This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," December 10, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
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LAURA INGRAHAM, GUEST HOST: In the "Personal Story" segment tonight: Actor Kevin Spacey dropped into the No Spin Zone earlier this week. He's starring as the super lobbyist Jack Abramoff in the film "Casino Jack," which opens on December 17.
You may recall that Abramoff pled guilty to federal corruption charges back in 2006 and served 3 1/2 years of his six-year sentence. But his conversation with Bill didn't start there.
BILL O'REILLY: You've been around for a while, very successful in the entertainment industry. I have never understood why actors, producers, directors are so liberal, generally speaking. I've had actors come up to me in Hollywood who aren't liberal and say, "You know, I can't really tell people how I feel because I might not work." Charlton Heston, the late Charlton Heston, said, "I used to be a liberal" -- Charlton Heston, all right? -- "and I became a conservative, and I never got invited to another party," all right? "My whole social contact list dried up." And Heston was huge. Huge.
KEVIN SPACEY, ACTOR: He was huge.
O'REILLY: OK? But he paid a price, in his mind, for going over to the conservative side. You ever seen that?
SPACEY: I've never heard of a situation where, because somebody had a particular political belief, they didn't get a part. I think it's a bit of a myth. I'll take it from an acting perspective. I think that when you put yourself, as actors have to do, in other people's shoes, when you have to put on the costume that someone else has worn in their life, it gets much, much harder to be prejudiced against them and even to be -- to not try to look at the world in a sense of "I'm not going to judge somebody. I'm going to try to understand who they are and what they're about." I think that acting is a very humanizing profession.
O'REILLY: So empathy is -- is gained by your professional expertise in playing different characters?
SPACEY: Yes, because I don't think it's sympathy. But I do -- I do -- for example, I can't judge the characters I play, because it's for the audience to do. What I can try to do is to understand and embody what were they going through? How did they make the decisions they made? That to me is a more interesting way to approach something, rather than saying this person is a villain and that person is this and -- because it's not very interesting to play that anyway.
O'REILLY: Now Abramoff, Jack Abramoff, the subject you play in this new movie, he is a sleazy guy, or maybe he's converted in prison, but he was a sleazy guy. When people go to the movie, what is the main thing they're going to take away from Abramoff?
SPACEY: Well, I hope what we've tried to do in this film is to humanize somebody who was pretty dehumanized. You know, they threw him under the bus pretty unceremoniously, I think, in an effort to show that they've cleaned up the lobby industry, but I don't think they have. I think that he was working within a culture that exists. Now, he might have done it bigger and better and louder and made more money than anybody else, but he was living in a culture that I think still exists.
O'REILLY: What did Abramoff do that was so horrendous that made him worse than the others?
SPACEY: Well, I guess that's -- that's the question we try to pose in the movie. We try to, I think, show some of the hypocrisy, that there is this culture that's going on. It hasn't been cleaned up. And I think we've tried to approach this movie in such a way that we try to make it entertaining.
I also think that it's sometimes like with a film I did called "Recount," about the Gore-Bush election, that there are circumstances where people make decisions or misjudgments or behave in such ways that you can't actually believe that -- you couldn't write this stuff, because it's so outrageous. It's inherently funny. And I think we've tried to make a film that's entertaining and makes this person a human being because he is a human being. You call him sleazy, but he was living in an environment in which a lot of people were doing very similar things.
O'REILLY: That's no excuse. You don't justify bad behavior by pointing to other bad behavior.
SPACEY: I know. I agree, but...
O'REILLY: He got his just deserts. He went to prison.
SPACEY: Yes, he did. He went to prison. He's now out.
O'REILLY: He was undermining the system. He was soliciting bribes. I mean, this is a bad guy, in my opinion. Have you ever talked to him?
SPACEY: Yes. Before I started the film, I spent about six hours with him in federal prison.
O'REILLY: He's a pretty charming guy.
SPACEY: He's very charming. You know, to read about him is one thing. But after I met him, I totally understood why he was as successful as he was.
O'REILLY: There's no doubt. I mean, they were all very slick. Now, does he know, is he contrite? Does he know that he corrupted the system, that he did bad things? Or was he saying, "Everybody does it"?
SPACEY: Well, I think that, you know, he's going to speak for himself when he decides to come out and talk about this stuff. But I definitely think he took responsibility for what he did. He knows he crossed the line. There was no question when I spoke to him that he understood that he did things wrong.
O'REILLY: He wasn't whining.
SPACEY: He didn't think he was going to go to jail.
SPACEY: But he did knew he did something wrong.
O'REILLY: But neither did Martha Stewart, you know. I mean, you do this stuff, and it doesn't -- you know, people say the justice system in the United States is skewed against the poor and for the rich. There's some truth to that. But, you know, Abramoff, he got caught. He did it. He paid the price.
SPACEY: That's right.
O'REILLY: And in the movie at the end, how does -- how am I, the audience -- because I haven't seen the film yet -- going to think about Abramoff? Am I going to hate him?
SPACEY: Well, I think that maybe, even against your better instincts which is to hate him, I think you might suddenly start to see that there's more to him than he was painted out to be.
O'REILLY: So you made him sympathetic.
SPACEY: No, I think what you try to do is have empathy for somebody.
SPACEY: And try to understand what it must have been like in that situation. How are those decisions made? What was the culture like? And I hope that, you know, I played him as a fully rounded person, and in the end, you might like him even against your better instincts.
O'REILLY: All right. Movie is "Casino Jack." Thanks for coming in, Mr. Spacey.
SPACEY: Thank you very much.
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