You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Kevin Spacey Shouldn’t Be Exonerated in Hollywood Even as Criminal Case Ends (Column)

The news that criminal charges against Kevin Spacey in the Nantucket groping case have been dropped raises an inevitable question: does this mean he can claw his way back into Hollywood’s good graces? Or maybe more importantly: should it? 

Spacey’s rapid descent was startling, even as it quickly followed that of the once untouchable producing powerhouse Harvey Weinstein. Spacey was a beloved actor whose roles in everything from “The Usual Suspects” to “House of Cards” made him a pop cultural icon; the year he fell from grace, he even hosted the Tony Awards. That all changed when actor Anthony Rapp gave an explosive interview to BuzzFeed accusing Spacey of assaulting him at a party when Rapp was 14 and Spacey was 26. What were once whispers about Spacey’s impropriety towards younger men suddenly became insistent shouts. The case that was just dropped emerged shortly thereafter as a man who was 18 at the time accused Spacey of groping him at a Nantucket bar in the summer of 2016. Spacey tried to get ahead of the damage by claiming that the accusations against him were rooted in homophobia, subsequently coming out himself as gay — but the damage was done. 

Hollywood scrambled to erase Spacey from its screens. Director Ridley Scott moved heaven and earth to excise Spacey from his 2018 feature “All the Money in the World,” replacing him with Christopher Plummer despite the fact that filming had long been completed when the Spacey scandal broke. Netflix’s “House of Cards” finished the series without him, killing his character offscreen so that Robin Wright — who just earned her sixth Emmy nomination for the role — could step into Frank Underwood’s Oval Office. That was a huge move that clearly stated the show must go on — it just needed to go on without him. Spacey, clearly angry about the decision, posted a rambling YouTube video in December titled “Let Me Be Frank” in which he sneered in a thinly veiled version of his “House of Cards” character about people “rush[ing] to judgment without facts.” He also defiantly declared: “We’re not done, no matter what anyone says.”

Spacey remains under investigation for sexual misconduct allegations in the U.K. and in Los Angeles. But with the only criminal charges brought against him to date now dropped, Spacey may hope that he can find a way back into the industry that has so far shunned him. Barring likely insurance concerns, it’s possible that he’ll be able to find some sympathetic collaborators with whom to work. Earlier this year, in fact, screenwriter Paul Schrader stated that A24 — the production company for his lauded film “First Reformed” — had asked him to stay off Facebook after he posted about wanting to work with Spacey. “Spacey should be punished for any crimes his actual person created. But not for art,” Schrader wrote. “All art is a crime. Punishing him as an artist only diminishes art.”

Schrader may be the only one to have said as much in such stark terms, but given his stature and many established Hollywood co-workers, he’s unlikely to be the only one to believe it. If Spacey wants work, he’ll find it, eventually. 

Just because the charges were dropped, however, doesn’t mean that many won’t (or shouldn’t) be wary of working with him again. After all, it was Rapp’s story that began the tidal wave of disdain against Spacey, a story well outside the statute of limitations for criminal charges but one that nonetheless resonated with enough people (and received enough backup in other similar accusations) to mar Spacey’s reputation for good. Sexual assault cases are so rarely taken seriously at the time the crime is allegedly committed that sometimes, telling the story on their own terms is all a survivor can do. Anyone who believes in that tried and true fact will just believe that Spacey has escaped tangible consequences for abusing his power once again.

If anyone wants to work with Spacey again, that’s their right and prerogative. But survivors of sexual assault and the people who know and love them are more than aware of the legal system’s failings in this arena, and won’t be convinced by a single case falling apart on technicalities. Spacey would have to do a hell of a lot more than skirt the issue as he has thus far in order to win them over. But let me be frank: At this point, given the breadth of allegations against him and his own palpable disdain, he almost definitely can’t. 

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Sinclair

    Sinclair Closes Purchase of Fox Regional Sports Networks From Disney

    Sinclair Broadcast Group and the Walt Disney Company have closed their $9.6 billion deal for Sinclair to buy 21 Fox Regional Sports Networks and Fox College Sports. The deal was announced in May after Disney bought the networks as part of its acquisition of Twenty-First Century Fox. The portfolio, which excludes the YES Network, is described [...]

  • Michael Shannon

    Michael Shannon to Play Jerry Buss in HBO's 'Untitled Showtime Lakers Project' Pilot

    Michael Shannon has been cast to play self-made millionaire and former Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss in HBO’s “The Untitled Showtime Lakers Project” pilot, based on the Jeff Pearlman book “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s.” The series, which chronicles the professional and personal lives of the [...]

  • Luna Nera Netflix Italy

    Netflix Eyes More Italian Productions

    Since Netflix entered the Italian market in 2015, it’s steadily gained ground in terms of subscriptions, which are expected to reach 2 million by the end of 2019, according to independent analyst Ovum. The streaming giant recently announced a €200 million ($222 million) investment in Italian original productions over the next three years. Variety spoke [...]

  • 'Serendipity': NBC Developing Series Inspired by

    'Serendipity': NBC Developing Series Inspired by Kate Beckinsale, John Cusack Movie

    NBC has given a script commitment to a prospective series inspired by the 2001 Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack movie “Serendipity.” The project hails from Miramax Television, whose film division produced the original film, and writer Jonny Umansky. The idea for the show seems like a romantic one, here’s the logline: Harry and Claire fall [...]

  • The Bachelor frontrunners

    Who's the Next 'Bachelor'? Here Are Season 24's Three Frontrunners (EXCLUSIVE)

    When last season of “The Bachelorette” wrapped up, many viewers would have guessed the next “Bachelor” would be runner-up Tyler Cameron. But oh, how things change in a month’s time. Cameron, the runner-up in Hannah Brown’s season, who stopped by “The Bachelorette” finale’s live after show to quickly reconcile with Brown and discuss meeting for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content