Spacey invests heavily to save the Old Vic

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The Independent Culture

The Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey is investing a six-figure sum to help save the Old Vic theatre in London.

The Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey is investing a six-figure sum to help save the Old Vic theatre in London.

The actor flew to London and hosted a lunch on his 41st birthday yesterday to spell out plans to invest in new productions at the venue. The star of American Beauty also divulged that one of his next movie projects would be playing the late American singer Bobby Darin. Spacey will sing in the movie and is raising the money for the project himself.

During the lunch at The Ivy restaurant, much loved by the media and movie set, Sam Mendes, who directed American Beauty, walked in, hugged Spacey and had a private five-minute conversation with him. Spacey refused to say whether they had discussed a follow-up to American Beauty.

The actor said he had a love affair with the Old Vic ever since he was first taken there by his parents at the age of five. He has kept all the theatre programmes from his visits, and acted there himself to acclaim in The Iceman Cometh. He is now a director of The Old Vic Trust and has helped to set up the new company Old Vic Productions.

He would not say exactly how much of his own money he was putting in, but when asked if it was £100,000 he replied: "Much more than that."

The Old Vic, which numbers Peter Mandelson, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, among the associate directors of its Trust, is trying to raise £1m for a new tranche of productions and will offer potential "angels" the incentive of sitting in on play readings and coming to first-night cast parties. The Old Vic's chief executive, Sally Greene, hopes to set up a permanent company at the theatre and transfer productions to Broadway.

Spacey promised yesterday that he would appear in future Old Vic productions and said he was acting as a "go-between" in talks between British and American Equity, the actors' unions, to ease restrictions on actors moving across the Atlantic. He added he was keen to link up again with Mendes, this time on stage. "I'm going to try to convince him to do a play with me," he said.

"I would love to do a comedy with him. I would also very much like to act with Peter O'Toole, though I hear he can be a bit naughty on stage. He would probably start me giggling."

Spacey said the challenge for the Old Vic was not just to "rest on its tradition", but to build a future with new works and updated versions of existing plays. He also added his voice to recent criticism of the trend for "event theatre", which sometimes means Hollywood stars being cast in British stage productions. "There's a difference, I would say, between celebrity casting and casting actors who are great in the roles," he said.

Old Vic Productions, whose chairman is Lord Attenborough, is offering a stake in its running to anyone who invests a minimum of £2,000.