Earlier this month, HudsonMOD, film fans and art aficionados alike had the chance to brush shoulders with one of Hollywood’s greatest talents. On April 9, at 583 Park Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, patrons of Museum of the Moving Image wined and dined in support of the Queens-based institution as the organization saluted legendary actor Kevin Spacey.
The short list of past and present costars invited to take part in the special event included, among others, Samuel L. Jackson (The Negotiator and A Time to Kill), Chazz Palminteri (The Usual Suspects), Denis Leary (The Ref and Recount), Kate Bosworth (Beyond the Sea), Penn Badgley (Margin Call) and House of Cards Secret Service Agent Edward Meechum, AKA Nathan Darrow.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made an appearance, and former President Bill Clinton’s affection for the actor—and sense of humor—was also accounted for, via a letter read aloud by the museum’s co-chairman, Ivan Lustig. The 42nd president’s countenance took shape a little later, when Spacey supplied an uncanny impersonation.
Most memorable, however—setting aside the celebrity heft, was Spacey’s acceptance speech. Amid ample laughs, by the end there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Spacey claimed he hadn’t prepared, but his words proved so on point and poignant that it’s possible he was simply doing what he does best.
Spacey imparted some inspirational wisdom he’d internalized after first working with his longtime idol, Jack Lemmon—whom he also impersonated to a tee. (“He became my friend and my mentor and my father figure,” Spacey recalled of Lemmon.)
Spacey started, in closing, “Jack had a philosophy that he passed down to me, which is why I have done the work that I’ve done. Jack had this philosophy that, if you’ve done well in the business you want to do well in, then it is your obligation to spend a good portion of your time sending the elevator back down.”
He continued, “That is why the logo for my foundation is the universal button you push to send the elevator up.”
At last, choked up, Spacey gave thanks: “There isn’t a day that goes by when I’m not enormously grateful for the people that believed in me, gave me a chance. And I know in my heart that, if we all just keep a little bit of the Lemmon clause in our hearts, we’re going to be okay.”
Standing ovation. Spacey’s heart is in the right place, his humility and sage advice making for a meaningful conclusion to a remarkable night.