TAMPA — With so many people pushing against each other to get a photograph of superstar Indian actor Anil Kapoor, the man in the charcoal suit mostly went unnoticed as he took a seat on stage, crossed his legs and waited patiently to begin.
That impeccably-suited man was Kevin Spacey, one of the most famous men in Hollywood, and the brief scene was a reminder that this was Bollywood’s day to shine.
Spacey, in Tampa to attend the International Indian Film Academy awards, took part in an invitation-only Master Class panel discussion at the Hilton Downtown on Saturday afternoon, one of many local events surrounding the awards commonly known as the Bollywood Oscars.
Spacey and his co-panelist, actress and singer Priyanka Chopra, spent more than an hour answering questions from film critic Rajeev Masand and an audience packed with prominent members of the Indian film industry — including Kapoor, who sat in the front row.
If Spacey wasn’t the biggest star in the room in terms of worldwide fame, that didn’t mean the two-time American Oscar winner was unknown to the predominantly Indian audience. When a Spacey highlight reel, which included scenes from his work in “Seven,” “American Beauty” and “The Usual Suspects,” flashed a few seconds of his original Netflix series “House of Cards,” the crowd, obviously fans, burst into a cheer.
“Clearly you’re stealing it,” Spacey deadpanned, getting a big laugh as he pointed out that Netflix is not available in India.
Spacey talked at length about his experience with a traveling production of “Richard III.” He played the lead in more than 200 performances around the world.
Spacey said it prepared him for his role as a ruthless politician on “House of Cards.” On the series, Spacey often looks straight into the camera to address the audience.
“Many people believe direct address was invented by Ferris Bueller, but it was actually invented by William Shakespeare,” Spacey said. “The character of Francis Underwood is actually based on Richard III.”
Between cracking jokes and showing off impersonations of Bill Clinton and Al Pacino, Spacey also encouraged established actors to take time to help up-and-comers, citing advice he received from his mentor, the late actor Jack Lemmon.
“Jack had this great mantra that said, ‘If you’ve done well in the business ... it is your obligation to spend a big portion of your time sending the elevator down.”
When an audience member asked for Spacey’s impression of Tampa, the actor alluded to not having seen much since his arrival a few hours earlier.
“My first impression is, well, I walked into my hotel room and I thought, ‘They think that I’m an alcoholic.’ ... The bar area was insanely filled with every kind of drink you could ever want to drink and like five champagne bottles.
“I’m here for a day!” he said. “So I started drinking very early, and that’s why this is going so well.”