance



Year Title Notes
2004 Beyond the Sea Nominated – Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media
with Phil Ramone


Year Title Notes
1997 "That Old Black Magic"[71] From the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil soundtrack

Live performances


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