Replacing Kevin

With more sexual harassment and assault accusations coming to light against Kevin Spacey, director Ridley Scott has decided to do reshoots to erase him from his upcoming (and already completed) film All the Money in the World. He’s recast the role of J Paul Getty to Christopher Plummer and still intends to deliver the film on time for a December, 2017 release, which as of this writing is less than 2 months away. Spacey worked 10 days on the film. It’s not a starring role but still a critical one and it will be a real challenge for Scott to hit the deadline with a quality edit.

This is not without precedent. Actors have died or fallen ill during productions. Robert Zemeckis famously recast and reshot Back to the Future when Eric Stoltz wasn’t doing it for him as Marty McFly.

“With more sexual harassment and assault accusations coming to light against Kevin Spacey, director Ridley Scott has decided to do reshoots to erase him…”

Spacey has been a fixture in films and TV since the mid ‘80s, coming to fame as a star with his performances in Swimming with Sharks, L.A. Confidential, American Beauty, The Usual Suspects, Seven and many other successful films since then.

We know our artists are often flawed, but the 2017 zeitgeist calls for certain behaviors to get you uninvited to the party. There should probably be a whole conversation around whether an artist being a shitty person should necessarily be a criterion for whether their art should be edited out of the culture, but that’s for another day.

Ridley Scott’s recasting and re-shooting for All the Money in the World begs an interesting question: what if we could retcon Spacey’s roles from past films? What if we could re-cast him in five well known films of his career?

Full disclosure: to me Kevin Spacey is one of the finest actors ever. His work has an edgy creepiness infused with accessible likeability even in roles where you aren’t supposed to like him. He’s always compelling. I’m glad his works exist, though I find the acts he’s accused of during his career (which is almost certainly over now) abhorrent. The ability to hold those two thoughts in one’s mind simultaneously seems to be fading from our shrinking collective attention span. I liked Hollywood better before the insatiable thirst for behind-the-scenes dirt became the norm. But that ship has sailed and I’m as much a part of this shitshow as you are, so without further ado…

What if we could digitally replace Kevin Spacey in five well-known films of his career? Choosing from actors working today, submitted for your consideration…

American Beauty

Let’s begin with Best Picture American Beauty: Sam Mendes’s magnum opus about soul killing suburban boredom. Spacey plays Lester Burnham, an everyman who’s made all the right moves to find himself unfulfilled and yearning for freedom. His angst peaks when he falls for a teenage friend of his daughter (the Lolita element of the story would not be acceptable now). He quits his job, buys a bitchin’ muscle car, smokes weed, and throws caution to the wind to reclaim some part of his soul from bland routine. Spacey won Best Actor for the role. Who could kill it like he did?  What about Michael Keaton? Mr. Mom finally hit “fuck it “ and went rogue. Keaton has a great facility for whimsical humor but there’s always a dark power behind his manic grin as we saw in his intense performances in Batman and Beetlejuice. Keaton for Burnham!  Kevin replaced.

The Usual Suspects

The Usual Suspects showcased Spacey’s knack for commanding all eyes be on him in his role as the sleazy, wounded Verbal Kint. He’s been brought in for questioning about a shooting and fire at the port of Los Angeles. He tells the police (or does he?) what he knows about his crew and crime boss Keyser Söze. This film earned Spacey another Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and elevated a snarky line from Casablanca to being a universally recognized trope. It was intelligent and fresh and suspenseful until the end. We can cheat on this one as director Bryan Singer was asked this question in 2013 and suggested Spacey could be replaced by Benedict Cumberbatch. The focus Cumberbatch brings to a role is very like Spacey, making the choice pure brilliance and I would want to see that film despite my aversion to remakes.

Seven

David Fincher’s Seven will always stand as one of the most impactful films of my life. At the end during the “what’s in the box” scene I stood shouting at the screen for Brad Pitt’s character to shoot John Doe. I’ve never made it through a second viewing. Spacey’s performance as John Doe is without equal despite the fact that he appears for only a few scenes at the end of the film. For the zealous fanatic serial killer I’d swap in Chris Cooper. His roles in American Beauty and Adaptation and earlier in Lone Star show the kind of rugged intensity needed to play John Doe and I think he could sell it.

Superman Returns

Spacey worked with Bryan Singer again in a failed attempt to reboot Superman starring Brandon Routh. This film, while bad, was not as bad as the shade thrown at it would have you believe. Its one saving grace was the gleefully evil exuberance of Lex Luthor as played by Spacey. I would definitely NOT cast Jesse Eisenberg!  For the hyper-intelligent glib version of Luthor in Superman Returns I’d give Leonardo DiCaprio the nod. Shave his head and put him in the game to go to his most mercurial place and spit those lines out with barely suppressed fury.

Swimming with Sharks

Spacey has always been able to deliver characters that seem to have some weaknesses but don’t. He can come across soft and flawed but turn out to have some trick up the sleeve that devastates anyone who comes between him and his desires. Maybe he’s not acting? That is a very difficult balance to strike and he does it effortlessly. Swimming with Sharks makes me cringe at his character Buddy Ackerman’s treatment of other people. He needs people around he can abuse. We need someone who can play a supreme asshole who’s still a bit fey. For this role we’ll turn to an actor who can bring that even better than Spacey: Neil Patrick Harris. Harris can pivot his tone instantly and has covered an incredible range of roles from singing on broadway to a hapless victim in Gone Girl

We’ve now replaced Kevin in five of his most renowned films and I feel a little dirty about that. And justified.

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