But earning the CBE is just icing on the cake for the Spacey. He's been acting with, directing for, and leading the Old Vic for the past eight years, and he couldn't be happier. "There's something that happens when you are focused not on your own career and ambition, which I was for a long time," he says. "Then suddenly you're working on behalf of a company, and there's a company ethos."
Spacey's company is making its mark on more than just the stage. "We have the largest educational program of any theater in London. We have a big community outreach program using the tools and artists of theater to help kids find their own confidence and self-esteem," he says. "It's the most satisfying experience I've ever had and the best decision I ever made."
Spacey's time commitment to his work at the Old Vic makes his screen appearances rare these days. But when his he takes on a film role, it never disappoints. In the new film, Casino Jack, Spacey plays Jack Abramoff, a corrupt GOP lobbyist who ran wild during the Bush years. and who eventually served prison time, for among other things, fraud involving casinos owned by American Indians. "How do you empathize and humanize a person who's been hugely demonized and turned into a caricature villain?" Spacey asks. "How do you make him a person?"
The filmmakers -- most notably, director George Hickenlooper (who died suddenly right before the film's commercial release) -- found their way with comedy. "It's so outrageous! Some of the decisions and misjudgments are inherently funny. You couldn't write this!" he says. "But we use that to make our political points and show the hypocrisy rather than make some boring movie about a lobbyist."
While the film is not a heavy favorite in this year's Oscar race, Spacey is part of this year's Academy Award frenzy, as one of the executive producers of The Social Network. "The story has all the great hallmarks of drama. It's about friendship and betrayal and power and invention," he says.
Spacey's next project tackles betrayal in a diferent way. The actor will team up with director Sam Mendes to play the title role in Shakespeare's Richard III, in what will be the final production for the Bridge Project, a three-year transatlantic collaboration that has seen US and British actors tour the world with classic plays. "These plays are so elastic. They've survived for so long. No one actor owns these roles. We are the current custodians of them," he says, "I'm looking forward to working with Sam again. It's terrifying, it's exciting and I haven't a clue yet, but I'm looking forward to it."