Kevin Spacey at Georgetown

Kevin Spacey at Georgetown

(bell ringing) – [Announcer] Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage
Professor Michael Bailey, chair of the Department of Government, Ron Klain and Kevin Spacey. (applause and cheers) – Good evening. My name is Michael Bailey. I’m the chair of the
Department of Government. I’d like to welcome you
to the Sullivan Lecture on Ethics and Government. This lecture is designed to help students confront the ethical issues that they have faced and will faced as they work in the policy world on Capitol Hill, in the executive branch, at state level or as engaged citizens. We have here at Georgetown
a simple ambition. That ambition is that when someone meets a Georgetown graduate, they know that that student, that person
does things ethically. That nothing makes us prouder than when someone says something like, “She’s from Georgetown. “She’ll do it the right way.” (applause and laughter) This shared ethical
approach to public service arises in part from
conversations like this. They begin here in Gaston,
continue in classes, continue in dorms, continue on M Street, continue wherever the world takes us. Before we begin, I’d like to thank Dan and Sheila Sullivan for their generosity and support. Dan graduated from
Georgetown, both undergraduate and law degree, served in Vietnam and had a distinguished
career as an attorney in the financial services. Thank you, Dan and Sheila. (applause) I’d also like to offer a special welcome to those who’ve expressed
interest in the MA programs in the Department of Government. We have programs in American government, conflict resolution and
democracy in governance. Information on the
programs and the degrees is available at the tables outside. Please feel free to stop by and say hello. I’d also like to thank Anthony Eames, Mihaela David, Colleen Litkenhaus and the students from the Lecture Fund for their hard work in
setting up this event. (applause) Now, it is my great pleasure to welcome our two guests. Kevin Spacey may be
best known to many of us for our binges of House of Cards. (laughter) (applause and cheers) He is, of course, the star and producer of the series. It’s about Frank Underwood,
an ethically challenged majority whip in the
House of Representatives. (laughter) The series has received
nine Emmy nominations. One reviewer noted that House of Cards is “a wonderfully sour take
on power and corruption.” I should note, however, though, after what we’ve seen on Capitol Hill the past few weeks, some of us go back to the series for
a feel-good pick me up (laughter) about our national legislature. (laughter) Kevin, of course, has done much more than House of Cards. He’s won Oscars for The Usual Suspects and American Beauty, (applause and cheers) and starred in Casino Jack, Margin Call, Pay it Forward, Shipping News, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, L.A. Confidential and much more. He’s also had success in the theater, recently starring in a production of Shakespeare’s Richard III. A New York Times reviewer, writing 10 months before the 2012
presidential election, wrote, “Mr. Romney, have you met Richard, “Duke of Gloucester? “You might benefit from a sit-down “with the title character of Richard III, “or the version of him
that is being embodied “with all-conquering
audacity by Kevin Spacey. “In Shakespeare’s grisly portrait “of the hunchback who would be king, “Richard buzz-saws his way
through a crowded field “of contenders to the crown of England. “Now, Mr. Romney might find some “of Richard’s strategisms deja vu, “like having other people besmirch “your rivals’ reputations, or unfeasible “in these civilized times, like hiring “assassins to dispatch competitors. “But Mr. Romney should
definitely make close study “of at least one aspect
of Mr. Spacey’s star turn “as Shakespeare’s poisonous
bunch-backed toad. “For this Richard, the
cardinal rule of how “to succeed in politics is clear, “you have to out-act everybody else. “If Mr. Romney devotes half the flair “and energy to this proposition “that Mr. Spacey does,
you can start playing “‘Hail to the Chief.'” Now, as we know, as it turns out, (laughter) Mr. Romney did not get that copy of The New York Times (laughter) and does not have “Hail
to the Chief” played as he enters the room. One of Kevin’s roles was to play our other guest, Ron Klain,
in the movie Recount, about the 2000 election dispute between Al Gore and George W. Bush in Florida. Now, in introducing Ron,
we first need to know he’s a Georgetown College graduate. (applause and cheers) He’s also an adjunct professor here in the government department. (applause and cheers) And as if that’s not
enough, there is more. Here’s how HBO described
Ron when discussing the character that
Kevin Spacey was playing in the movie Recount. (laughter) “Klain was considered a
legal and political prodigy. “He graduated from Georgetown and earned “a magna cum laude degree
from Harvard Law School “before clerking for Supreme
Court Justice Byron White. “By 1994, he was chief
of staff and counselor “to Attorney General Janet Reno, “and Time Magazine named him one of the “50 Most Promising Leaders
in America Under 40. “He became assistant to President Clinton “and then chief of staff and counselor “to Al Gore in 1995. “Since then, Ron has
served as chief of staff “to Vice President Joe
Biden and has served “as a senior White House
aide to President Obama.” Now, both our guests tonight volunteered to show up here, and we’re very grateful for this chance to. (applause and cheers) We’re very grateful for this chance to listen in on, and
then join, a conversation about ethics, the ethics
of power and its uses. They’re gonna have a
conversation, and then we will open the floor to questions. Please join me in welcoming Kevin Spacey and Ron Klain. (applause and cheers) – Thank you, Mike. I fully expected tonight to be upstaged at my alma mater. I did not expect to be out-Georgetowned at my alma mater. (laughter) There ya go. As Mike said, out topic tonight is. (laughter) What are you gonna do? Our topic tonight is
politics, ethics, policy. Usually at Georgetown,
we study that through the study of classic
texts, historical texts, but tonight we’re gonna look at those same questions through the prism of the performing arts. In particular, through the many roles our very special guest,
Kevin Spacey, has played. We’ll start, of course, with the role on everyone’s mind. I think the most interesting character in popular culture today
that raises questions about ethics, politics and policy, Frank Underwood, Kevin’s outstanding, amazing star turn in the paradigm-shifting hit series for Netflix. I’d like to start with current events. As Mike alluded to,
we’re here in Washington, where the overwhelming
spirit is a Congress of dysfunction, gridlock, partisanship, nothing gets done. When you think about House of Cards, by comparison, and Frank
Underwood specifically, there are two differences with reality that leap out at you. The first is how incredibly effective Frank Underwood is in getting things done. (laughter) As the House of Cards
Twitter feed recently said, quote, “House of Cards is obviously “a fictional show because it features “a Congress that gets shit done.” (laughter) That’s the first thing. The second, of course, are the incredibly underhanded, unacceptable
and horrific tactics that Frank Underwood uses
to get those things done. That would never be acceptable. Kevin, I wanna start
there, which is do ya think the message of House of Cards is the ends justify the means? That you need to be like Frank Underwood to get things done? – Ya know, when I was invited to come here tonight, (laughter) and I was delighted because we have a friendship and I had the great honor of playing you in a film. Absolutely, I’d love to
come and do this evening. Then when I heard it
was a conversation about ethics and politics, and
I played Jack Abramoff and now I’m playing Frank
Underwood, I thought this is gonna be a really
fucking brief night. (laughter) (applause and cheers) But putting the irony aside, I was very interested that Kevin McCarthy, who is
the current majority whip in the House, had said
something to me privately. Because he and Steny
Hoyer were very generous in letting me come to the Capitol and spend some time
with them to learn about what it actually is to whip, in Kevin’s case, 218 congressmen and women. But he said to me privately something, that then a week later, he said publicly. I was actually kind of
shocked he said it publicly. He said, “Well, ya know, if I could just “murder one member of
Congress, I wouldn’t have “to worry about another vote.” (laughter) Of course, then the speculation began, well, who would that member be? (laughter) Do the ends justify the means? It’s a really, I think, an important question to ask. Let me put it to, try to answer it in this context. I was very interested and intrigued when I watched the film Lincoln because I thought it was an extraordinary performance by Daniel Day-Lewis,
but what I also thought was one of the most interesting aspects of the film was that the writer and Steven Spielberg, the director, and clearly the company
of actors were very interested in exploring that side of Abraham Lincoln, who
has, without question, probably become our
most sainted president, beloved, looked at as an extraordinary man of intelligence and compassion. Then you look at what he was willing to do politically to end slavery. Yes, I’m absolutely certain that if those events had been happening today, CNN would be breaking
news that the president had done these terrible, horrible things, and giving away posts and assigning people to positions in government
simply to get their vote. Because at the end of
the day, in his mind, it was more important
to pass that legislation and to need slavery than
if he appointed somebody to some thing. I look at a case like
that, and I say, well, that was a really interesting exploration of examining a part of Lincoln, as a politician, that I thought was a very valuable lesson. I came away from that going, wow, they humanized him, and
they were not unafraid to say these things he was willing to do in order to get shit done. I think that’s admirable. Now, (clears throat),
obviously House of Cards is a dramatic series,
and we’re doing things for dramatic effect, but it has been very interesting for me to go around talking to people and talking to audiences because I can be around in the political world, and I’ve sorta been around in politics most of my life. It’s very interesting
that the very question you’ve just asked is one that audiences are grappling with, do the
ends justify the means, at a time when we’re watching maybe the most paralyzed government we’ve had in quite a long time. I think maybe there are other politicians from history that were viewed as ruthless, very, very difficult, in
your face and would do dirty, dirty, nasty things , who are being re-examined. I think Lyndon Johnson
is being re-examined as a politician. A lotta people thought he was the toughest son of a bitch that ever
walked the face of the earth, but he got three Civil Rights bills passed in a very short presidency. There’s something to examine about that. – Well, let’s dig into that a little more. As you mentioned, I know you’ve talked to both Kevin McCarthy and Steny Oyer about how they do their
jobs and the ethics or arm twisting, and what
they can and can’t do. As far as I know, neither has ever killed a member of Congress. That’s very good, some limits there. But I know you’ve also
been around Washington a long time. When I talk to people
from outside of Washington about House of Cards, my friends from outside Washington
all say the same thing, “Please, Ron, tell me
it’s not really that bad.” What’s your perspective? From having talked to
Oyer, talked to McCarthy, been on The Hill, talked to these guys. House of Cards obviously
is an extreme version, a dystopian version of Washington, but how much real Washington is in there and how much of real
Washington do you think about as you develop Frank Underwood? – Whether they might say this publicly or not publicly, I have
talked to more people who are in politics who’ve said to me, “It’s closer than you can imagine. (laughter) “It’s the most accurate description “of how politics actually
works that we’ve ever seen.” West Wing, beautiful, wonderful idea of how democracy should work, but I’ve had more people in politics say they think House of Cards is closer. I don’t know whether to
take that as a compliment or (laughter) a sad state of affairs. I’m not sure. – Well, in terms of that,
one thing I’m struck by about House of Cards is that it’s not just Frank who does all these horrible and awful things. Virtually every major
character on the show, Zoe, Claire, all use completely unethical means to achieve their power in not just politics, but journalism, nonprofit
advocacy in the case of your wife on the show. When I talk to people about the show, what is interesting is that most of the viewers of the
show, most of the time, are rooting for these
characters to succeed, not withstanding the tactics they use. What do you think that says about us as an audience, that we wanna see these bad people get their way? – We’re all fucked up. (laughter) (applause) Look, you’re asking this question as if you’ve not been in a position to watch this fucking shit go
down (laughter) directly. Now, you and I, when we first met, I was playing you in a film
that was an examination of what happened in the year 2000 when we didn’t know who the president was for 46 days. – [Ron] 36 days.
– 36 days. – [Ron] Not that anyone counted. (laughter) – The shit that went down in that experience was some of the most extraordinarily mind boggling manipulation. Here’s my feeling. I watch what’s going on in Washington, and I think to myself, our scripts are not that fucking crazy. (laughter) They’re really not. I looked at that experience. 1/2 of the time when
we were doing Recount, it was so funny, the situations were so ridiculously funny that you couldn’t write them. Of course, they actually happened. When I viewed that whole experience, when we had such an incredible time making that film and the
response to that film, you have to say yes, it does happen. People do behave in unethical ways to succeed and to gain power. – Well, let’s talk about that a bit. We’ll come back to House of Cards, but let’s detour over
to Recount for a minute, which is, I think there’s
an interesting question in that film about really
who is acting ethically. There’s a lot at stake in the recount. Obviously I’m gonna show
my political bias here, no surprise. – I was leading you toward that. – Thank you, I appreciate
that, Kevin. (laughter) But because in the end, George Bush became president, a lotta things happened that a lot of us think
shouldn’t have happened in the country. I guess you can look
at Recount through one of two, the film and the actual events, through one of two ethical perspectives. One is that the Bush campaign was willing to use tactics in the recount that the Gore campaign didn’t. Maybe that’s an ethical
plus for the Gore campaign. The other perspective
would be with so much on the line, the Gore campaign should have been more aggressive and done more things to actually win. Your character, me, (laughter) definitely, in the film, at least, seemed to be very frustrated
by the constraints that was placed, (laughter) that were placed on him in his pursuit of victory in Florida. – I actually thought
that frustration was just the fact that it wasn’t
Brad Pitt playing you instead of me. (laughter) – I could not have done
better, thank you very much. But sometimes in these high stake things, not fighting hard enough may be the less ethical choice. – No, there’s no question that at the end of that film, the character I played, you, (laughter) wanted to continue the fight and didn’t wanna give up. But then you also have
the ethical question was it correct for the United States Supreme Court to become involved in a case in which, I do believe constitutionally, it is Congress that resolves presidential disputes, correct? What’s most interesting, you wanna talk ethically for second, about
the Supreme Court decision is that for the first time in its history, it was not a precedent. It was a one time only judgment, meaning you could never reflect back in any other case to the
Gore versus Bush case. You couldn’t do it. It was like we know this is wrong, but we’re doing it. The whole question of
whether the Supreme Court should have taken that case,
to me, is an ethical one. Thank you and good night, thank you. (laughter) – Now Kevin’s getting
to be really angry here. (laughter) For the record, I should
say Justice Scalia a couple of years ago gave a speech where his basic message to people on Bush v Gore was that we
should just get over it. I’m not over it. (laughter) Just to be clear about that. But I do wanna go back to House of Cards for a second. One other thing we
often hear in Washington is that for things to
get done, people in power have to be men and women of their word, and their promise has to be their bond. There’s two quotes from House of Cards that I love on this topic. The first comes in the
first episode of the show, where a promise made
to you by the president is broken. You’re outraged about that. You go to the president’s chief of staff and you say, “The nature
of promises, Linda, “is that they remain immune
to changing circumstances.” Then it turns out a few episodes later, as Frank Underwood is
trying to get things done, he may stretch a few
promises along the way and may be a little less
dedicated to the idea of promises. When he’s confronted on this, he says, quote, “I have revised the parameters “of my promise.” (laughter) – And your problem is? (laughter) – I don’t know, you tell me. Should I have a problem with that? Should we have a problem with that? – It’s politics, baby. (laughter) It is true, isn’t it? We’ve just been through a situation that I think began, was
at least spearheaded by a promise that was made, but then couldn’t be delivered on. I believe that was Boehner saying, “Yes, “we have a deal,” and then, “Oh, no, “I can’t deliver that deal.” Oh, let’s shut down the
government. (laughter) Let’s just do that. (laughter) We do seem to be existing in a time when that very thing is happening. I would say simply that
welcome to the world of human contradiction. – Indeed. I wanna detour for a second away from ethics and politics to ask you a question, which is we’ve talked about some of these roles here tonight. Jack Abramoff, and Richard
III I wanna talk to you more, about more in a second, and,
of course, Frank Underwood. Is it just a coincidence
that in the recent years, you’ve played three characters so involved in politics,
so active in politics, and a bit on the shady side, ethically? – [Kevin] Really? I wouldn’t say Ron Klain
was on the shady side. (laughter) – Ya never know. (laughter) Is there something that
draws you to these roles? As you make your choice as an actor, you obviously could play
any part you wanted to play. What is it about this sort of drama, these political dramas, particularly these political dramas about ethics, good guy or bad guy, that attracts you as an actor? – I suppose it’s that I’m not only drawn to doing classical
work in the theater, like Richard III and work like that, but I am quite interested in what we’re grappling with, what is going on in our world. Sometimes you’re just
sorta trying to explore an idea or tell a story that you think is worth telling. In the last couple of years, you’re right. With Recount and I’d even say Margin Call, which was a film about the collapse of the banking industry, (coughs) and House of Cards and
then playing Jack Abramoff, who was a lobbyist that some of you may have heard of. I am very interested in having the experience of being able to get into something and to try to, I guess, in a sense, what I feel my job is is not to judge the
characters that I play, but to play them and to not, even in many cases, give my opinion about what I think a character is like that
I play or do I think he’s a good guy or a bad guy. I like to be able to
try to do the best job that I can in telling a story and allowing the audience to be the ones who make up their minds about how they feel. I think that, in some ways, theater and film is a great opportunity for all of us to reflect and to
experience something, or to become informed about something that we maybe didn’t
know or was not something we paid too much attention to. I am deliberately walking toward things that are about our time and
what we’re going through because it’s fascinating for me, and I’m grappling through
these issues, too. One of the great joys
about doing House of Cards and the experience, I’ve
never done a series before, is that I’m still learning. It’s not that I show
up every day and I go, “Oh, yeah, I know this Frank
Underwood guy.” (laughs) I show up every day, and I’m discovering Frank Underwood because as we go on and as we, and the head writers and Beau Willimon, who’s our main writer, and David Fincher,
who’s been so incredible and hugely involved in every episode, I’m learning as we go
along about this man. He’s a fascinating character. Yes, I am deliberately interested in things that are. Whether that’s films that I’m in or films that I’m not in ’cause Captain Phillips, which
is a film that’s out now, I produced, and Social Network I produced because those were stories that I felt had not been told and
had not been tackled. – Well, let’s go talk about Richard III for a second. As Mike mentioned, you gave
an unbelievably acclaimed performance, both in
London and in New York, Richard III. I’m a government major,
a lotta people here are government majors. We may not have really studied Richard III that carefully along the way. Maybe it would be worth
you sharing a little bit of how Richard III comes to power– – He kills everybody. (laughter) Including the kids. For those of you who
don’t know, Richard III is a character that was born deformed. There are many different
actors that have played Richard over the years, and
done different kinds of things. In our production, I had
a sort of a leg brace and twisted my leg in. I had a hump and I had a
withered hand and a cane. It was just fucking horrible
to do this every night. (laughter) Because my body had to be like a pretzel every night. We did this production in 12 cities around the world. By the end, we did 198 performances. It’s a wonder they didn’t find my bones in a fucking parking lot somewhere. (laughter) Richard is a character who has learned to take those things that others view as disabilities, and
turn them into weapons. His quest for power, after having spent his whole life as being this sort of freak in his family, been called
every name in the book. His mother telling him
that people screamed at his birth because
he was born with teeth. He’s a character who seeks revenge and seeks power, and kills his brothers and kills his nephews. Then has quite an
interesting story because once you get into the
latter part of the play, he suddenly becomes a man who feels he has no conscience whatsoever, and is suddenly confronted with one late in the play, and begins to see himself the way that others see him for the first time. It’s this little tiny window, this one scene in the play after he has a nightmare, where all of the ghosts of all of the people that he’s killed to become king visit him. It’s a very interesting notion of a character like Richard III. House of Cards is based on Richard III, for those of you who don’t know, to some degree. If that’s for me, I’m not in. (laughter) (clears throat) The direct address, which
we do in House of Cards, where Francis turns to
the camera and talks to the viewer, is the device
that Shakespeare created. It’s different than a monologue. In a monologue, if you’re watching Hamlet onstage, it’s generally an actor talking to the whole theater,
but in direct address, you’re talking specifically. You’re looking right into the eyes of your audiences. What was one of the
most interesting aspects of doing Richard III,
in terms of preparing for House of Cards, was that experience of going around the world. We went as far as Beijing and Istanbul and Doha, we went to a
lot of incredible cities, and watching how an audience, the glee in people’s faces because you were sharing with them something that nobody else knew, that no one on the stage knew. You’re going, “Watch this. “I’m gonna go fucking do
this thing. (laughter) “Let’s see if I get away with it.” Then he’d (laughter) go and do it. Then he’d go, “You fucking
believe that worked?” (laughter) What was really incredible for me, in terms of preparing for House of Cards, was because I’m just
looking down the barrel of the lens now, but my memory of those 198 performances, of seeing how audiences responded and reacted, and then, quite interestingly as the play goes on, and they’re rooting him on. The same thing you talked about earlier. It’s like suddenly then he kills the kids, and they’re like, oh, shit. We’ve been fucking rooting this guy on. (laughter) He’s horrible. You’re like, he was
horrible from the beginning. (laughter) What’s been interesting
about that relationship, and in a way, I kind of
treat the direct addresses in House of Cards, I kind of think of the camera as my best friend ’cause we’ve all been in the situation where, like let’s say we’re sitting in a cafe. Somebody comes in who you sent an email to six days ago, and they haven’t fucking written you back. (laughter) You’re like, “Watch, she’s gonna walk over “and she’s gonna say, ‘Oh,
I’m so sorry.'” (laughter) She walks over and she
goes, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” You go like this. (laughter) All you have to do is look at your friend. In many ways, that’s what the experience of doing House of Cards has been like. I just imagine that it’s my best friend that you’re saying things to that you wouldn’t say to anybody. It was those audiences in all those cities that really taught me
about that relationship and how it will do this thing where they’ll be rooting for you, and then, oh, my God, I can’t believe
I was rooting for you. I don’t know if I answered your question. – You did, (laughter) but I have another one. – [Kevin] (mumbles) – No, no, we’re not done yet. – I’ll be right back. Thank you. Thank you. (laughter) (applause) I have a deal with Starbucks now. – Did you bring one of those for everyone? – No, fuck off. (laughter) (applause) – I wanna talk about. – We’re losing ’em in the balcony there. They’re going, they’ve had it. (laughter) – They’re leaving.
– I’m outta here. (clears throat) – I wanna talk about
what motivates Richard to seek power, and whether or not, how much that carries
over to House of Cards. In Richard’s famous opening monologue, he says, after talking
about his deformities, “And therefore, since
I cannot prove a lover “to entertain these farewell spoken days, “I am determined to prove a villain–” – “And hate the idle
pleasures of these days.” – Thank you. So much better done than me reading it. (laughter) A lot of people look at that and say he was predestined to villainy. It’s a compulsion. What he does is compelled
by his character. I think a lotta people
look at Frank Underwood and kinda feel the same way. It’s deep inside of him, it’s compelled. If it’s a compulsion, if it’s part of his character, is
it really fair to make an ethical judgment about these people? Is this just who they
are, and it really isn’t an ethical question,
it’s a question of nature and something deep inside them that they really can’t control? – Look, we are all
products of our experience. Not just our past experience,
but the experience we’re having now will affect us later. I think that, in some cases, like with Richard III and in many ways like with Frank Underwood, they are responding to things that are occurring. They are shifting and moving. It’s not like they woke up one day and said, “I’m evil “and I’m going to slice
my way through the world.” There is a, in the case of Underwood, I believe, an absolute clear trajectory. It is, for me, it feels like I’m in the middle of a championship chess match with a grand master, and you’ve gotta be 16 moves ahead. You have to be smarter than everyone. There are things that are happening that I think make people make choices. One of the things that Richard III has, and Frank Underwood
has, is that very thing of I just got away with that. I can’t believe I got away with that. I think that emboldens a character to then go another step and then go another step. This is what we always see in, we see in politics, we see it in
the entertainment business, where people get too
big for their britches, they get too much money,
they get too much power, they get too much
leverage, and they either burn out or people start to smell it from a mile away. Careers can be destroyed. We see it all the time,
this sort of levels of excess and hubris and
just downright craziness. Someone if it always, I
think, man, these people just wanted to get caught. You just wanted to get caught. You knew you were bad, and
so you wanted to get caught. – Frank Underwood’s doing all this to become vice president. Has anyone explained to him what it’s like to be vice president? (laughter) – You still feel that way after Cheney, is that what you’re saying? – I don’t know. (laughter) It’s a lotta effort to
become vice president. – Yeah, I suppose, but then again, I don’t think Frank will be
your typical vice president. – There you go. Once certainly hopes. I do want to ask you a question or two about Jack Abramoff. Casino Jack, the role
we mentioned earlier, I don’t wanna skate by it completely. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story of Jack Abramoff and certainly the focus of Casino Jack, he was a Washington lobbyist who came to prominence in the 1990s. His major representation was of Native American
tribes that owned casinos, and got it in their minds
that what they wanted to do was to keep other
Native American tribes from opening casinos, and
legal casinos from opening. Jack’s particular genius, if you will, was getting the idea that he could money from the tribes to hire
conservative activists to be anti-gambling and help shut down other casinos, and
thereby protect the value of his clients’ casinos. The whole thing kind of, as
portrayed in Casino Jack, seems disgusting, but the amazing thing is that Jack Abramoff went to jail not for that, but for
actually overcharging his clients for doing that. – Yeah.
– Yeah. What does that tell us about what that gets things done in Washington and where there are lines
or rules in Washington? – Well, (clears throat) the thing that Casino Jack taught me more than anything is
that, like everything, follow the money. It is the money that has, in many ways, I think, put the big brick in ethics and politics in lots and lots of ways. When you, I think, force someone to go out and raise money to be able to put television ads on television to compete in a national or a state election, and there are no
guidelines over those ads, in terms of whether
they have to be accurate or truthful or anything else, that they’re not put on television as a public service, then we will always have a problem in politics
because it will always be about how much money can I raise to run my next campaign. It seems to me until the money comes out, that’s not gonna get solved. As long as politicians are the ones who are supposed (laughs)
to do the reform, that’s probably not gonna happen, either. – In fact, Casino Jack begins and ends, a dramatic device, with Jack Abramoff writing a letter to President Obama suggesting that he, Jack Abramoff, should be put in charge
of political reform ’cause he knows what’s
so bad about the system. One, do ya think rule breakers understand the rules better than anyone else? Two, does that mean that Frank Underwood should be chair of the
House Ethics Committee? (laughter) – He’d get shit done on that committee. – [Ron] He would get
shit done, yeah, yeah. – I can’t remember your question, sorry. – [Ron] There ya go. (laughter) Casino Jack and his role as a reformer. – Oh, as a reformer. We have countless cases where we see the very people that
shouldn’t be in charge of something are in charge of something. It’s like no, you stole from me. Why would I then say I
want you to make sure that you guard my safe? I wouldn’t necessarily choose them. I think they can be very helpful. I believe Jack Abramoff
has a radio show now, so he’s able to put his views out there. – Let me wrap up my part of this, before we go to the audience, with one last question, which is we talked in a very lighthearted way about the ethics, the morality of House of Cards and what it says about politics, but it is largely an audience of college students here tonight. I wanna give ya a chance to kinda get on your high horse a little bit, if you want to, and talk about what you really think about. I know you’ve been incredibly active and devoted to politics and public service and political activism. What are the ethics you
hope today’s generation of college students have
about public service and politics, whether or
not they’re well reflected by Frank Underwood in your dramatic work? – I believe in public service. I think it’s an extraordinary thing when someone decides that they
wanna become involved in their community and in their state and in their country, and to try to help those that are in a much more difficult situation. I think there’s a lot that must turn people off about
politics, but there’s also a lot of really incredible
things that can be done. I think that we can always
do it in small ways. Whether it’s working for something we believe in, in a
charitable organization, or trying to organize something for somebody who needs some help or even going out and
trying to encourage people to vote and to become involved, rather than becoming
cynical and not involved. I think that the thing that people need to be careful of is believing, as we often see and often hear, that a single politician is speaking for the majority of the American public. We hear this constantly. I’m speaking for the American people. I always think to myself, when do you ever have fucking time to
see the American people? How many people do you actually talk to that you’re not raising money from? I think that is horseshit. (laughter) But I do believe in it. I’ve believed in it from the time I was stuffing envelopes for Jimmy Carter when I was in junior high and high school. Over the years, I’ve done a lot of things over the years for the Democratic Party. I really do believe in it. I really do believe that it can be such an incredible force for good. I’ve always been a big believer that it’s our responsibility
when we get to a place where we, if we’ve done
well in the business we wanted to do well in,
then it’s our obligation to spend a good part of our time sending the elevator back down. That’s just our job. That’s just what we should do. I believe in it. It’s been fascinating for
me to work on the series. It’s been sort of incredible for me to be in Washington and
meeting all of these various politicians, and
asking hard questions to them about why can’t we get it to work. It’s a pretty incredible idea, what we can accomplish and what we can do. But as long as we live in a world where ideology will lead over the notion of working together or compromise, because that’s the thing that I think we all can look back at history and say what are the most incredible times where we’ve passed things
and gotten things done? It’s when people worked together and they compromised. They were willing to say I’m not gonna get everything I want. I hope that those kind of smart and intelligent people
will go into politics, and all this other stuff
will fade away someday. – Excellent. I know we have many of those smart, intelligent people here in the hall. We’re gonna go to let the audience have some questions now. There’s a microphone
right here down front, so if people would queue
up behind the microphone, I will call on you, and
you can ask your questions. All right. – That means you guys up there are fucked. (laughter) – All right. We’ll go ahead.
– [Dale] Hi there. My name is Dale Apasad. I’m with our campus news back here. I am probably not the only person in this auditorium who started watching your series and then
10 hours later realized it was finished. (laughter) My question for you is why Netflix? Your series is, it’s so highly lauded, but why didn’t you pitch it to ABC or NBC? Why go straight to Netflix? Why all at once? – To answer your question, we didn’t just go to Netflix. We went to all the other networks, except ABC, NBC, CBS
’cause we couldn’t say some of the things we say and do some of (laughs) the things
we do in family hour. (laughter) But we did. We went out to all of
the broadcast networks, all of the cable networks, and we pitched the idea of the series. Everyone was interested. They thought it was a
terrific original series. I don’t, many of you know it was a British series originally. They liked my work, they
liked David Fincher’s work, but they felt very strongly that they wanted us to do a pilot. Now, does everyone know what a pilot is for a television show? Sort of have to go out and make a whole movie, like sometimes a two hour, in which you establish all the characters and you kind of tell the whole story. You have to prove that it’s gonna work. David Fincher and Beau Willimon and I were not interested in
auditioning the show. We believed in it. We also felt that what happens from the writing perspective and from a creative perspective, if you have to write a pilot, then you’re obligated to sort of introduce all the characters in 45 minutes, create
arbitrary cliffhangers and stuff that we just didn’t wanna do. We felt we knew we wanted the story to go on for a long period of time. We needed distance to tell that story. We needed space to have the relationships begin to evolve. We wanted to start the story and go as long as it was gonna go. The only network that said we like you and we like David and we thought that show was cool and we’ve run our data and we think
people would watch it. We don’t need a pilot. How many do you wanna do? We were like, um. (whispers) (laughter) Two seasons. They said okay. Now, it did not surprise me that an organization like
Netflix would step up. I’ve been talking for about eight years about you’re going to see, whether it’s Hulu or Ustream or YouTube or Amazon, these companies that have made a gazillion dollars as being portholes for content, if they’re
gonna wanna compete, they’re gonna wanna get
into the content business. They’re gonna start wanting to make original programming. What’s been so exciting about A, having them as partners, is on the one hand, for us creatively, because they’ve never done it before, they didn’t even have an
office to give us notes. (laughter) They were like, yeah, it’s great. Go (laughter) film it. (laughter) To be in a position where we had complete autonomy and creative control was a fantastic position to be in. Then on top of that, when you think about
the distribution model and the platform of being able to, for the first time, I
believe, in the history of television, never
before has an entire season of a series been dropped on the first day. What’s been exciting about that, as you said, a sort paradigm change, is that people have been
binging since box sets. Binging isn’t new, but the notion that you don’t have to wait, that you can watch the series in whatever
way you wanna watch it. You wanna spend 10 hours smoking and drinking,
as I’m sure you were, (laughter) and watch it that way,
you can watch it that way. If you wanna watch three episodes and not watch it again for four weeks, you can do that. The reason I was so excited about the fact that we went to Netflix is that to me it also meant that
maybe we were saying that we learned the
lesson the music industry didn’t learn. Give people what they
want, when they want it, in the form they want it
in, at a reasonable price, and they’ll more than likely buy it and not steal it. Now, some will still steal it, (laughter) but I think we can also take a little bit of bite out of piracy, as well, because when you give an audience
the access they want, then they’re in control. I think people love being
able to be in control of how they get their entertainment. – [Ron] Great, next question. (applause) – [Man] Thank you so much for both of you for being here. I think we could all agree that you look great in that sweatshirt. (laughter) My question is more of
an artistic question, in terms of why you’ve
made certain choices. The first moment we meet Frank Underwood is when he kills the dog that was hit outside of his house. I was wondering if there’s
a particular reason for that being the very first scene we’re introduced to. I’m also curious as to
why Frank and Claire never have kids, if that was intentional. Then I guess I have a
third question. (laughter) Will there be a third season? – Okay, three guys behind
you are really pissed off. (laughter) Yes, I will actually tell you exactly how that scene happened, which is that it started with a very, very kind of pure concept that Beau Willimon, our head writer, wanted the entrance of Frank Underwood to be out a double set of doors in a townhouse and down a set of stairs. That’s how he wanted to introduce him. We had to figure out, well,
now that’s he outside, what the heck’s gonna happen? (laughter) That’s how ultimately, as we discussed it, the thing that we were
looking for in that scene, and by the way, you never see the dog, you never see, there’s no
shot of the dog at all, but we wanted to do
something in that first scene that would set the tone for a character who is both doing some. Goodnight. (laughter) That’s much better. Thank you for turning those out. I can actually see everybody. A character who is doing something that, on the one hand might seem horrible, but on the other hand might seem incredibly kind, to put an animal out of its misery The whole notion of a
character that will do the necessary thing, that, for us, was a great illustration of how to do it. I’m almost certain that if we’d been at a regular network, boy, would we have gotten notes on that idea. We’re a little concerned. (laughter) – [Ron] He kills a dog. – Kills a dog in the first five minutes. We’re a little concerned. (laughter) (applause) Your second question is
yes, and it was addressed in the first season, but obviously you were sleeping during that episode, (laughter) about the fact that they
don’t have children. As far as the season three goes, I do believe in just a few weeks that there’ll be some sort of
announcement about that, but I can’t tell you. (applause and cheers) – [Kevin Rafferty] Hi,
my name’s Kevin Rafferty and I’m a senior. I was wondering how much you use the British example in
portraying Francis Underwood. – Has anyone ever seen the British version of House of Cards? Have you guys watched any of it? A, I can recommend it because the actor, Ian Richardson, who played a character named Frank Urquhart, because it was a slightly different name and we didn’t think
Urquhart worked for the US, so we changed it to
Underwood, which, of course, meant that the initials are still FU. (laughter) Beautifully played by Ian Richardson, a very successful series,
although they only did 13 episode of that original series. I had watched it many, many years ago, and then when David Fincher and I were on the set of Social Network and we started talking about wanting to work together as an actor and director,
not just a producer and director. Then a little while
later, he came and he said he heard that the rights
to this British series House of Cards were
available, and did I know it. I said yes, I’d seen it. My mother loved that show. He said, “Well, I haven’t watched it.” I said, “Well, you go watch it. “I’ll go watch it again.” Then we came back together, and we both felt very strongly that it could translate to the United States. Is that what your
question? I forgot already. – [Kevin Rafferty] How
you used the example of Francis Underwood. – I watched it in order to be able to have the conversation with David, but then I didn’t watch it again because while we wanted to use
that original series as a kind of springboard and, in a sense, a foundation, we also
were really determined to create our own thing. There were aspects of it
that were quite helpful, but ultimately I just kinda tried to stay focused on what was on the page and what we were trying
to create in our series. – [Kevin Rafferty] Thank you.
– [Ron] Thank you. – [Man] Hi, thank you for being here. I had a question about your characters, the characters that you play. A lot of them are evil characters who have ethically questionable behavior. – Watch it. (laughter) – [Man] I was wondering, do you go through a mindset? How do you detach from
who you are as a person and enter these roles? – I’ve never been somebody who, there are times when you’re shooting, I would say, in a film situation, where if you’re filming something, a scene that is particularly difficult, you might have to live
with a certain emotion for a couple of days,
but I’m really the kind of actor that when I hang up the costume, the character, I don’t bring it home. I always like to be
aware that I am playing. I’m not somebody who
insists people call me Mr. Vice President
every day on set because (laughter) I’m Mr. Vice President. Although there are actors who are like that. (laughs) I just think
just fucking get a job. (laughter) – [Man] Thank you. (laughter) – [Danny] Hi, my name is Danny Sullivan. Thank you for being here. In your opinion, is there a single ethical character in
all of House of Cards? (laughter) That’s what I thought. Thank you. (laughter) – I don’t know. It’s such an interesting thing. All these last number of weeks, I’ve been having these
discussions and conversations about purity. Some people think purity’s like Ivory Soap or purity is like you have your principles and you’re gonna stand
by those principles, even if it destroys
everything in your wake. I think that life is not like that. It is not black and white. Sometimes it’s very
easy for us to do that. This is bad, and this is good. Whereas, we all generally live in a world that’s a little more gray. It’s the gray that’s interesting. It’s the gray where we find common ground. I think that there are characters in House of Cards that have enormous ethics about certain things, and there are others who don’t have the same
ethics about certain things. We’re discovering who these
characters are as we go. As I say, I don’t have all the answers. I’m still learning things about why the character is the
way he is, and whether the question is or was that person just born that way, and therefore, we shouldn’t expect there to be ethics. As the years go on, we
find out so many things about our great leaders that we never knew while they were alive. Would our opinions have changed of them if we’d known that? ‘Cause now we live in a world of gotcha. Gotcha, caught ya being a bad person or being a human being. I just think that it’s,
that’s what interests me about the exploration of this, is that it’s not the black or white, it’s the stuff in the middle,
it’s the stuff of life. – [Danny] Do you mind if
I ask a follow question? – No. – [Danny] How do you best make sense of that gray then? What’s the best way to
explore those issues? – Well, I’m exploring them in the way that I can, through my profession, which is to tackle these roles and put these stories out here, and let these kind of conversations,
whether they’re happening at home because people are watching or they’re happening in restaurants or they’re happening here. Look, it’s like being an actor. Sometimes you have to
keep asking questions. It doesn’t mean you’ll
come up with an answer. Very often you lead
yourself down a blind alley just to find another blind alley, just to find another blind alley. It’s a constant sort of struggle. Very often, in terms
of when you’re working on particularly a film
or a television show, you have to make decisions very quickly about how you choose to play something, how you choose to play a scene. Sometimes you’re hoping
you’re guessing right because you don’t have the exploration that I do when I’m doing a play, where we’re coming every day and working on something, and going
away for three days, and coming back and doing it again. All of the work that that does and percolates down, and how other actors’ performances are changing. That’s a growing, living, alive thing, whereas, in film and television, you film something over
the course of a day, and it goes away. I always try to remember this. No matter how good I might be in a film, I’ll never be any better. In theater, I can be better. I can be better next Tuesday
than I was last night. I can be better two weeks from now. That is what I love about theater so much. I’m in the midst of
the exploration myself. – [Danny] Thank you.
– Thanks. (applause) – [Tess] Hi, my name is Tess Rezinski, and thank you, again, for joining us here. I have a little bit more
complicated question. Frank Underwood in House
of Cards is sometimes considered to be courageous and empowered in what he’s doing, even
though it’s not necessarily blase. (laughs) For Claire and Zoe,
sometimes they’re portrayed as a little more unhinged, daring, risky. Their behavior is not felt as planned out or as empowered, but a
little bit more dangerous. Do you think that women in politics today are subject to that double standard? And if so, why? – I’m literally trying to figure out what you’re asking me. (laughter) – [Tess] For Claire and Zoe, sometimes they’re not as, they are considered not having planned out their bad actions as well, and also, their bad actions aren’t
necessarily as justified, whereas, for Frank Underwood, he has this end goal in mind that
is just above all else. That makes the end justify the means. Do you think that women in politics today are subject to that double standard? – Well, it sounds to me like you’re, this is an opinion you have about the way in which these two
characters are coming off, but I suspect there are people who may not agree with that opinion. It’s an opinion, and that’s fine. I would say if we’re gonna have a level playing field, then it seems to me that everyone is subjected to the same rules of the game,
whether that’s in politics or in the workplace. How’d I do? (laughter) I’m not so sure. – [Tess] Thanks.
– Thanks. – [Ron] Next question. (applause) – [Chris] Hi, I’m Chris. This question is actually for Ron Klain. Kevin, I hope that’s okay. – Absolutely. (laughter) – [Chris] I was really
interested in the fact that you were both chief of staff to Gore and Biden. Those are obviously two
very different characters. If you could kinda talk about how you might be able to compare the two experiences. – Well, first of all, I wanna thank anyone for asking me a question
tonight. (laughter) (applause) Secondly, I wanna say that this young man has not been one of my
students in my class, but if he enrolls next
term, he’s getting an A. (laughter) I was listening to Kevin
say that Frank Underwood would be a very different
kind of vice president. That certainly (laughs) is the case. I think Al Gore and Joe
Biden are two people who are very different personalities, very different personas. One very introverted,
one very extroverted. One who came to politics
because his father was in it, one who really came to politics more on his own. But what was interesting
to me was, for all their differences, the common objectives they shared, the common principles, the common ethics they shared. A belief, in conjunction
with our topic tonight, that there were ethical
constraints and rules that govern the pursuit
of politics and power, and that they wanted
their staffs to follow those rules and constraints. I think that on the surface, you look at these two men, and they’re
very, very different, but what motivates them, what brought them to politics, in terms of the things they wanted to get done, and how they dealt with the president, how
they dealt with their staff, were very, very similar. It was easy to work for both of them. I was, obviously, honored to do so. Thank you. – [Chris] Thanks. (applause) – [Margo] Hi, hi. I’m Margo. I’m a freshman. I’ve never felt more like
a freshman in my life. (laughter) You brought up just before how the news kind of portrays, might portray figures like Lincoln if he were to be president today,
doing the same things he did back then. What are both your views on the role of media in politics today? Does it expose corruption
or kind of make us focus on the wrong things when we talk about politics? (clears throat) – I think something fundamentally changed in the 1980s in the news business. That’s when the conglomerates decided that the news divisions
should be profitable. I think that when you make the news have to be profitable,
it’s no longer news. When you make the news have to compete against entertainment programs, it becomes entertainment. I think we’ve lost a
lot, in terms of the way in which news is gathered and news is told because they have to make money, again. I think that now, it makes me think if Edward R. Murrow were on the air now, it would be a very unique situation where people got together to discuss and to debate a political
idea or an issue. Nowadays, it seems to
me that people generally tune on to a channel to
hear their own opinions voiced back at them again
and again and again. The chance for really
discourse and real discussion that is, again, not about ideology, has been eroding year
after year after year after year, in terms of
the way that the news is presented. It’s disappointing to me. – I guess what I’d add
to that is I do think we’re at an interesting pivot point in the democratization of news. We experienced this firsthand
in the Obama campaign in 2012 in the first presidential debate. I’ve worked on presidential debates all the way back to 1992. One thing you do is you carefully work during the debate to try
to spin the reporters and try to persuade the reporters that your candidate won the debate and made a good point, so on and so forth. In the middle of that
first debate in Denver, when the Twittersphere had decided that Obama had been crushed in the debate, there was really nothing we could do. We had a bunch of spinners sitting around, unable to spin, because
millions of Americans, in what was then the
largest political event ever on Twitter, had all voted. They voted we had lost the debate. That opportunity, through social media, particularly for people
of your generation, to influence politics,
to influence the news, to discipline and shape the news, to deal with some of the things Kevin mentioned, I think is an interesting
and powerful twist, and something that politicians
and political figures need to deal with. We had to come to the
second and third debate with strategies to deal with social media, to engage the Twittersphere, to rally them behind President Obama, and we did, and he won the second and third debate. But I think there’s a new opportunity for more people to be
voices in this dialogue and to influence news
coverage than were was. Hopefully, that will
curb some of the things that Kevin talked about. (applause) – [Woman] This is for both of you. Please don’t judge me. (laughter) I’m just playing the devil’s advocate, and it might be from my experience only, understanding politics since 1994 or however long I’ve been alive, but to what extent do you think ethics exist in politics? And to what extent is the concept of an
ethical person or image a political tool? – I understand why you have that question. I’m not gonna judge you because I think it’s a commentary on
what you see very often, and a sad commentary on that. But I do think there
are ethics in politics. I will tell you, over the course of my 30 years working in politics, I’ve worked with enormous number of people who are moved and governed
by all the right things, even when no one’s looking and even when it’s not to their advantage. I understand why there
are disappointments, and why there are political figures who disenchant us and who disappoint us, but I do believe the
vast majority of people, and I don’t mean just
necessarily people I agree with. Both Democrats and
Republicans, both liberals and conservatives, are in politics for the right reason, and do so in ethical way every day. (applause) – Yes, I do believe. I have known over the years a number of pretty extraordinary people whose ethics were never in question to me. But I also think your other point, about do people use it as a tool, well, of course. We have people trying to shape the opinion of their base on whether or not they’re a certain,
whether they believe in a certain thing and whether they support a certain idea. Very often, I find myself feeling like I genuinely don’t believe that you really believe that, but
I believe (laughs) that you’re saying that because you want to, by using the media and using sound bites and using all sorts of
things, create an image of yourself as an ethical person. The great thing is that all you guys are the ones that can vote
’em in or vote ’em out. It’s your ethics. – [Woman] Thank you.
– [Ron] Thank you. I’ve kept Kevin longer than I promised. – That’s all right, we’ll do a few more. – Okay. – [Evan] Hello, thank
you both for coming out. My name’s Evan Sweeney. Mr. Spacey, I’m a huge fan of your work, so it’s an honor to be here. – Thank you. – [Evan] I have an
artistic question for you. Over the course of your career, it’s been so diverse, in the terms of how you’ve done things. You’ve done television, you’ve done live stage acting, you’ve down movies. I was wondering if there
was a certain format that you could appreciate
and/or enjoy the most. As you go forward with your career, if you think you’ll find yourself gravitating towards one? – Well, A, thank you very much. I feel like the luckiest guy alive because I’ve been able to have the
most extraordinary career, the most incredible challenges in working with really remarkable artists in the theater and in film. If I were to have to say, well, I prefer, I prefer the experience of
doing the living theater because, as I said earlier, it is. I guess maybe the only analogy that I sometimes use that people understand is sometimes people go, “Well, don’t you “get bored doing a play every night? “It’s the same play.” I go, “No more than if
I was playing tennis “eight nights a week.” It’s, yeah, the same
rules and ya gotta get the ball into the same,
but it’s a different game every time you’re out on that court. It’s new every time. There is also something which can’t be underestimated, in
terms of the experience, which is the act of
being watched changes it. If you went out tonight
and you played tennis with a friend of yours, and you just went to a park and it was just the two of you, that’s one kind of game. But if you went out to a park, and 12 of your classmates came with you and they were drinking beers on the side, that’s a different kinda game. (laughter) There is the act of being watched and the relationship that you have with an audience that can be an extraordinary, alive experience. I also think that I’ve learned over a long period of time that the mediums of theater and
film are very different in that film is the director’s medium and the editor’s medium. Theater is the actor’s medium. When you film a movie or a series, and you’re doing multiple takes and multiple scenes, and
there’s just thousands and thousands and
thousands of feet of film, and someone’s gonna come in and take that little performance
you did from that angle and the way you said that line, and then take that one, the next
line, slightly different. They are shaping your performance in a way that you have no control over at all. In a sense, I’ve given
them all of the colors, and it’s their painting. They’re gonna put it together in a way that I don’t have much relationship to. Whereas, in the theater,
I get to start at A and go all the way to Z, and it’s all my choices and it’s all
the way I wanna portray and have that experience
happen for an audience and for myself. For me, my primary allegiance has always been the living theater, and I think it always will be. – [Evan] All right, thank you so much. – Thank you. (applause) – [Mariana] Hello, my name is Mariana. I’m a senior at Georgetown. This question is geared for both of you. Mr. Spacey, I’m a huge fan. I love House of Cards, (laughs) so I’m a little nervous. I wanted to ask you both about the role of women in politics. In House of Cards, I think the woman who has the highest
possible rank in the show is Linda, who’s the chief of staff for the president. My question to you is do you think that in the next possible election, there is a possibility that we could
see a woman president? And if we do, do you think that Congress is actually ready for a woman president? Given that we’ve seen the tensions that have come up with our
first African American president and Congress, do you think that similar tensions may arise if we were ever in that situation,
where the first woman, like Hillary Clinton, became president? (laughter) – Kinda like. (laughter) I’ll say this. If Congress isn’t ready, they better fucking get ready. (applause and cheers) – And Kevin, could you
answer that question with a Bill Clinton impression? ‘Cause Kevin does the best
Bill Clinton impression. (cheers and applause) – Let me tell ya this. (laughter) I hope she does run. (laughter) (applause and cheers) ‘Cause then I’d get to
be the first husband. (laughter) How about that? (laughter) – I agree with all that. Thank you.
– [Mariana] Thank you. – [Woman] Good evening, thank
you both for being here today. – Thank you for coming. (laughter) – [Woman] I love you, Bill. (laughs) I absolutely love House of Cards, but I also know a lot of people who are very idealistic about
the political change they want to cause. A question for both of you, do you think there’s any danger in
politics being portrayed in such a negative light in popular media? Do you think it could just exacerbate negative stereotypes people already have? Or are you more optimistic? Do you think it could cause change and maybe even raise the moral code because of this harsh
lens being shined upon politics and politicians in DC? – Jesus Christ, you’re gonna have your own talk show (laughter) in like five seconds. – [Woman] Thank you. – I can’t construct a fucking sentence, and that was just like. (laughter) Are there cue cards for you? (laughter) There’s your power in women in politics right there. (laughter) Look, it’s a really good question. It’s probably a question
that’s been going on for a very long time
because if you look at, for example, most of
Shakespeare’s great plays, they are about power,
and whether that power is royal power of
political power or people trying to gain power, these questions have been
going on for a long time. I do think that it’s a great thing when someone’s at that crossroads of a decision. Will I do this or will I do this? Will I listen to this little angel or Frank Underwood on
my (laughs) shoulder? That’s a very interesting
dilemma for all of us. We can talk about it in a sorta big and general way, but what
are other people gonna do? But at the end of the
day, it’s down to what we’re going to do. What decision am I going to make that’s going to be a good decision or a bad decision? And not just necessarily
a good decision for me. To me, that’s the thing
that every politician faces, anyone that goes into
the work of government or the work of wanting
to do public policy. That’s a great thing, when
you get to that place. I wish I could say yes, everyone’s gonna make the right choice, but even sometimes the wrong choice, from an
outsider’s point of view, leads to a. It’s like our tagline, which
is bad for a greater good. Yeah, there are times when you gotta do something sneaky to get something done that’s worth getting done. Do the ends justify the means? Maybe. – Look, I think that, I don’t think that anyone in politics does anything bad because
they see Frank Underwood do it on TV. But what I do think is we have 700 people here in Gaston Hall tonight
having this conversation because our popular culture engages us in thinking about these questions in a way that if I were standing at that lectern and going through my notes on the Ethics in Government
Act, it probably wouldn’t draw the same crowd. I think it’s great that a
show like House of Cards puts these questions
before us, and makes us think about these
questions and think about the answers, but I think the answers come from us, not from aping
the behavior we see the actors on House of Cards do. – [Woman] Definitely fair. Thank you so much.
– Thank you. (applause) – [Man] I’ve gonna a question for– – You’re phenomenally tall.
– I know. (laughter) – Sorry that mic is so short. – Do you need a tall assistant
by any chance? (laughter) First, to you. I’m wondering, the one
thing I really took away from House of Cards
was you have that scene right in the beginning which kinda sets up the whole story, where Frank is really, is disappointed by the president because he’s not getting the position. My question to you is to what extent is he actually a victim of circumstance? Because he then, kind
of to me, comes to the realization if I just keep doing things the way I used to do them, I’m not gonna get where I want to go. I’m just gonna do whatever it takes now. Then as a followup to
you, sir, I’m wondering do you feel like the political
system actually might corrupt people that previously come in with good intentions, and then see they can’t actually get shit
done, as you said earlier? Thank you. – Thank you. Did you have a question ’cause it seemed like a really nice comment, (laughter) but I don’t know what your question was. – [Man] My question to
you was to what extent do you think that Frank
Underwood is a victim of circumstance, in that the story makes him do the things he didn’t previously think about doing? (clears throat) – I think he reacts. He is, believes himself to be very attuned to the way that other people will react to things he does. That’s a very interesting kind of person to deal with. That’s all you get, sorry. (laughter) – I guess what I would just say is I’m torn about this
question of whether or not the system makes people into bad actors, or they’re merely bad actors who wind up in the system. I think there’s no question, as Kevin alluded to earlier, that
the tremendous influence that money has in our
political system right now is a corrupting influence. If it doesn’t make people
actually unethically, it certainly makes people take time that they wanna spend working on solving our problems, and spend that time instead raising money. Whether that’s unethical
or simply unfortunate, it’s a bad thing. That’s a bad thing about our system, no question about it. I do think, though, on the other hand, as I said earlier, we
have an enormous number of people in our system who act ethically and act morally and act
for all the right reasons. So the system’s not
corrupting those folks. I think it’s too much of a cop out just to blame it on the system, and not hold people individually
accountable for their actions. – [Man] Thank you.
– Thank you. – [Kevin] Thank you. – One more question, then we’re
gonna get Kevin outta here. – [Anton] Hello, my name is Anton. I’m from the Center of Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies. I’d like to thank you
for your lecture tonight. I haven’t had the privilege
of watching (laughs) House of Cards, unfortunately. I have two questions,
which are very different. The first question is about whether it is possible to develop ethical guidelines for
foreign military interventions because obviously we
don’t want a new Hitler kind of trying to spark a Third World War, but on the other hand,
we don’t wanna spend even more money on wars. My second question, which, as I said, is very different from my first, was your character in American Beauty, in a way, punished for his attitude towards life, do you think? Or was he just a random
victim of circumstances? – I’ll answer the last question first ’cause it’s an interesting
question because it seems like you’re making a moral judgment about Lester Burnham, that somehow he got what he deserved. I would say that I think what I loved about Lester was that he got to a point in his life where he just couldn’t stand the bullshit anymore, and he did something about it. If that means his view of the world, in the end, as I think he, if I remember at all, he’s quite peaceful in looking back at his life. I would say no to that one. The other one, you’re
asking me about Hitler. I don’t really. (laughter) – [Anton] I was just asking about whether it’s possible actually to develop ethical guidelines for foreign
military interventions. When should the United States intervene? – We supposedly have
a system of government in which those issues are discussed by Congress and discussed by Senate, and decisions are made. Obviously, presidents have gone to war without that. We’ve had those that
have gone to war with it. But I don’t think we should ever go. – [Ron] Great, thank you very much. – [Anton] Thank you. (applause and cheers) – The program say I’m supposed to make closing remarks, and so I will, and I will do it very briefly. I first came to Gaston Hall 34 years ago this fall as a freshman
at Georgetown University. I came here because I
wanted the opportunity to have a first-rate academic instruction in government and politics, and the chance to have hands-on experiences
here in Washington. I have been incredibly
lucky in those 34 years to be able to have
both, first as a student here at Georgetown, and then as an alumnus who spent a lot of my
career in public service, and for the past few
years, as an adjunct member of the faculty in the
government department. Over those 34 years, I’ve seen great ups and great downs, had
successes and failures, and often struggled with the questions we’ve been talking about tonight. How far will you go to
win a political campaign? How far will you go to get a bill passed? How far will you go to
win a political fight? How far will you go when the presidency of the United States is on the line in the courts in Florida? What I can say is I’m certainly not naive about that, and I’ve
certainly seen all sides of that, but what I took
away from Georgetown is something I still
believe 34 years later, that there are ethical
standards in politics and policy. That most people in those systems observe those most of the time,
and all of ’em should all the time. I believe that one
reason why at Georgetown we have a government major, not a political science department, is because as important as scientific
and analytical rigor is in policymaking, and it is important, that we believe the politics and policy also involve morality, ethics, philosophy and humanity. I believe that that’s what we’re teaching here at Georgetown. I believe that at Georgetown, we believe that there’s not just
an opportunity to serve, but an obligation to serve. That service comes not just with ambition, but also with a commitment to acting ethically and morally. I believe most of all, that’s what we mean why we say, with pride and passion, we are Georgetown. So on behalf of Georgetown
and the government department, and my personal favorite
Hoya who’s with me here tonight, my college girlfriend who, 27 years later, is my wife. (applause and cheers) Yes, it can happen to you. (laughter) I just wanna ask you
all to join me once more in thanking our very
special guest tonight, Kevin Spacey. (applause and cheers) Thank you so much, Kevin. Thank you for doing this. (applause and cheers)

20 thoughts on “Kevin Spacey at Georgetown

  1. The last question about intervention, Mr. Spacey said "I don't think we should ever go". I'm not sure if he meant an absolutist pacifist position or not. I hope not, because everything else he said was very well put.

  2. free market economics :
    you want $3 from me when I want to 'utilize' your 'good' for my 'pleasure' ….
    where then is my $3 from you when you wish to 'utilize' my 'good' for your 'pleasure' …. ?
    when I go to the checkout … and I am five cent short ….

  3. "Viewer discretion is advised due to language" – BRING IT OOOOOON! lol Am sick and tired of endless beeps in films and TV shows, as if people who watch them never use these words!

  4. A true Artist is someone who claims their individuality….Kevin Spacey is a genius…because that is what they do…and his acting shows his superb expertise.

  5. THE liberalranti good actor not sure about the clinton love … keep acting
    the money in politics is the cancer that has rotted the american dream and world wide
    welcome to coruptisum writ large

  6. i was already loving this interview q and a type deal then it became just a fucking riot when Spacey made the little quipp about congress getting ready for the first woman pres. fast forward 4 years lollolololololololol!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ha howd that one work out for you hillary supporters? OHHHH yeah not so fucking good!! Dont worry congress you got another 8 years to 'get fucking ready" as Kevin Spacey so confidently put it. #TRUMP 2016 bitches!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. I will just come right out and say it: I still like him. I don’t give a shit what other people think about that. I don’t condone his actions, and he should be held accountable, but I just don’t buy that he’s a monster. Some of these allegations against him are just sounding like people trying to get their fifteen minutes of fame, and Heather Unruh's case was exposed as a money grab, so what does that tell you? I for one am happy that his name's been cleared, that he's slowly coming back, and I'm glad that the metoo hysteria surrounding him is ending.

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