Kevin Spacey's first reaction after reading the script for his latest film, Pay It Forward (opening Friday), was that in the wrong hands it could be a disaster.

"I liked it immediately, but I was very nervous about it," the two-time Oscar winner admits of the movie in which 12-year-old Haley Joel Osment tries to save the world by committing random acts of kindness. "What worried me was the 'goo' factor — the overly sentimental potential of a film, which could be perceived as, 'Oh, they're trying to do a do-good movie and it has that kind of movie-of-the-week quality.'

"I wanted it to be real and I wanted it to be moving," he continues, "but moving in a way that would be genuine and not push buttons for the sake of pushing buttons."

To his relief, Spacey quickly discovered that the movie's director, Mimi Leder (Deep Impact), as well as co-star Helen Hunt, were equally as concerned about the potential for too much sap. "We all knew we were in the same place, and we all knew it was then our task to try to go through a process of rehearsal in which we were going to squeeze all of that unwanted goo — a big technical term — out of it," he explains. "And once I realized that that was a process we were going to have a chance to go through and that everyone was open to, I then felt that I could jump onto the film."

Another signing bonus was getting the chance to work opposite Sixth Sense Oscar nominee Osment, or, as those in Hollywood refer to him, The Kid. "[That] helped me make the decision, because if there weren't an actor who could do what this character has to do, who could have the spirit to make an idea like this work, then I didn't think there was a movie," Spacey hedges. "But of course, I knew Haley's work, and I knew we would be okay."