"Casino Jack" shines light on disgraced Abramoff

Mon Sep 13, 2010 2:28pm EDT
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By Janet Guttsman

TORONTO (Reuters) - There's a political message to "Casino Jack," a nuanced movie portrait of a disgraced Washington superlobbyist, but lead man Kevin Spacey says it's up to the American people to fix a broken system.

Spacey plays real-life lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is serving a six-year prison term for defrauding American Indian tribes, tax evasion and trading meals and gifts for political favors in a 2006 scandal often described as Washington's biggest since Watergate.

The double Oscar winner plays the role with a certain amount of sympathy, focusing on Abramoff's philanthropy as well as his belief that lobbyists could do no wrong.

"His greed wasn't self interest," Spacey told Reuters in an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival, where "Casino Jack" premiered.

"Is it just that he got caught up in the game of being the best, of making the most money in the culture of the lobbying industry? When you break it down, he wasn't doing anything that everyone else in Washington wasn't doing. He was doing it louder, better and making more money than everyone else."

Spacey said he spent seven hours talking with Abramoff in a U.S. federal prison before deciding how to play the role. He described his meeting and the research as "a journey of discovery."

"He was very helpful, and very generous and very funny and very charming," the actor said of jailed lobbyist.

The drama, full of lavish scenes of glass-walled offices in the K Street corridor where Washington's lobbyists are based, shows influence-peddling going to the very core of the U.S. political establishment.   Continued...

<p>Former lobbyist Jack Abramoff (L) walks outside Miami's courthouse March 29, 2006. REUTERS/Carlos Barria</p>