Kevin Spacey Fowler, KBE (born July 26, 1959), better known as Kevin Spacey, is an American actor, film director, writer, 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).
During a career which has also earned Spacey several Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, 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 has been artistic director of the Old Vic theatre in London since 2004, and is stepping down 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.
Spacey was born in South Orange, New Jersey, the son of 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. He has two older siblings: a sister, Julie, and a brother, Randy. He has Swedish (from his maternal grandfather), English, and Welsh ancestry. His family relocated to Southern California when Spacey was 4 years old. 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.
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. Several reports have incorrectly suggested that he took his name in tribute to actor Spencer Tracy, combining Tracy’s first and last names. He had tried to succeed as a comedian for several years, before attending the Juilliard School in New York City, where he studied drama, between 1979 and 1981. During this time period, Spacey performed stand-up comedy in bowling alley talent contests.
Spacey was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters (Hon.Litt.D.) from the London South Bank University in November 2005.
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.
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. 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. 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.
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.
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”. He responded to such rumors by telling Playboy and other interviewers that he was not gay, 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.”
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.” 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. Reports in 1999 and 2000 suggested that she was a script supervisor named Dianne Dreyer.
In September 2006, Spacey said that he intends to take up British citizenship when it becomes available to him. 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. According to Federal Election Commission data, as of 2006, Spacey had contributed $42,000 to Democratic candidates and committees. 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.
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. In December 2007, he co-hosted the Nobel Peace Prize Concert with Uma Thurman. 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.