Said to be an open secret for years, Kevin Spacey’s behavior is enabled by a toxic mix of fame, fortune, and silence.
More than three decades after he allegedly tried to seduce a teenaged Anthony Rapp, disgraced actor Kevin Spacey is finally set to face off with his accuser in court, five years after Rapp went public with his allegations.
Rapp sued Spacey back in 2020, claiming an encounter with the Oscar-winning actor at a party in New York in 1986 turned dark when Spacey, a dozen years his senior, lifted him onto a bed and got on top of him.
Rapp’s lawsuit seeks damages for battery and infliction of emotional distress, and though Spacey claims he couldn’t remember the incident, he publicly apologized for his alleged “deeply inappropriate drunken behavior.”
However, Spacey’s attempt at a mea culpa is likely too little too late to save his career, especially since Rapp isn’t the only man accusing him of sexually inappropriate behavior.
Top insurance companies should also be paying attention to the lawsuit. Kevin Spacey just settled for $31M dollars in a civil lawsuit. He agreed to pay the money to studio MRC (the company that made House of Cards.)
But imagine if it had gone the other way, and the staff at studio MRC had sued the company. The company that insures studio MRC might have had to pay out $31M.
My point is that harassment affects everyone the victims, their families, the companies where the harassment happens, and even insurance companies (even if you don’t feel bad for them).
Let’s talk about the upcoming criminal trial.
Trial for Allegedly Sexually Assaulting Men
In addition to facing Rapp’s civil lawsuit, Spacey is also set to go on trial in London next year for allegedly sexually assaulting three men while working as an artistic director at a London theatre between 2004 and 2015.
The same year Rapp went public with his allegations, the theatre where Spacey worked conducted an internal investigation that saw more than a dozen performers and employees accuse Spacey of “inappropriate and predatory behavior.”
Spacey’s so far denied doing anything wrong, pleading not guilty to the charges in London and denying any memory of the uncomfortable incident alleged by Rapp. Of course, at this point, determining Spacey’s civil liability and criminal culpability for his alleged conduct is up to the courts.
But the sheer length of time it’s taken to finally get on the road to justice raises a host of difficult questions and a number of uncomfortable truths not only about Spacey himself but also about what enabled him to fly under the radar for so long.
The former Hollywood A-list actor joins a long list of fallen stars felled in the wake of the “#Metoo” movement, but his laundry list of legal woes is ongoing on both sides of the Atlantic.
No More Free Passes for Celebrities
Even though his sexual inappropriateness among young men was reportedly an “open secret” in the entertainment industry for years, Spacey’s talent, fame, and fortune seemingly gave him a free pass. Meanwhile, the media’s reticence to “out” him as gay played no small role in him getting away with his predatory predilections for decades.
But, like other fallen Hollywood heavyweights such as Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby, it was also Spacey’s star power and wealth that shielded him from accountability, like a suit of armor as shiny and golden as the Oscar and Emmy statues that adorn his shelves.
Once the chorus of voices speaking out against him reached a “critical mass,” the party was over, as was his acting career, likely for the rest of his life.
But why did it take so long, decades, for Spacey to finally face a public reckoning for what appears to be a pattern of misconduct towards younger men?
And how can the entertainment industry as a whole deal with such issues in the future to ensure men like Spacey, Weinstein, and Cosby never ascend to power to the point of virtual untouchability ever again?
Victims of Sexual Abuse Need Time to Come Forward
Firstly, victims of sexual abuse and misconduct are often racked with guilt and shame for a long time before they’re able to process their emotions. Indeed, the incident at the heart of Rapp’s lawsuit against Spacey is alleged to have happened way back in 1986.
Furthermore, in cases involving gross power differences between perpetrators and victims, like Spacey’s and Weinstein’s and Cosby’s, speaking out can have adverse consequences for those who sound the alarm.
Secondly, especially in the hyper-competitive glamour industry that is the movie business, careerism and self-preservation may trump speaking out against a big-name star, a high-powered producer, or a well-known director.
Fears of being blacklisted and hearing the dreaded Hollywood cliché “you’ll never work in this town again” are certainly warranted. But a conspiracy of silence and fear can’t last forever, as Spacey learned after reportedly groping the wrong production assistant after an on-set mishap while filming his erstwhile Netflix hit “House of Cards” in 2012.
Lastly, at an industry level, both the media and film businesses could implement systems and policies to specifically counteract the tactics used by powerful men to suppress stories of their misconduct.
In Spacey’s case, the media held to the longstanding industry practice of not “outing” gay people on their pages. But like a “family values” politician caught with their pants down, calling out bad behavior shouldn’t take a backseat to protecting a celebrity’s “open secret.”
Meanwhile, the film industry could establish an anonymous system for both cast and crew to report misconduct by stars, producers, or directors. Such a system could protect vulnerable crew members from retaliation and serve as a check on the powerful men who use and abuse their positions for their own gratification.
Although far from perfect solutions, they’re certainly better than the status quo that allowed men like Spacey, Weinstein, and Cosby to thrive for decades.
Author: Alistair Vigier is the CEO of ClearwayLaw.com, a proprietary database of legal professionals which is powered by a custom web interface designed to help the public identify and connect with appropriate legal representation.