Kevin Spacey, CBE (born Kevin Spacey Fowler; July 26, 1959) is an American actor, director, screenwriter, producer, and crooner. He grew up in California, and began his career as a stage actor during the 1980s, before being cast in supporting roles in film and television. He gained critical acclaim in the early 1990s, culminating in his first Academy Award for The Usual Suspects (Best Supporting Actor), followed by a Best Actor Academy Award win for American Beauty (1999). His other starring roles in Hollywood include Seven, L.A. Confidential, Pay It Forward, and Superman Returns in a career which has earned him several Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. Since 2003, he has been artistic director of the Old Vic theatre in London.
Spacey is of English and Welsh descent, and was born in South Orange, New Jersey, the younger son of Kathleen Ann (née Knutson; December 5, 1931 – March 19, 2003), a secretary, and Thomas Geoffrey Fowler (June 4, 1924 – December 24, 1992), a technical writer and data consultant. He has two older siblings: a sister, Julie, and a brother, Randy. He attended Northridge Military Academy, Canoga Park High School (in tenth and eleventh grades), and then Chatsworth High School in Chatsworth, Los Angeles, where he graduated valedictorian of his class. At Chatsworth High, he starred in the school's senior production of The Sound of Music, playing the part of Captain Georg von Trapp, opposite Mare Winningham's character, Maria.
While in high school, he took on his paternal grandmother's maiden name, "Spacey", originally a Yorkshire name, as his acting surname. Several reports have incorrectly suggested that he took his name in tribute to actor Spencer Tracy, combining Tracy's first and last names. He had tried to succeed as a stand-up comedian for several years, before attending the Juilliard School in New York City, where he studied drama, between 1979 and 1981. During this time period, Spacey performed stand-up comedy in bowling alley talent contests.