Kevin Spacey was thought to be hiding with rich friends or laying low in a Pacific paradise mud hut as sex assault claims swirled – but now he’s back in his most menacing, malevolent and creepiest scene of all, writes Tom Leonard.
He’s made a glittering career by playing villains — with serial killers and psychopaths a speciality — but this was surely his most disturbing performance yet.
After more than a year during which he disappeared completely from public view, his reputation trashed and his career in free fall, the American actor Kevin Spaceyfinally resurfaced on Christmas Eve.
In an extraordinary video posted on Twitter and YouTube, the actor reprised his most famous recent role as the power-hungry, Machiavellian Washington politician Frank Underwood from hit U.S. TV drama House Of Cards.
‘Of course, some believed everything. They’re just waiting with bated breath to hear me confess it all,’ he says in a three-minute clip titled ‘Let Me Be Frank’.
Wearing a Santa Claus apron, he is seen preparing Christmas dinner in a smart kitchen.
‘They’re going to say I’m being disrespectful, not playing by the rules. Like I ever played by anyone’s rules before. I never did. And you loved it.’
His monologue is delivered straight to the camera, just like his character famously does in House Of Cards to make viewers complicit in his immorality. ‘They’re just dying to have me declare that everything said is true and that I got what I deserved.’
He goes on in Frank’s unmistakable Southern states drawl: ‘You wouldn’t believe the worst without evidence would you? You wouldn’t rush to judgments without facts would you? Did you? No, not you, you are smarter than that. I can promise you this… I’m certainly not going to pay the price for the things I didn’t do.’
With a final glower followed by dramatic music, he asks: ‘Miss me?’ It was classic Frank Underwood — menacing, malevolent and creepy — all the more so when it became clear that Spacey wasn’t talking as his fictional character but as himself, and that the footage appears to be an aggressive riposte to news of an impending court appearance.
The Oscar-winning star played Underwood, a conniving schemer who resorts to murder on his path to the U.S. presidency, in five seasons of the award-winning Netflix thriller (based on the 1990 BBC adaptation of Michael Dobbs’ novel) before he was embroiled in sexual scandal in October last year.
That was when the actor Anthony Rapp accused the then 26-year-old Spacey of making a sexual advance to him in 1986 when Rapp was just 14 and attending a party at the actor’s apartment. In a statement, Spacey claimed to have no memory of the alleged incident while offering an apology to Rapp, now 47, for ‘what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behaviour’.
In that same Twitter post Spacey — whose sexuality had been the subject of speculation over many years — said he’d had relationships with both men and women, but that he ‘chooses now to live as a gay man’. He was roundly condemned for using the Rabb scandal to ‘come out’.
In the days and weeks that followed, a string of men came forward to accuse Spacey of sexual assault.
He was thrown off the Netflix series after claims he made it a ‘toxic’ environment and at least one allegation of sexual assault by someone working on the show.
He was, it seemed, the latest big name to be sucked into the maelstrom of MeToo movement fury, first sparked by the movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, at serious sexual misconduct by powerful men in Hollywood.
At first glance, Spacey’s latest small-screen appearance, posted online on Monday, suggested Netflix had forgiven him and — despite having supposedly killed off his character — might be about to welcome their main star back into the fold for another season.
Could the video clip be a taster, the crafty Underwood pleading his innocence for his murder of a journalist and a politician in House Of Cards?
The truth, however, is rather more alarming. It seems that Spacey was responding to a decision by police and prosecutors in Massachusetts to charge him over allegations that he sexually abused an 18-year-old male at a Nantucket bar more than two years ago.
Spacey, now 59, is scheduled to be arraigned at Nantucket District Court on January 7 on a single charge of ‘indecent assault and battery on a person who is at least 14 years old’. The alleged victim is the son of a Boston television journalist, Heather Unruh. It was back in November 2017, shortly after the allegations by Anthony Rapp, that she came forward to allege that her 18-year-old son was sexually assaulted by the actor at The Club Car restaurant and bar in Nantucket, a holiday island off Cape Cod beloved of the East Coast elite, on July 7, 2016.
At a news conference, Unruh said her ‘star-struck’ son falsely told the actor he was old enough to drink when he met him at the bar. The legal age for drinking alcohol in public in Massachusetts is 21.
‘Kevin Spacey bought him drink after drink after drink, and when my son was drunk, Spacey made his move and sexually assaulted him,’ Unruh said.
The actor stuck his hands into her son’s pants and grabbed his genitals, she said, adding it was ‘completely unexpected’ and her son tried unsuccessfully to shift his body away from Spacey. When the star went to the lavatory, her son fled, she added. She said her son, who hadn’t reported the alleged crime at the time out of embarrassment and fear, had finally gone to the police shortly before she gave her news conference.
Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer representing Spacey’s accuser, said in a statement: ‘Let the facts be presented, the relevant law applied and a just and fair verdict rendered.’
The Nantucket case is just one of many tawdry allegations made against Spacey, although the statute of limitations has run out on many of them, meaning that it’s too late to prosecute him.
In all, more than 30 men have said they were victims of unwanted sexual advances by him. While no formal charges have, until now, been filed, police in Los Angeles and London are investigating allegations of sexual assault, including rape.
In the UK, there are six active investigations.
The Old Vic theatre in London, where Spacey was acclaimed artistic director, said it had received 20 complaints of inappropriate behaviour during his 11-year tenure up to 2015.
Of those 20 allegations from current and former staff, 14 were serious enough for the theatre to advise complainants to go to the police. Management at the theatre admitted that Spacey’s star power had contributed to a ‘cult of personality’ that allowed his actions to go unchallenged.
In the subsequent fallout, Spacey not only lost his role in House Of Cards, but director Ridley Scott erased him from his completed film All The Money In The World, spending millions of pounds re-shooting with Christopher Plummer instead playing billionaire John Paul Getty.
Spacey’s other film project, Billionaire Boys Club, which he made prior to the sexual assault allegations, was considered a record-breaking flop, taking in just $126 (£98) on its opening night in the U.S.
An already completed biopic about the American writer Gore Vidal, played by Spacey, was simply scrapped. The toxic allegation even forced his charity, The Kevin Spacey Foundation UK, which helps emerging actors, to close. Its trustees simply stated that their work was ‘no longer viable’.
Until now, Spacey — who last posted a message online in October last year — had all but disappeared not only from social media but from the real world.
The last-known pictures of him were snapped as he jogged in the grounds of a £25,000-a-month rehab facility, the Meadows Clinic in Arizona, in November last year where he was receiving treatment for sex addiction — coincidentally at the same time as Harvey Weinstein — on a 45-day ‘detox’. Sources say he checked out after only 21 days.
Although he owns homes on both sides of the Atlantic, Spacey has not been seen at any of them.
Friends said he was becoming a complete recluse. He is believed to have visited New York at least once, but has stayed with a rich friend from the theatre world.
Staff at his Manhattan apartment building insisted they hadn’t seen him since the scandal first broke.
He also has not been sighted at his £2.3 million penthouse flat overlooking the Thames in London, where he used to hold famously decadent late-night parties.
It emerged earlier this year that he had secretly sold his Los Angeles house for $11 million to build up a fighting fund to protect himself from legal challenges and try to salvage his reputation.
A British friend claims Spacey has been living in the Cook Islands in the South Pacific and using his real name — Kevin Fowler — allowing him to travel with a low profile.
‘He’s keeping his head down until this blows over. He still has a lot of rich friends from his Old Vic days. He has enough money to stay hidden,’ the friend told the Mail on Sunday earlier this year.
Another source, someone who worked with him on House Of Cards, said he has been hiding in the South of France.
A third claim is that he has gone to ground at a rented ranch in Thousand Oaks, a suburb of Los Angeles, staying with a friend and — according to a former associate — living as a ‘hermit’ and never going out.
So Spacey’s surprise Christmas appearance in the YouTube video has inevitably caused something of a stir. Shot in a state-of-the-art kitchen, it would certainly suggest he’s not living in a mud hut in the back of beyond.
At least one former associate claims to have been phoned by Spacey, describing him as ‘genuinely baffled that everyone has turned their backs on him’ and ‘indignant’ at having been deserted.
That would certainly tally with his YouTube monologue which, in demeaningly rebutting the accusations against him ‘in character’, smacked of an overweening vanity and ego.
Fellow actors and showbiz personalities have responded accordingly, with disbelief and outrage at his actions. One of them, actress Rosanna Arquette, posted the following blunt message: ‘Kevin Spacey has apparently lost his mind. What an absurd video…this is only the beginning. There are many more victims.’
Even his older brother Randy, 62, said: ‘My brother was always an arrogant p****.’ It would be difficult to disagree after his latest performance.
Randy, with whom he shared a famously dysfunctional upbringing with an abusive father, has had very little contact with his famous sibling for years, but believes that Spacey is ‘lying low’ in the belief the ‘water will cool’.
Indeed, Spacey’s only allies appear to be his two lawyers. Other friends have been extremely limited in their support, focusing on his acting talent.
Long-time pal Dame Judi Dench has defended Spacey to the extent of saying she ‘can’t approve’ of the way he was removed from the Getty film and described him as a ‘most wonderful actor’, while his House Of Cards co-star Diane Lane admitted she had ‘tremendous respect for his artistry’.
None of his famous friends — and he was for so long the ‘luvvie’s luvvie’ on both sides of the Atlantic — have stepped up to defend his personal behaviour.
Sally Greene, who appointed him at the Old Vic, said the affair made her ‘sick to (her) stomach’.
Veteran gay rights advocate Sir Ian McKellen commented: ‘The one thing I would say about Mr Spacey is that he was a gay man and he was pretending not to be.’
Meanwhile, the actress Robin Wright, who played Frank Underwood’s wife in House Of Cards, has distanced herself from Spacey, claiming she didn’t know him at all apart from on a professional level.
Australian actor Guy Pearce, who starred with Spacey in the 1997 film LA Confidential, has perhaps been the most honest of all when asked about Spacey’s on-set behaviour. ‘He’s a handsy guy. Thankfully, I was 29 and not 14.’
Spacey — who won Oscars for American Beauty and The Usual Suspects, as well as acclaim for his role as a serial killer in Seven — may be alone in thinking he can salvage his career and, according to insiders, has developed a gradual rehabilitation plan that he has outlined to his remaining friends.
It begins with them starting to talk positively about Spacey in public and, then, he would accept a cameo role in a respectable film.
A website called supportkevin spacey.com — creators unknown — invites fans to leave supportive messages, some of which have come from people who claim the actor is a victim of homophobia.
In his statement last October, when allegations first emerged, Spacey said about his private life: ‘I want to deal with this honestly and openly and that starts with examining my own behaviour.’
How different he sounded then to his defiant tone in his bizarre Christmas message, in which he claims: ‘My confidence grows each day that soon enough you will know the full truth.
‘We’re not done, no matter what anyone says.’
No doubt his alleged victims feel the same.