Kevin Spacey: King of the Oval Office?

Spacey returns to the White House in "Elvis & Nixon."

ByAngela Williams
April 22, 2016, 12:46 PM

— -- After four seasons as President Frank Underwood on the hit Netflix series “House of Cards,” Kevin Spacey returns to The White House this weekend, this time tackling the role of President Richard Nixon in the new film "Elvis & Nixon."

The film isn't just about the 37th president of the United States, it centers around Nixon’s improbable Oval office meeting with rock ‘n’ roll icon Elvis Presley.

“(Elvis) was concerned about the protests against the war, was concerned about the lack of respect, what he saw, against the law enforcement and the presidency,” Spacey told ABC News. “He felt very strongly, this is 1970, that he could help the country get steered back in the right direction."

"He wanted Richard Nixon to make him an undercover federal agent at large," Spacey described. "Now I know that sounds completely crazy. We play it quite seriously but it is just this side of Dr. Strangelove. It is a very, very odd situation."

There’s no official record of the meeting, but the two powerful players did pose for a photograph, which has become tourists' most requested item in the national archives.

“He didn’t start taping in the White House for another year and a couple of months,” Spacey said. “So this is a meeting of which there is no record, which on the one hand is frustrating. But, on the other it meant that we could imagine what that meeting was.

"We did have a number of experts and consultants on the film who were there that day," he continued. "The character that Colin Hanks plays who was one of Nixon’s aides and the character that Alex Pettyfer plays who was one of Nixon’s guys. They were both consultants on the film.”

Spacey, 56, told Peter Travers this presidential character is much different from his role as President Frank Underwood on the “House of Cards” series.

PHOTO: Kevin Spacey and Peter Travers at the ABC Headquarters in New York, April 18, 2016
Kevin Spacey and Peter Travers at the ABC Headquarters in New York, April 18, 2016
David H. Miller/ABC News

“A challenge for me was, how can I be on an Oval Office set and not have people think of Frank Underwood?” Spacey said. “There is such a kind of Nixonian personality that is so different from Underwood, that I felt like if I could get that essence, in particularly his physicality, which was this was not a man comfortable in his own skin. You don’t see it so much when he’s doing public events, but there’s a lot of photographs in the White House of Nixon where he’s just sitting around in the White House, where he just looks so uncomfortable. So I tried to capture that and get sort of what I felt was a quality that people could identify with.”

As for Spacey’s role a Frank Underwood, the “House of Cards” series has already been renewed for a fifth season. It will likely debut soon after the next President of the United States has taken office.

“We always knew that we’d be having a parallel election during a real election,” said Spacey. “And it’s always funny to me that every year there are things that seem to happen on the show that then happen in real life after."

"I know people think we rip this off from the headlines," he joked. "But it’s actually worked the other way around. We’ve written it, we’ve shot it, then something like it happens and our season gets dropped.”

Spacey added, “Here’s my belief, I’ve made this joke a while, that if we write something we may actually want to have happen in the show, then it might actually happen outside of the show. So, we want to write an episode where 985 billion dollars gets put into the arts budget. Then let’s see if we can make it happen. Wouldn’t that be awesome?”

“Elvis & Nixon” hits theaters today.

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