Kevin Spacey regaled museum-goers in Rome on Friday with a reading of Italian poet Gabriele Tinti’s poem, “The Boxer.”
It’s unclear what Spacey was hoping to accomplish with the performance. In a press release, Tinti said the actor was motivated to give the reading because of “his sensitivity and deep love of art.”
It was, however, a strange return to the spotlight for Spacey. The actor’s career flamed out in 2017 after he was accused by more than a dozen people of sexual assault. He did get a legal break in July, however, when prosecutors dropped a criminal case in which Spacey was accused of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old busboy in Nantucket.
With that case behind him, the Oscar-winner appeared by the “Boxer at Rest” statue at the National Roman Museum to recite a poem about a broken down and worn out pugilist.
“I shook the country, made the arenas vibrate, tore my opponents to shreds,” Spacey read. “I lit up the darkness, collected insults, compelled applause. Not everyone knew how to do this. None of you. On the other hand life is not frightening for those who have never taken a risk.”
The actor’s team apparently alerted media that there would be a seemingly impromptu reading and reportedly promised certain outlets sit-down interviews with Spacey that didn’t materialize. In an email, Tinti disputed reports that Spacey opted not to answer press questions, writing that journalists “…were told in multiple occasions that they would come to enjoy the reading and that the event was for the public.”
Barbie Latza Nadeau, a correspondent for The Daily Beast who witnessed the performance, described it as “unapologetic.”
“But the poetry reading was as much a confession as a moment of acting, it seemed,” she wrote. “As his voice rang out in front of no more than 50 surprised museum goers and selected guests, it was clear that while he may have fallen from grace for the alleged sexual assaults he did not feel any apparent remorse.”
On Twitter, Tinti denied reports that the poem was written with Spacey in mind. Rather, he said it was part of a project in which he writes poems as tributes to pieces of ancient art. Tinti’s poems have previously been performed by the likes of Joe Mantegna, Burt Young, and Franco Nero.
“What a wonderful night! Everyone was so happy to celebrate art, it was an honor to have Kevin Spacey reading my poems, Rome loves you!,” he tweeted.
Spacey has previously made strange plays for attention. On Christmas Eve, he posted a video in which he channeled his “House of Cards” character Frank Underwood and urged viewers not to “rush to judgement.”
This article was update at 4:03 p.m. ET on Aug. 4 to reflect Tinti’s email and was previously updated to incorporate his Twitter comments.