Kevin Spacey will no longer be leading the Genghis Khan movie shopped in Cannes following his sexual assault case in the U.K., Variety can reveal.
The actor was set to star in “1242: Gateway to the West,” a historical drama that was shopped at the Cannes film market, about a holy man of a Hungarian castle that tries to stop one of Genghis Khan’s armies from invading Europe. Spacey was set to play the holy man.
But the movie’s producer, Bill Chamberlain, tells Variety that the pic has now replaced Spacey as its lead after the former “House of Cards” actor was charged in the U.K. with four counts of sexual assault and one count of “causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent.” Negotiations are currently underway with a new lead, who will be revealed in due course.
Spacey pleaded not guilty to all five counts in London on Thursday. He will stand trial in the U.K. on June 6, 2023, with the trial expected to last three to four weeks.
Directed by Péter Soós, the English-language “Gateway to the West” has a budget of around $10 million to $25 million, and is scheduled to begin a two-month shoot on Oct. 17. The project is backed by National Film Institute Hungary, Foresight Media and LipSync, and also stars Eric Roberts and Christopher Lambert.
Here’s an official description of the film: “When the Kingdom of Hungary’s army was annihilated by the Mongols at the battle of Mohi, only the castle of Esztergom stood in their way to invade Europe. Batu, the grandson of Genghis Khan, reaches the walls of Esztergom with his invincible army. The castle’s defenders led by Eusebius, the canon of Esztergom, and a Spanish mercenary, captain Simon, are preparing for the final battle. The arrival of the papal legate, Cardinal Cesareani, the Mongol Lunar New Year’s celebration and the mystical approach of Eusebius, offer the defenders a small glimmer of hope.”
Australian sales agent Galloping Entertainment had been selling global rights to the project in Cannes, but CEO Carlos Alperin told Variety when Spacey was charged in May that he was meeting with the film’s producers at the market to discuss the future of “Gateway.”
Spacey is also starring in thriller “Peter Five Eight,” which is being sold by U.S. sales outfit VMI Worldwide. The company released a trailer for the movie in May.
Shortly after Spacey was charged, “Peter Five Eight” producers stood by the actor.
“There are those who wish for him not to act, but they are outnumbered by fans worldwide who await an artist they have enjoyed for decades returning to the screen,” said producers in a statement. “The production has no knowledge or comment on the various swirling allegations, and believe it’s a matter for the courts to determine validity if it exists. ‘Peter Five Eight’ is a film for fans who care more for the art than the scandal.”
The decision to charge Spacey was unveiled by the U.K.’s Crown Prosecution Service, which spent over a year reviewing a file passed to them by the Metropolitan Police.
At least some of the charges are believed to stem from Spacey’s time at the Old Vic theater in London, where he served as artistic director from 2004-2015. Following a cascade of sexual assault allegations against the actor in the U.S., the theater undertook an internal investigation which, according to the BBC, resulted in 20 victims coming forward who claimed he had behaved inappropriately toward them.
Spacey isn’t the only troubled star who featured in Cannes market projects. Johnny Depp is starring in “Jeanne Du Barry” while James Franco stars in “Mace.” Alec Baldwin also has a new project entitled “False Awakening,” while Roman Polanski’s new film is “The Palace.” The “Pianist” director has had trouble getting support for the movie in France, as revealed by Variety.