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Spacey shows theatre love in documentary about his reign as 'Richard III'

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TORONTO - Kevin Spacey says he sees more bad behaviour from fellow actors on film sets than he does when working on theatre productions.

"Film isolates actors, turns them into stars," the "House of Cards" actor said in a recent interview. "In theatre, you're a company person — it's just the nature of the beast."

The camaraderie behind a theatre production is on full display in the new film "NOW: In the Wings on a World Stage," which chronicles Spacey's round-the-world tour starring in "Richard III." Featuring a cast of British and American actors, the production was directed by Sam Mendes — his first collaboration with Spacey since the 1999 Oscar-winning film "American Beauty."

The documentary begins as the 20-person troupe rehearses at London's Old Vic — where Spacey has been artistic director since 2003. Spacey says first-time director Jeremy Whelehan — who has a long association with the actor and had been an assistant director on seven productions at the theatre company — was the ideal person to be a fly on the wall.

"It's a kind of a unique thing to bring cameras into a rehearsal process, which is normally quite protected," said Spacey. "To convince Sam Mendes to let us come in, to convince the actors in the company to let us follow them around ... The reason it was such a good idea to have (Jeremy) do this was because he had already been a member of a company ... he'd integrated himself into many companies."

Spacey — the executive producer of the film — says his castmates essentially forgot that Whelehan was there.

Indeed, the film captures some unguarded moments as the ambitious tour progresses to dazzling venues in far-flung locales including Naples, Beijing, Istanbul and Sydney. The group (which includes Brit actress Gemma Jones) also found some time for sightseeing, taking a yacht trip along the Amalfi Coast and getting up to some desert hijinks outside Doha.

Throughout, they talk about how well they all get along with one another. Spacey, 54, rhapsodizes that he feels completely supported by his fellow actors, while some of the female players talk of a sisterly bond.

Mendes says in the film that such conviviality is all in the casting, but to Spacey, it goes further.

"I think it comes from the top down," he said. "I think a director and a leading actor or leading actress can set the tone. There is no place for ego in my rehearsal room. There has never been. You've got to leave your ego at the door."

He added: "You have to create an environment where that happens. There have been a couple of occasions at the Old Vic where I have had to fire someone because they were behaving horribly — and I have never had a problem doing that."

The "Richard III" production was born out of the Bridge Project, a partnership between The Old Vic, The Brooklyn Academy of Music and Mendes' Neal Street Productions. It'll be released in select theatres on Thursday, but will also available for purchase on Spacey's website.

As the face of Netflix's "House of Cards," known for its groundbreaking all-at-once release model, Spacey has been at the vanguard of new distribution models.

"It's an incredibly exciting time where both creativity and technology are merging," said the actor, whose role in the 1996 film "The Usual Suspects" nabbed him his first Oscar.

In the documentary, he speaks at length about the rush of live theatre, citing Henry Fonda as another movie actor who often eschewed films in favour of plays. Although his tenure at the Old Vic is up next year, Spacey says the stage is something he'll always return to.

Says the star: "No matter how good I am in a movie I'll never be any better. In the theatre, I'll be better."


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