Kevin Spacey’s stolen invite led to Jack Lemmon theatre role

Movie star Kevin Spacey has a stolen party invite to thank for helping him land his dream stage role opposite the legendary Jack Lemmon early on in his career. The House of Cards star was a young thespian working in a theatre production of Hurlyburly in New York in the mid-1980s when he heard director Jonathan Miller was going to be in the city to hold tryouts for a planned version of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, starring Lemmon in the lead role.
Spacey was desperate to play the part of Lemmon’s onstage son, but reveals he had no way to score an audition – until he stole an invite for a party with Miller from an elderly guest at a lecture series the filmmaker was hosting.
He says, “This is a true story, I don’t make this up – I was sitting in my seat, terrified, thinking, ‘How am I going to f**king meet him…?’
“There was an elderly woman sitting next to me… and she was sleeping. And I happened to look down, and sticking outside of her purse on the ground was an invitation to a cocktail reception in honour of Dr. Jonathan Miller. And I thought, ‘You know, she’s tired.’ So I leaned down, I took this invitation and I went to this cocktail reception…”
The daring move gave Spacey the chance to introduce himself to Miller at the party and he managed to talk his way into an audition, which led to him performing in front of Lemmon himself.
He recalls, “I’ll never forget, I did four scenes with Jack, this man who had meant so much to me, was a huge idol of mine, and he walked up to me… at the end of the audition… and he said, ‘You know, I never thought we’d find the rotten kid but you’re it, Jesus Christ, what the f**k was that?’ And I spent the next year of my life working with Jack.”
The pair became good friends and went on to work together on three other projects, including 1992’s film adaptation of Glengarry Glen Ross, and Spacey insists he owes a lot of his career success to the late star: “He became my friend, my mentor, my father figure.”
The actor claims he has learned to live by one of Lemmon’s life lessons.
Speaking at Wednesday’s (09Apr14) Museum of the Moving Image event held in New York in Spacey’s honour, added, “Jack had a philosophy… that he passed down to me… Jack used to say all the time, ‘If you’ve done well in the business you want to do well in, then it is your obligation to spend a good portion of your time sending the elevator back down…’
“So there isn’t a day that goes by when I’m not enormously grateful for the people that believed in me and gave me a chance, and I know in my heart, that if we all just keep a little bit of the Lemmon clause in our hearts, we’re going to be OK.”