Kevin Spacey is an American actor, director, screenwriter, producer, and crooner. He grew up in California, and began his career as a stage actor during the 1980s, before being cast in supporting roles in film and television. He gained critical acclaim in the early 1990s, culminating in his first Academy Award for The Usual Suspects, followed by a Best Actor Academy Award win for American Beauty. His other starring roles in Hollywood include Seven, L.A. Confidential, Pay It Forward, and Superman Returns in a career which has eventually earned him Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. Since 2003, he has been artistic director of the Old Vic theatre in London.
He was born Kevin Spacey Fowler in South Orange, New Jersey, to Kathleen A., a secretary, and Thomas Geoffrey Fowler, a technical writer. He has two older siblings: a sister, Julie, and a brother, Randy. He attended Northridge Military Academy from which he was expelled, Canoga Park High School, and then Chatsworth High School in Chatsworth, California, where he graduated valedictorian of his class. At Chatsworth High, he starred in the school's senior production of The Sound of Music, playing the part of Captain Georg von Trapp, opposite Mare Winningham's character, Maria. While in high school, he took his mother's maiden name, "Spacey", originally a Yorkshire name, belonging to his great-great-grandfather, as his acting surname. Several reports have incorrectly suggested that he took his name in tribute to actor Spencer Tracy, combining Tracy's first and last names. He had tried to succeed as a stand?up comedian for several years, before attending the Juilliard School in New York City, where he studied drama, between 1979 and 1981. During this time period, Spacey performed stand?up comedy in bowling alley talent contests.
Spacey's first professional stage appearance was as a spear-carrier in a New York Shakespeare Festival performance of Henry VI, part 1 in 1981. The following year, he made his first Broadway appearance as Oswald in a production of Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts, starring Liv Ullmann. Then he portrayed Philinte in Molière's The Misanthrope. In 1984, it was David Rabe's Hurlyburly where, energetic and fabulously adaptable, Spacey rotated through each of the male parts. Next came Anton Chekhov's The Seagull and a period, in 1986, performing Sleuth in a New Jersey dinner theatre.
But his prominence as a stage actor really began in 1986, when he was cast opposite Jack Lemmon, Peter Gallagher and Bethel Leslie as Jamie, the eldest Tyrone son in Jonathan Miller's lauded production of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night. Lemmon in particular would become a mentor to Spacey. He made his first major television appearance in the second season premiere of Crime Story, playing a Kennedy-esque American senator. Although his interest soon turned to film, Spacey remained actively involved in the live theater community. In 1991, he won a Tony Award for his portrayal of "Uncle Louie" in Neil Simon's Broadway hit Lost in Yonkers. Spacey's father was unconvinced that Spacey could make a career for himself as an actor, and did not change his mind until Spacey became a well known theatre actor.