Kevin Spacey On Playing Two Presidents: Richard Nixon And Frank Underwood

Kevin Spacey, the actor best known for his roles in House of Cards and The Usual Suspects, takes his president role repertoire and adds another one to the collection with Elvis & Nixon.

According to Cross Map, Kevin Spacey revealed that it was not easy playing a president in his newest venture, despite his experience in House of Cards.

When Spacey was cast in the role of Nixon opposite Michael Shannon’s Elvis, he knew he had to do some research. Spacey not only went through the public life of the former president, but he also dug through as many private records and accounts of the great man in order to learn as much as he could to inform his role.

Kevin Spacey spoke on what he ended up finding out about Nixon through research.

“What I tried to do was just sort of find an essence of what was sort of Nixonian. And so I listened to a lot of tapes so that I could hear what he was like in private more than what he was like in public.”

The chemistry between Spacey and Shannon in their roles was apparent as the two were able to play their roles convincingly. So convincingly, in fact, that Spacey said that at times he found himself both surprised and amused whenever Shannon would get into character.

Kevin Spacey spoke on how he and Michael Shannon blended into their roles and how they managed to convince themselves as much as the rest of the cast and crew.

“There were a couple of times when we were shooting and Michael would do something that was so brilliantly Elvis-like and I didn’t expect it at all that I completely lost it. I think there were a couple times where I would do something that was very Nixon-like and he lost it, so there were a couple of times where we definitely lost it, but we tried very hard to keep a straight face.”

Kevin Spacey admitted that his concern about his portrayal of Nixon is that people might end up associating him with his House of Cards character, Frank Underwood. And conversely, he also hoped that when people see Frank Underwood in the oval office, they would not be thinking of Richard Nixon.

One of the unique aspects of Kevin Spacey’s role in House of Cards is the way that his character breaks the fourth wall and directly addresses the audience. The Guardian reports that Kevin Spacey was asked about this unique feature of the show, and he credited the idea with his earlier experience in theater, particularly Richard III.

“Certainly doing Richard III where direct address was invented was incredibly informative in how to approach it in House of Cards… As a theatrical device, it’s a remarkable idea that a character will break the fourth wall. The audience becomes their co-conspirators. They provide a chance for the audience to root for and be terrified by the character at the same time.”

In light of the current presidential elections and the recent release of Season 4 of House of Cards, with the show being renewed for Season 5, Kevin Spacey had some thoughts about the show and how it holds up to real life politics. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Kevin Spacey says the show does not match the drama of real life American politics.

In fact, Kevin Spacey admitted that sometimes he worried if the writers have gone too far with some of the storylines they tackle on the show.

Kevin Spacey spoke on whether he thinks the show goes too far.

“Have we crossed the Rubicon? Is this unbelievable or kind of crazy? Then I turn on the television and watch the news – and we haven’t gone far enough.”

When asked about how Frank Underwood compares to the candidates in the running for the elections, Spacey suggested that the candidates and Frank Underwood are equally fantastic.

“We need to remember that he’s a fictional character, and some of the candidates running appear to be fictional characters.”

[Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images For Netflix]