An Interview with Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburne
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March 24, 2008
Laurence Fishburne is one the few actors who can play both the good guy and bad guy convincingly on the screen. Not many actors can do that. Some actors don’t have the persona to switch gears and be credible, but Fishburne showed how menacing he was as Ike Turner in ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’, as Bumby Johnson in ‘Hoodlum’, and as well as his other roles in ‘Assault on Precinct 13’ and ‘The Life and Death of Bobby Z’.
In his latest film, ‘21’, Fishburne plays Cole William, a casino security agent who becomes determined to take down the team who has been coming to Vegas and cheating the casino out of thousands of dollars, close to a million. Directed by Robert Luketic, cast also includes Kevin Spacey, Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth, Aaron Yoo, Liza Lapira, and Jacob Pitts.
In speaking with blackfilm.com, Fishburne, along with Spacey, who plays Mickey Rosa, the math professor and the founder of the blackjack team, talked about the roles they played and what they knew about the segregation that existed in Vegas decades ago.
Did you meet the professor whose part you were playing?
KS: There isn’t a professor.
Is this all fiction?
KS: It’s not that it’s fiction, but you have to understand that over the course of time, there were reportedly more than 150 people who participated in these teams over a long period of time or in a long period of years. My character is a fictionalized character. He didn’t exist.
What about the folks who were based on some people?
Kevin Spacey: Some of the cast came through Ben Mezrich, because when he was doing research for the book, he ended meeting a whole bunch of people who had been on certain teams during times and we were introduced to various people who were involved. There’s a principal character that Jim’s character is based on, but other than that, it’s just mixing and matching, and finding a way to dramatize the film and taking some creative license. We didn’t set out to make a documentary.
Laurence, did you meet anyone who may have connected to this story?
Laurence Fishburne: I knew a guy that worked here in the very old days; in the bad old days when Vegas was segregated. There was a guy I worked on a movie over 20 years ago. He was the guy I talked to Robert about when I met Robert; and I just kinda had him in my mind because I knew he had this sort of job. He also did a lot of other things. He probably worked with the entertainers that were here. I don’t know the name of it but there was a place where the headliners would go to after their shows, and it was on the other side of town. That’s where I was coming from. This guy I knew was involved in that.
When did segregation end in Vegas?
LF: Good question. I’m not sure, but I know that people like Lena Horne and even people like Sammy (Davis Jr,) had to come through the kitchen at one point. Sometime in the 50s I would think. I’m sure Frank Sinatra was very vocal about making sure that didn’t happen to his friend.
KS: And so was Bobby Darin. Bobby Darin was one of the first to take black musicians on the road with his band, and there were places that didn’t want him to play, and he stood up to it. In fact, that was true at the Copa as well. If you were a headliner, you could play at the Copa, but if you were in the band, you couldn’t. Bobby was the first to say that he wouldn’t plat there unless they change that rule.
How was it working with Laurence Fishburne?
KS: I love the fact that I’m in a movie and he’s scarier than me. How great to have a mainstream popular entertainment in which one guns goes off and nobody gets shot, and there are no car chase scenes. There’s nothing but relationships, performances, and what happens in the mind, and I was very happy about that.
Are you going to do Broadway pretty soon?
LF: Yeah, I’m going to do Thurgood Marshall, starting on April 30th, and probably through August.
That’s going to be a tall order.
LF: It’s going to be great. I’m just going to play.
21 OPENS ON MARCH 28, 2008
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