Politics as Pop Culture

Kevin Spacey on 'The Diane Rehm Show': 'Casino Jack' And Other High Rollers

Kevin Spacey in 'Casino Jack'

hide captionProblems with the process: Kevin Spacey, whose Jack Abramoff runs afoul of authorities in the new political drama Casino Jack, tells Diane Rehm what he thinks of American-style electioneering. (And he serves up a few of his justifiably famous impressions, too.)

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If you've seen Beyond the Sea, you know Kevin Spacey can bust out a standard. And if you've managed to track down that legendary Saturday Night Live video, legit copies of which seem to be in short supply online, you know he does a heck of an Al Pacino impersonation.

This morning, our colleagues Lisa Dunn and Monique Nazareth over at The Diane Rehm Show gave us a heads-up about a couple of Class A impressions the actor served up upon request — a request via the DRShow's Facebook page, no less. He does his Johnny Carson and his Katharine Hepburn, which I'd heard, and his Bill Clinton, which I hadn't, and which turns out to be pretty hysterical.

He also tells the very sweet story of his long, somewhat lopsided correspondence with Hepburn, and of an enviable stage-door encounter when Spacey was still a star-struck, bouquet-carrying drama student. (Hepburn was apparently a brick about it, which may help explain Spacey's own reputation for being decent to his fans.)

And he previews his newest impersonation — the voice of God himself, you might say. Here's the audio:

(Devoted Spacey cadets, of course, will be able to direct you to this YouTube hit, which makes it apparent that the gentleman's gift isn't merely a verbal one: the Stewart face, the Carson elbow and the Hepburn wobble are dead-on, and the Brando is hilarious. But be sure to stick around for the body language that goes with the Pacino. Because: "Oh, funny.")

The actor, based in London these days but traveling Stateside to talk about the Jack Abramoff biopic Casino Jack, also let Diane Rehm draw him out on the topic of campaign ads and their distorting effect on the political process.

"I believe in politics," Spacey says. "I believe in public service." But the cost of advertising corrupts things, he argues, and he wishes it could be taken out of the equation.

"I was at least encouraged by the fact that there were a few people who seem to have spent astronomical amounts of money running for office, who lost," Spacey says. "So maybe ideas can't be outspent sometimes."

That audio clip is here:

And you can listen to the full interview here.

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