Alan Ball: Difficult to Watch 'American Beauty' Because of Kevin Spacey

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday November 30, 2020

Alan Ball
Alan Ball  (Source:Associated Press)

In a new interview with The Irish Times, writer/director Alan Ball admits it's difficult to watch "American Beauty" because of Kevin Spacey.

Allegations of sexual assault and misconduct against the beleaguered star of 1999 classic film have tainted the film for its writer/director, as Ball states, "especially since he plays a character who is lusting after someone who is not age-appropriate. It's unfortunate." The film, which won Ball an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, received widespread critical acclaim and grossed over $350 million at the box office.

Elsewhere in the interview, Ball discusses how "American Beauty" opened the door for him to create two popular series for HBO, "Six Feet Under" and "True Blood."

"It was interesting because I used to go to meetings and pitch my ideas and people would usually look at me and say: well, I don't know if we agree with that," says Ball. "After I won the Oscar for a moment everybody agreed with everything I said. I could do no wrong. And then I wrote a movie called Towelhead and that bombed. And I did a series for HBO that didn't go very well. And I'm no longer the golden boy."

That series, "Here And Now" in 2018 with Tim Robbins and Holly Hunter, did not meet with the same type of success and was ultimately canceled. Ball was "really proud" of the series "and I loved working on it, and it was universally reviled. Once you get past the emotional response to that, you just pick up and go on to the next thing."

It turns out, that "next thing" is Ball's third feature film, "Uncle Frank," which has been available on Netflix since November 25. In the film, South Carolina teenager Beth (played by Sophia Lillis) feels a strong connection to her uncle Frank (played by Paul Bettany) and moves to New York City, where Frank teaches at New York University. Beth learns that her uncle is gay.

"Being from the South, I know exactly what you're talking about," says Ball, who grew up in Georgia. "A lot of times [when] Hollywood goes to the South it turns into a clown show. And having come from there I know that's not true. A lot of getting it right was in the casting and in the writing. Trying to lean into the specifics of the characters. There is something great about the accent and the musicality of the language. At the same time, you have to keep everything grounded, to keep the characters real and not have them turn into cartoons. But I had such an amazing cast that was never really an issue."

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.

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