Saturday 19 October 2019

Kevin Spacey talks House of Cards and the 'f***ing hysterical' meeting between Elvis and Nixon that inspired his new film

Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) in House of Cards
Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) in House of Cards
Claire with husband Frank — now President of the United States — played by Kevin Spacey
Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey in House of Cards
Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood in ‘House of Cards’
House of Cards, Netflix
Kevin Spacey in House of Cards
Kevin Spacey in "House of Cards." Photo credit: Nathaniel Bell for Netflix.

Stephen Milton

His simmering malevolence as despotic President Francis Underwood has been a smash success for Netflix’s political series, House of Cards.

And it seems Kevin Spacey has found himself typecast as he returns to the White House again, this time to play controversial Richard Nixon in new movie, Elvis and Nixon.

But the two-time Oscar winner is at pains to convey his take on Tricky Dick doesn’t come close to Underwood’s menacing tactics.

“There’s the notion that Francis was preparation, and almost the inspiration, for playing Richard Nixon and they couldn’t be further apart. That’s the wrong idea completely and there’s no similarities whatsoever,” the actor explains. 

“First of all, it’s a very different president and it’s a Nixon not saddled by Watergate. This is 1970 before he even started taping in the White House. Watergate didn’t happen for another three years.

“Believe me, this is a very different Nixon to previous incarnations. And on another level completely, to that of Francis Underwood. One is real, the other fictitious.”

Released early next year and co-starring Superman actor, Michael Shannon, Elvis and Nixon centres round their infamous meeting in 1970 when Presley attempted to persuade the president to swear him in as an undercover agent in the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

“It’s a very funny true story about how Elvis wanted to meet the President and become an agent at large. He wanted the badge badly. 

“And it’s the fascinating, driven character study between two men from opposing worlds, yet similar in so many ways.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to embody someone like him, so well-known. But doing it was just left of Dr Strangelove. It was really, really… well we play it quite serious but it was fucking hysterical.”

With the new series of House of Cards currently available on Netflix, audiences are gripped by Francis and Claire Underwood’s (Robin Wright) ascension to the Oval Office after a litany of dastardly deeds. 

However, with the ultimate power couple starting to crumble under the pressure of the White House, their deserved demise seems imminent. 

But Spacey, 55, appears sceptical. “I know, people keep saying that to me, now that he’s president, is this the end? And I just think, ‘really?’ It would seem to me that getting to the presidency, and all the obstacles Frank has encountered, it seems when you get there, that’s when the real job starts. 

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“What does he want to accomplish? What kind of president does he want to be? And then looking at his relationship with Claire, two people who’ve shown they can work brilliantly in dark alleys, how are they going to adjust? It’s going to be an interesting, we hope, evolution to what that means as a couple. 

“And Frank is a human being. That’s one of the things that I’m learning, and he’s still learning. That’s part of the fun of going to work every day - we get to decide how much of the onion we want peel and how much we don’t.”

While reports initially suggested the third season would be the last, Spacey claims these rumours are highly premature. “I don’t know that this is the last series of House of Cards.

“I really don’t know and they haven’t told us this is the end. But then they haven’t told us we’re doing another. 

“We’ll simply have to what and see.”

Is House of Cards' Claire Underwood TV's greatest ever female character? 

House of Cards is on Netflix

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