Just over a month ago, former lobbyist Jack Abramoff was released from prison after serving time for fraudulent political and business practices. His multi-billion dollar transactions and extensive FBI investigation that ensued are the kinds of things only seen in movies. And so, it only seems fitting that just as Abramoff re-enters society, a film is being released recounting his near-mythical rise and fall from one of America’s most influential individuals to the epitome of why Washington is synonymous with greed and corruption.

“Casino Jack,” which premieres today at the Michigan, initially details the extravagant lifestyle of Abramoff (played by Kevin Spacey, “American Beauty”) before revealing a situation that found Abramoff in over his head and would ultimately lead to his demise.

Though this is an intensely serious story, it’s told in a subtly humorous way.

Jon Lovitz (“Rat Race”) plays Abramoff’s partner in the aforementioned deal gone wrong and explained in a phone interview with the Daily how this process of developing the “bad guy” as a potentially likable character evolved over time.

“(Director) George Hickenlooper … had gone and met with Jack Abramoff about five times and he found him to be very charming and very funny,” Lovitz said. “One time, Kevin Spacey went to meet Jack Abramoff in prison with George, and that changed Kevin’s opinion a lot. And they decided to put a lot of the humor into the script.”

Despite the comical undertones of “Casino Jack,” Hickenlooper had no intention of making a movie that lacked substance.

“This was the biggest scandal since Watergate and (Hickenlooper) was really political himself,” Lovitz explained, adding that one of the main motivations of the movie was to tell this unbelievable story as a way to educate people on the corruption that exists in government and politics.

Lovitz described the production of the movie as an especially positive experience, because the relationships forged between actors and filmmakers was unusually strong. More specifically, Lovitz held his director, as well as lead actor Spacey, in the highest regard.

“(Hickenlooper) made independent movies … and he was just starting to get hired for mainstream films,” Lovitz explained.

Tragically, however, Hickenlooper passed away in late October before “Casino Jack” was released.

“Instead of (“Casino Jack”) becoming the start of a new career in mainstream films for him, it’s become his swan song,” Lovitz said.

However, the film did allow Lovitz and Spacey — friends of 25 years — to grow closer on set.

“(Spacey)’s a very giving actor,” Lovitz said. “When he’s doing his part, he’s really looking at you right in the eyes, and making you feel like you’re supposed to feel with what’s going on in the scene.”

Lovitz particularly appreciated Spacey’s attention to detail, because it’s something that he himself values in his variety of creative endeavors. Whether it’s acting in a movie, a TV show or on Broadway; recording voiceovers or singing; or performing stand-up comedy, Lovitz is always keeping busy.

“I enjoy the variety,” he explained. “I’ve had training in all these different areas: I was a drama major at the University of California-Irvine.

“I took a class with Tony Barr called Film Actor’s Workshop, for film for a year and a half, and I was in the Groundlings, which is an improv group. I trained myself so that I could know how to do drama and comedy and theater and movies and everything, so that I could be working all the time.”

One endeavor that Lovitz has never undertaken is directing a movie. He leaves that to individuals like Hickenlooper who he considers to be immensely gifted.

“I said to George when I saw him in Austin … ‘Thanks for letting me be in a great movie and believing in all my scenes,’ ” Lovitz said. “I would just say the movie is really a tribute to the talent of the filmmaker.”

“(Hickenlooper) would say, ‘I really think it’s 95-percent the actors,’ but you know it’s a collaboration.”

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