Mark Harris
June 07, 1991 AT 04:00 AM EDT

After explosive performances as Wiseguy‘s deranged megalomaniac Mel Profitt and televangelist Jim Bakker in the 1990 TV movie Fall from Grace, Kevin Spacey saw villain’s work starting to crowd his résumé. So the 31-year-old actor turned to good-guy roles — and when Spacey is good, he’s very, very good. On Broadway, his Cagney-size performance as Louie, a would-be ”grand old gangster with a heart of gold” in the Neil Simon hit Lost in Yonkers, is collecting raves and awards, and on June 7, the rest of the country can see him in Darrow. ”I thought it was the best part,” he says, ”that I was ever going to be offered in my life.”

Spacey began his foray into courtroom theatrics by attending last year’s Central Park jogger trial. His interest lingered; months after completing the $2.5 million American Playhouse production of Darrow, Spacey strolls through New York’s Washington Square Park toting a volume of the famous lawyer’s impassioned trial summations, which form Darrow‘s core. ”We shot the monologues straight through,” he recalls, noting that viewers will usually see take three. ”In the first take, I’d be flat. The second time, I’d be too emotional — the chance to say Darrow’s words can sometimes overcome you.”

Spacey, an effusive, witty workaholic, has been ”relatively unsatisfied” with his film roles (Dad, Henry & June). So after Yonkers, the actor may spend a year playing Shakespeare in Britain. Offstage, he keeps a low profile, whiling away afternoons in his Greenwich Village neighborhood. But although he complains that ”people are obsessed with things that are none of their goddamn business,” he’s affable enough to offer this self-portrait: ”Some days, I don’t have a clue as to what I’m going to do. I go out to dinner. I read until one or two in the morning. I don’t party. I can’t tolerate arrogance. And I have a little dog named Legacy who has the biggest ears you’ve ever seen.”

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