tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg February 25, 2016 10:00pm-11:01pm EST
charlie rose: kevin spacey is here he is a two-time oscar-winning actor at the start of the groundbreaking netflix series house of cards. on marchur premieres 4. here's a look. spacey: you have no idea what it means to have nothing. you don't value what we have achieved. had to fight for everything my entire life.
is it evil incarnate? kevin: it seems to me we could go back a long way and say we have been fascinated by political figures. frank underwood was born out of shakespeare. he was based on richard iii and to some degree iago. not macbeth, because macbeth hesitated. charlie: frank does not hesitate. kevin: if you ignore the murder and the conniving, he does get used on. i think that is part of what attracts people to the show. charlie: do you think that the image of that is part of the reason that donald trump seems attractive to so many people? he appears to be able to say anything, do anything, and get things done, if you buy into his own sense of who he is?
kevin: there is no doubt that he seems to have burrowed into an angry public. charlie: but looking for someone -- kevin: looking for someone who does it differently. i'm told there are great number of people in china who believe that i actually am the president of the united states. charlie: i'm told they love "house of cards" in china and that the leadership there, not a particular person, but members of the elite most of all. and they think of it as "this is america." kevin: there is another sidebar to that, which is that, apparently, the elites and all the people in government, you are right -- but for the common man, frank underwood is viewed as a man fighting against corruption, and he becomes something of a heroic figure because of that.
charlie: best talk more about what's going to happen. she is out of the house. we get that from the promo. they are split. kevin: he meets them as we left them in season three, having a little bit of an argument. the thing we have been loving exploring and continue to do so this in the now fourth season -- we've had terrific actors that have joined the cast. ellen burstyn. charlie: neve campbell. kevin: we are going to continue to explore what happens when people are in the middle of a campaign and they have this marital strife. will they ultimately decide they are better off together, are they stronger, or are they better off a part? charlie: is that one of the questions being asked in season four of "house of cards"? kevin: sure. charlie: who is the toughest -- her or him?
kevin: i think she is formidable and he would be nothing without her. charlie: what does she get him? kevin:kevin: everything. i think she gives him balance in lots of ways that he could not find on his own. if you want to call it the classic story, behind every -- i don't know if i want to call him a great man, because there are people who think he is more machiavellian than that -- but certainly this remarkable woman. i think that robin's extraordinary portrayal will continue to grow and fascinate and confound people as it goes forward. charlie: do you want us to think hillary and bill -- kevin: a lot of people sort of said, that must be. because he is southern. actually, he sounds nothing like clinton. [in clinton voice] has he ever been here? i didn't know if you could get
him or not. [normal] the original character in the british series was based on shakespearean characters. but he ultimately decided to make his hometown in the state of south carolina because that is where beau's father is from. beau called me after that and said, "i think it is going to be south carolina that he is from." charlie: of all the shakespeare characters you have played, with which one did you find the most resonance?
kevin: i haven't played that many. the only shakespeare plays i have done are "richard ii" and "richard iii." charlie: how could you be the actor you are without being attracted to "hamlet"? i'm serious. here is a guy who left hollywood at the top of his game and went to run the theater and also found out that he could run the theater and schedule productions and appear in some of them. kevin: here is the honest truth. you cannot go over and run a theater and take all the good parts. you have to give parts to other actors. i took a role or two every year. i did not want to start off with just classics. i was trying to build an audience.
charlie: do you like chekhov better than shakespeare? kevin: no. i'm not an actor who gets excited about parts. charlie: you do care about teaching actors, furthering and enhancing careers? kevin: it happens to me. i am a product of the school system where the arts were very well-funded, where the experiences that i got as a young kid at 9, 10, 11, 12, all the way up to 18 years old, was engaging and incredible and a chance to see professional actors do their work, do workshops with them, seminars, festivals. so, i know what it means, particularly for that shy kid in the corner. when i'm doing workshops, which is why i was pleased to do
"master class." one of our directors from "house of cards" directed it. we had 20 actors. we shot at the arena. it's an extraordinary experience to allow an actor to do a monologue, they can do whatever they want. essentially, i spent -- over two days we shot about eight hours with these 20 actors. we did individual work with their monologues, which i critique and give them new direction. i tried to push them in a new way. we worked with masks, these incredible masks you put on your face and they change the way you see yourself. you hopefully stop seeing yourself. it loosens actors up. they stop thinking about their own bodies. that is a technique to try to get closer to the material, allow yourself to do things you wouldn't normally feel comfortable doing if you were just looking at yourself in the mirror.
and we did about eight hours of work with these actors. then i sat and did a one-on-one interview answering a lot of questions. just direct questions. then we cut it up into about 25 chapters. they run 10, 15, 20 minutes long. people can buy the whole masterclass. we have done it now -- serena williams has done one about tennis. christina aguilera has done one. annie leibovitz has done one. usher has done one. the idea is to eventually get a library of people doing a master class about how they do what they do and help others learn how to do it. charlie: this is you getting notes to a young actor from "master class." kevin: what did it feel like? >> you have given me the note to go 90%. i never want to do too much. i never want to go there. but giving me permission to do that, it just -- it came. you know?
it hurt. it hurt. kevin: and, you know, we have to be willing to let it hurt. all of this notion that acting is -- yeah, it's pretend. yes, we can have a good time with it. but if you want to land, you want to make an impact, you want the audience to remember you, then you have to let it hurt some time. you have to get there. because that is all an audience ever wants is for you to open up your chest and show them you have a heart. that's all we want. that's all we ever want.
and whether that heart is in comedy or whether that heart is in something quite powerful, whether that heart is in poetry, whether that heart is in shakespeare, a heart, a human being, not an affectation. wonderful work. who is next? charlie: i think that is great. i really think -- i don't think you could do that without a passion about your profession. kevin: also, these kids were fantastic. they prepared. they were open. they were willing to shift things and change things. the most funny aspect of it to me was that there i found myself over these two days giving direction to someone. as it came out of my mouth, there were at least 12 times it happened where i thought to myself, wow, that is a note that i really need to hear myself.
that is something i have not been doing. that is something i have forsaken for a while. we are always in the process of learning and growing. i will tell you about a workshop i did in the middle east. i was encouraged to come to doha and do a workshop in doha. and as i got closer and closer to going to do this workshop, and i done a whole series of these in the middle east. it's a fascinating experience. as i got closer and closer, the organizers said, registration is going very well, but just don't expect any women. i said why? medicine and lawyer are the professions that women are expected to go into. just don't expect it. out of 28, there were 13 women. i did that workshop, and it was
very engaging and very interesting. i was then asked, would i do a workshop in abu dhabi? i said, under one condition, everyone has to be a woman. we had two groups of women. i went to abu dhabi. people had prepared shakespeare in arabic and in english. i spotted this one young girl in the corner, who i recognized the shy one, because that was me when i was a kid. and she was sort of looking down and occasionally wanted to look up. her friend had gotten up next to her and performed. i came back and said, who wants to get up now? she said, i don't know any shakespeare. i said, well, it doesn't have to be shakespeare. it could be anything. she went, i was told it had to be shakespeare. i said, no, do you know anything? she said, um, well, i might know something from "fried green tomatoes." i thought, i'm in abu dhabi, of all places, and this young girl knows something from "fried green tomatoes." she gets up and performs this piece for us. she was quite self-conscious and
she was remarkable in an effortless way. i said, that was beautiful work. we could all tell you why that was different for us. can you tell us why it was different for you? and she said something that just illuminated the whole problem. she said, when you asked me to share my feelings, this is not something i am ever asked. and i had been trying -- we did a big event last year in
which we brought together 25 young middle eastern actors to do a play. i am trying to encourage leaders there that what's frustrating about seeing them build all these incredible theaters and showcases and fabulous, beautiful buildings to the arts, when all they do is farm in cirque du soleil, they don't create workshops and teach the young people who want to be actors, who want to tell stories about their culture. we have created something we call "homegrown," which is this project we did last year, and i want to continue to do more of that.
because i got a letter about six months after that workshop, and that young girl is now trying to move to london to study to be an actress. charlie: wow. kevin: and that's one of the reasons why these, no matter what happens to me in my life and all of the sort of outward success that happens, i don't ever want to be too far away from that feeling, because i'm one of those kids, and i know, you know, what it meant to me when i was 13 years old and jack lemmon put his hand on my shoulder and said, you are a born actor and you should go to new york and do this. ♪
charlie: how influential was he? kevin: huge. charlie: just that, though, the friendship? kevin: later on, having met him and being able to work with him professionally. he became like my father. he said, you are a natural actor. go to new york and study. you were born to do this. i did go to new york and study, and it has become my career. and whenever i find myself in these extraordinary circumstances, where i see somebody who so clearly has talent and so clearly, if they are nurtured and encouraged, if they are guided in some way,
they will have a remarkable career ahead of them. you have so many interests. does that in any way limit the possibility of kevin's growth as a great actor? kevin: that's a great question. i can only tell you that i believe, i think that when i left america in 2003 to go run the old vic, part of what was driving me to do it was that i wanted to be a better actor. you know, as much as one tries to sort of keep all the craziness -- you get pulled in all of these directions when success happens. one of the reasons i left was
because i didn't want to end doing a lot of movies i probably shouldn't do for money and prestige and to stay on that list. all of the things you see happen when people are at that level. i did a play every year, or two plays every year for the last 12 years. and working with trevor nunn or working with howard davies -- doing the kind of parts i took on. doing runs that were 12 weeks, 14 weeks, 16 weeks, eight weeks, seven weeks, right after night after night in performance -- night after night after night in performance. with richard iii -- charlie: you were stretching. kevin: i am absolutely convinced that if i had not done all of that work, i would never have been ready to play frank underwood. there was no way that 12 years ago i would have known what to do.
charlie: what did that give you, do you know, other than simply a sense of your own power? kevin: no, it's more like -- charlie: i mean power in terms of understanding your talents. kevin: i will explain it to you this way. if you were an athlete -- i often say in these workshops. i ask this question quite often, and it's very amusing the answer i get. i say, ok, how many times in the last two months have you acted? sometimes the answer will be, well, i had three auditions. i said, that is not the question i asked. how many times have you acted? let's break this down. you are saying to me this craft that you have dedicated her life
to, that you have sat here and told me has meant more to you than anything, this craft, you only practice when you have an audition? how many times do you think andy murray plays tennis? only when he has a championship to play? no, he practices every day. that's what performance is. it's getting up every night. your game is getting better. you are working on a different part of your game. your partners are changing and growing. i absolutely believe the act of being watched changes the game, and that's true for sport stars. sports stars will talk about game day versus practice. it's very different. that's true of actors. rehearsal is nothing like that first previewed. charlie: i would argue, too. i'm not sure you're saying anything that is differing from this. it is that -- what practice is about is giving you the capacity
to be on that field and act primarily by instinct, so that what you do is practice, practice, practice, so that you can meet any occurrence that happens in that game. the practice gives you a chance to let all of the things you have poured into yourself in terms of skills -- kevin: and sometimes, as we see with sports, we don't know the depth that somebody has, until they are challenged in a game, and, suddenly, they dig deeper than they have ever thought they could go. and that happens with actors, too. charlie: it happens in the military, too. people who act courageously say, i trained to do that, i learned how to do that.
ben hogan, one of the greatest golfers ever. somebody went out and watched him. he was trying this crazy shot from behind the tree. he was going for one after another. he is a very mechanical guy. somebody walked over and said, ben, why are you doing that? you have spent two hours practicing this shot from behind a tree. how often are you going to have to do that? he said, one day, i will be ready. kevin: and the thing about doing plays, you get to try it in a different way. you get to attack it in a different way. you start to go, oh, wow, now i think i know how to attack that scene is of what i learned last night in that other scene.
charlie: that's the genius of stage, the joy of stage. let's talk about other things you are doing here. "the race to the white house," this is on cnn. you are looking at presidential campaigns. kennedy, nixon. dukakis, bush. kevin: i was very jealous about tom hanks and that 1970's series he did. i thought, let's do it. why you? was it because you love politics? was it because you were jealous of what hanks had done? kevin: i think it's fascinating in the middle of a presidential election to look back at other elections, to look at what candidates did, said, were there defining moments in the middle of a campaign that sealed someone's fate, and it seemed so arbitrarily unimportant --
charlie: one of the things that happen in dukakis was the commercials by bush. on the other hand, there was the tank. kevin: the tank. or howard dean. charlie: people thought the moment that might define marco rubio's campaign, that moment -- he kept saying the same thing. how could he do that? he rebounded from that. that image is no longer there. he is finishing in second place in the recent contest. kevin: anybody who has ever done a junket knows that you sit there all day long, i totally understand. you try to change it up when you are doing a press junket, so that you don't bore yourself.
i can only imagine. charlie: coming back to netflix, bo is leaving. kevin: yeah, he's tired. charlie: you have signed for a fifth season. kevin: it is a discussion. yes. charlie: they can't announce it unless they signed you. can they? kevin: have they announced another season for you here? [laughter]
charlie: what was it jack lemmon said about elevators? kevin: that was his philosophy. it's about what we are talking about, workshops, all the things jack passed down to me. he said if you have been successful in the business, if you've had some terrific success, it is your obligation to's and a portion of your time sending the elevator back down. pull yourself together. people are talking. you could go to carson, clinton. i love to doing that. i have to work on new
charlie: what does francis need? kevin: so much. [laughter] whiskey is what he needs right there. by the way, she directed this. charlie: she is in full flight. kevin: she's fantastic. you have known her a long time. i've known her a long time. the trust and the genuine enthusiasm we have and joy have coming to work. we literally giggle all day long. it's very hard to get a serious take.
nomination for himself and he is prepared to play dirty. >> his allies and friends at the convention begin to talk about kennedy's health problems. kennedy had serious health problems. he had a hormonal deficiency that could have killed him. in fact, his father put medicine all over the united states so that kennedy would never run short. what johnson does is make it a campaign issue. >> the kennedy forces denied it and had doctors say he was above average in health and he had never had the disease and they lied through their teeth. kevin: kennedy's illness is never mentioned again. it's a victory for the team, if not for truth.
>> had the public known how sick he was, he probably could not have been a candidate. charlie: interesting. kevin: it says there was a time where people knew things and you could hide things. charlie: did not know about the affairs. you are in a movie called elvis nixon. elvis going to the white house to see richard nixon. he wanted something. kevin: he was concerned about where america was and he wanted to be made a federal agent undercover. undercover. no one would recognize him. he could infiltrate the black panthers. this is serious.
charlie: i thought it was about the drug wars. kevin: he was concerned about protests. people weren't respecting law enforcement so he flew to washington and wanted to be made an undercover agent. nixon did not want to meet him. charlie: who convinced him? kevin: nixon's daughter. he was in town just to meet him so agree to meet elvis. it says two of america's greatest recording artists met for the first time. [laughter] charlie: it's a comedy. kevin: we play it seriously, but it is just crazy. it was fascinating to play next and unencumbered by watergate. this is before he started taping in the white house and before watergate.
this time around, i am pleased it feels like michael and i found a way to embrace the essence of these characters. at the end of the day, you would think would not necessarily have anything in common. they really liked each other. charlie: how can you get turned down for a big role like that? how often do you audition? it doesn't bother you? kevin: if a director wants to see you, and if you like the part, actors should be willing to do anything. look, you live with rejection.
there are also parts i've gotten other actors turned down. i'm grateful they turned them down because they would not have come to me. charlie: you would never play a talking cat. kevin: oh. oh? meow, meow. [laughter] look, you know why i did this movie? it's a kid's movie. it's called "nine lives." i'm a man turned into a cat. that's right. fletcher comes to life. i'm not a cap person. i'm a dog person. as i tried to convince them to make me an adorable dog, it was a cat film. one hopes this will be a film kids will enjoy.
charlie: we have been talking about a range of things. not studio head. why are you doing that? a secret desire to be a mogul? kevin: well, i'm hoping for a big yacht. [laughter] i can talk specifics. there's a lot of stuff going on. lawyers. i have nothing to do with that. there's a lot to be sorted out.
charlie: maria konnikova is here. she writes about psychology and culture. she has been called one of the truly gifted social science writers of our time. her new book is called "the confidence game: why we fall for it every time." it explores the minds and methods of con artists and these reince of gullibility and i'm pleased to have her at this table. we should tell them, shouldn't we? this young woman worked at this television program as a producer for me and made the program letter. having said that, nothing she has achieved surprises me. the first book was "mastermind: how to think like sherlock holmes." maria: the point of that book was looking at the mind and how we can improve it so that we can optimize our observations. charlie: the way we look at things.
maria: exactly. how many steps leading up to 221, so you learn to look at the world fully rather than partially. maria: i'm fascinated by the mind. why we do what we do. why do people, what are their motivations? what makes them tick? what is inside the human mind? what made me realize how much i wanted to go deeper into that was the science theories and the brain theories. charlie: did you always want to be a writer and learn something about psychology? maria: that's exactly right. i think that writing and psychology have so much in common because to write well you have to understand human motivation. you have to understand people. that's the only way you can craft characters that make sense. and so that was a very natural fit. charlie: not only people who are able to engage, a lot of people do that to are not out in pursuit of power. lyndon johnson was a master at understanding what made people take and what their strengths were and also weaknesses.
you will be alive for very long. so what happens is he puts the money in a safety deposit box and goes back to new york and goes about his business and comes back with the cash and says i'm sorry. i failed. i thought i had a good deal and i need the cash myself. i was not able to do it. here's your money and he said, my god, i was expecting nothing or double my cash because of your shady dealings. by god you are honest. i will reward you. here is $5,000 for being honest. he wrote the commandments of the con artists.
one of them, a con artist is not a good talker. a good listener. that really explains it. someone truly listens when people talk because that is how they read you. most people don't listen. they asked questions and don't listen to the answering because they are too busy in their own mind. charlie: they are viewed as the aristocrats of crime. maria: yes, that was coined. it is so apt that con artists, they are artists because what they do is soft craft. they don't break into your house. they convince you to give them your confidence. that is the origin of the term. charlie: when we see movies, they have con artist qualities. do we call that a con game? it's a caper. maria: they deceive and they use the softer skills when they are committing the crime. when they are taking people down. when you are convincing people to give you their money, it is a con.
maria: they troll the obituaries to see who is dead so they can approach relatives and use that as an entry. they look at divorces. who has lost their job? social media has made this easy. we put this on twitter and facebook. i'm feeling really down. con artists can use that because we want help in those moments. charlie: that is somebody who is lonely and feels, who wants to latch onto anything. vanity is often a signal of someone who will accept a con game.
maria: flattery gets you everywhere. one of the bibles is dell carnegie's "how to win friends and influence people." what are those techniques? charlie: also for warren buffett. a book that influenced him. maria: it is that thin line because they can be used for good and for ill. they can be used to to get your trust and that can be wonderful for someone like warren buffett and you can also exploit it.
charlie: what about bernie madoff? maria: he was brilliant using the tools of a con artist. he made you beg for investing. con artist don't take things from you. you give them to you. charlie: you begged him to -- maria: he would say no. you would have to beg him and finally he would say, ok. the people who were getting those returns did not see them as too good to be true. they thought they had very good returns. they were savvy investors. charlie: you suggest they are underreported. maria: people don't want to admit to being victims. there is a huge reputation. you don't want someone to think of you as a sucker. it's a negative word. sucker. you don't want to be a sucker.
charlie: when you went to these men and women -- maria: yes, women. i feel like the famous ones are men. women are better at it. they are not caught as often. [laughter] charlie: when you began to get to know them, and you came to them, where they thrilled and happy? let me tell you. maria: absolutely. they are so narcissistic. one of them was practically gleeful.
charlie: have you been conned? maria: i don't know. the best ones you don't know they happen. you think you were unlucky. i'm sure i've given money to people and they have misused it. or haven't used it. i would like to believe i was being generous and they wanted it for the reason they asked me. it's almost better to self deceived. i don't want to know. that is true of a lot of people.
charlie: have you decided about your next book? genre? maria: the same genre. i don't have the exact narrative yet. i wish i did. charlie: the new york times said it belongs to the genre popularized by malcolm gladwell, a brilliant speaker and author, social psychology designed for mask munication. maria: that is part of it. that is a compliment. i want people to understand. i want it to be intuitive, like you thought of it your self i want it to be easy to understand. i want people to understand how they think and also you can use the tools of the con artist for good. people of said you have written