In October 2017 a terrible allegation was made about Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey – and it was one he didn’t outright deny. With that claim, moreover, Spacey’s career and reputation were left in tatters. After the news had dropped, however, an old video of the House of Cards star reemerged on the internet. Why? Well, maybe it’s because, as some have claimed, the footage shows the actor hinting at something nefarious. Perhaps even more disturbingly, though, that clip dates all the way back to 2000.
Before allegations had been publicly made against Spacey, however, he had been arguably one of the most accomplished character actors in Hollywood. In particular, he excelled at playing villains and criminals, with his portrayals of Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects and John Doe in Seven earning him considerable critical plaudits. Consequently, he picked up many awards – including two Oscars – for his work.
And Spacey also turned his hand to acting on the small screen upon landing the lead in House of Cards. There, he played scheming and distinctly sociopathic politician Frank Underwood – a role that would see him nominated for an Emmy in 2013. But Spacey’s time on the highly acclaimed Netflix series would come to an abrupt end after actor Anthony Rapp spoke out in October 2017.
That’s because Star Trek: Discovery star Rapp would come out to accuse Spacey of sexually assaulting him when Rapp was aged just 14. Spacey, he claimed, had invited Rapp to a party. At the end of the event, however, the veteran actor had allegedly put the teenager onto a bed and then climbed on top of him.
“He picked me up like a groom picks up the bride over the threshold,” Rapp said to BuzzFeed News at the time. “But I don’t, like, squirm away initially, because I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ And then he lays down on top of me. He was trying to seduce me.” Rapp went on to say that he froze for a moment, then wriggled away from Spacey and went into the bathroom.
Then, Rapp told BuzzFeed, he eventually prepared to leave the apartment. According to Rapp, however, Spacey was right next to him as he did so. “As I opened the door to leave, [Spacey] was leaning on the front door[frame]. And he was like, ‘Are you sure you wanna go?’” he revealed. Rapp added, “I said, ‘Yes, good night,’ and then I did leave.”
Rapp further told the website that he’d been haunted by the incident for his entire life. He hadn’t felt able to talk about it, however, until the Weinstein scandal had broken. The Weinstein scandal centered around film producer Harvey Weinstein and the tidal wave of sexual abuse allegations brought against him in 2017. Some commentators have asserted that the incident caused other sexual abuse victims to feel more comfortable coming forward – this in turn was dubbed “the Weinstein effect.”
According to BuzzFeed News, Rapp didn’t tell anyone about the alleged incident because it would have meant the possibility of outing himself as gay. Only in 1997, in fact, did the actor begin referring to himself as “queer,” in an interview with Oasis magazine. And as it turned out, another coming-out – a very different one – would take up significant space in the Rapp-Spacey story.
That occurred as Spacey addressed the allegation made against him by Rapp. Specifically, he released a statement on Twitter claiming that he didn’t remember the incident, but that if it had taken place it would have been “deeply inappropriate drunken behavior.” He also went on to apologize to Rapp. Then, at the end of the statement, Spacey added, “I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man.”
Many people were unimpressed, however, with what they saw as Spacey’s attempt to deflect the accusation of sexual abuse. Vanity Fair writer Richard Lawson was one of those who saw the wording of Spacey’s statement as distasteful, tweeting, “Coming out as a gay man is not the same thing as coming out as someone who preyed on a 14-year-old. Conflating those things is disgusting.”
Then people began looking back over Kevin Spacey’s Hollywood career, trying to find out for themselves how this had happened. The New Yorker noted, moreover, that Spacey had for a while made a joke out of his ambiguous sexuality. When he presented the Tony Awards in June 2017, for instance, he had comically sung, “I’m coming out!” before backtracking with, “No, wait, no.”
But Spacey’s Oscars speech in 2000 was, some considered, a damning piece of “evidence.” Then, he had won the Best Actor award for his role in American Beauty – a film where a 42-year-old man, played by Spacey, pursues an underage teenage girl. Critics have previously interpreted the film as displaying an exploration of repressed sexuality.
On the Oscars stage, meanwhile, Spacey thanked his friends “for pointing out my worst qualities.” He continued, “I know you do it because you love me, and that’s why I love playing Lester, because we got to see all of his worst qualities and we still grew to love him.” And Spacey added, “This movie to me is about how any single act by any single person, put out of context, is damnable. But the joy of this movie is that it is real beauty.”
And in light of Rapp’s allegation, people found themselves analyzing the clip in a different way. News outlets, in particular, seemed to ponder it deeply. “Did Kevin Spacey hint at his behavior in his American Beauty Oscars speech?” The Daily Telegraph asked. “It seems like [Spacey] was talking about his own alleged misbehavior himself in front of an audience of millions,” wrote The Independent.
Several people would also comment on how difficult it would be to watch American Beauty now. Indeed, BuzzFeed would even compile a list of tweets talking about the distressing new dimension the movie now had. “American Beauty is one of my favourite films, but now watching Kevin Spacey’s character prey on an underage girl makes my skin crawl,” read one.
Playwright and Pulitzer Prize nominee Christopher Shinn also wrote on Twitter, “I always felt Kevin Spacey’s 2000 Oscar speech alluded to/minimized his misconduct. I bet it’ll be played a lot once more stories emerge.” And he was very much correct about one thing: more and more stories did start to emerge.
Indeed, by the beginning of November 2017, several more accusations had been made against Spacey. The police, British tabloids reported, were even investigating an attack that had allegedly taken place at Spacey’s home in London. And many people who had worked or were currently working with Spacey were cutting him off. Netflix announced on November 3, for example, that House of Cards would not continue with Spacey in the lead role.
“I feel just devastated that this is Kevin’s story now,” Allison Janney, Spacey’s American Beauty co-star, said to Metro on November 16. “That this is what he was a part of. And that he abused his position as an actor. A lot of young kids would look up to him thinking he could do something for them. It’s a really sad and really terrible thing to abuse your power like that.”
Janney continued, “[American Beauty] will always be a classic movie that I will always be proud of. Kevin’s work is amazing in that. I think his behavior outside of work is reprehensible, but his work as an actor doesn’t take away that. I think that will be an individual decision if anyone decides to watch his movies again.” However, despite the fact that so many have cut ties with Spacey, he has not actually been charged with any crimes as yet.
Indeed, Spacey’s ultimate fate remains to be seen. Currently, he’s lying low and, according to his publicist, seeking some sort of treatment. In the meantime, though, the American Beauty Oscars clip may not be the only footage to come back into the public eye, as everyone tries to come to terms with this shocking new scandal.