LOS ANGELES, Oct 31 — Kevin Spacey united celebrities and activists in anger yesterday after apologising over allegations that he made sexual advances on a 14-year-old boy more than 30 years ago in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
The 58-year-old stage and cinema actor, double Oscar winner and star of the US version of House of Cards has been widely considered one of the finest actors of his generation with a glittering stable of career credits.
But he came under a torrent of fire over claims from fellow actor Anthony Rapp that he “made a sexual advance” at a party 31 years ago while Rapp was underage, and for appearing to deflect the story by finally confirming what has been an open secret in Hollywood for years — that he is gay.
Critics denounced the A-lister for appearing to conflate homosexuality with preying on a child, stereotypes that gay activists have fought for generations.
Netflix confirmed that it would not be renewing House of Cards — a flagship production that put the subscription platform on the map — beyond season six, due to air in 2018.
A source with knowledge of the situation said, however, that the decision had been made before the allegations emerged and was unrelated.
The streaming platform and House of Cards production company Media Rights Capital issued a joint statement saying they were “deeply troubled” by the allegations against Spacey, who is currently not scheduled to be on set.
“In response to last night’s revelations, executives from both of our companies arrived in Baltimore this afternoon to meet with our cast and crew to ensure that they continue to feel safe and supported,” the statement said.
Rapp, 46, told Buzzfeed that in 1986, while both he and Spacey were performing on Broadway, Spacey invited the then 14-year-old to a party at his New York home. Spacey would have been 26 at the time.
Rapp said he was in Spacey’s bedroom watching TV when Spacey, apparently drunk, came in after all the other guests had left, and lay on top of him.
“He was trying to seduce me,” Rapp told Buzzfeed. “I don’t know if I would have used that language. But I was aware that he was trying to get with me sexually.”
Rapp said he squirmed free after a brief period of time and went into the bathroom, before leaving Spacey’s apartment and going home.
Spacey posted on his Twitter account that he was “beyond horrified” by Rapp’s revelation, which he claimed not to remember before apologising.
“I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behaviour,” Spacey wrote.
He went on to say that Rapp’s accusation “encouraged me to address other things about my life”, and that “I know that there are stories out there about me.”
“I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man. I want to deal with this honestly and openly and that starts with examining my own behaviour,” Spacey wrote.
But the backlash was swift as reports suggested that Spacey, who in 2015 received an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth, may face other accusers.
“Bye bye, Spacey goodbye, it’s your turn to cry, that’s why we’ve gotta say goodbye,” tweeted Rose McGowan, one of the first actresses to accuse disgraced Hollywood producer Weinstein of rape.
Sarah Kate Ellis, president of LGBTQ acceptance advocacy group GLAAD, added: “Coming out stories should not be used to deflect from allegations of sexual assault.”
“This exposes the gay community to a million tired old criticisms and conspiracies,” tweeted Richard Lawson, film critic for Vanity Fair magazine.
“The distance we’ve had to walk to get away from the notion that we’re all paedophiles is significant.”
Rapp said he felt compelled to speak out after the recent accusations against Weinstein sparked an examination of abuses committed by powerful men in the entertainment industry.
Comedian Rosie O’Donnell likened Spacey to Weinstein. “We all knew about u — I hope more men come forward,” she tweeted.
Victoria Featherstone, artistic director of London’s Royal Court Theatre, told the BBC that she was aware of stories about Spacey, during his decade-long stint as artistic director of the Old Vic theatre in London.
“I think that many people in the theatre and in the creative industries have been aware of many stories of many people over a lot of years, and Kevin Spacey would be one of the people that people have had concerns about, yes,” she told Radio 4.
Former Boston television news anchor Heather Unruh wrote on October 13 that she was a Spacey fan “until he assaulted a loved one”, whom she did not name.
Actress Asia Argento, who says she was harassed by Weinstein, has unveiled a list of 82 women who have accused the disgraced producer of misconduct including rape, abuse and harassment. He denies non-consensual sex, but his career is in tatters. — AFP