Controversy Corner! Brace yourself.
Kevin Spacey has a new gig after 4 years in the wilderness (well, 3.5, give or take but anyway). Now, if he did do anything like the damage of which he was accused, then he got off lightly. No criminal conviction. No jail time. And yet: paradoxically, therein lies the tragic irony. The man is not a criminal. As in, he has not been convicted in a court of law.
So, if he is innocent, he lost those years and had to endure grave uncertainty, injustice and isolation. And if he were guilty? Then in a way, one could make a case to say that the man in effect has served several sentences, repeatedly, via the bashings online. Stalemate. Perhaps the justice system failed Spacey. Maybe it let down accusers.
Truth is? We may never ‘know’.
And for that reason, among others, frankly? Anyone is welcome to hire Kevin and he, likewise, can take the work he loves. A few things worth remembering though, before jumping into judge either those who do business with Mr Spacey or the actor himself or those who still deem him an unemployable, irredeemable villain:
- This was NOT ‘cancel culture’. That system operates when a celeb / other public figure says or thought something off message or had some misdemeanour / offence unearthed from years back that was either deemed innocuous back then or simply punished and left there. They are then dropped from everything, ‘cancelled’ via social media. Is that wrong: yes. But that is NOT what happened to Kevin.
- Sir Ridley Scott cut Spacey from a film because he did not want All the Money in the World upstaged by a then looming fallout from the news about one of his actors. Chris Plummer was on speed dial; Scott had the time and relished the two week challenge. It was not some hysterical, thoughtless bow to media pressure.
- House of Cards was on its last legs, anyway. They had done the rise to power and its consolidation so series 5 frankly should have seen Spacey’s character die in a finale. Yes, they had to expand the UK version to a US template (hence, more episodes and characters etc) but it became a self parody by the end. So, in a way, Kevin was saved from dragging out a show in which he was already becoming a panto villain guest star. Firing him after the controversy was a bullet dodging formality, though they could and indeed should have re-cast or just axed the series instead of giving us that painfully piss poor final season.
- Today, by contrast? FRANCO NERO has hired Spacey for ONE role in ONE film. A cameo in an Italian art movie: L’uomo Che Disegnò Dio. It is NOT the same as a ‘comeback’ or any indication that all is well and Hollywood welcomes him with open arms. He’s not hosting Oscars, photo bombing selfies, doing impressions on chat shows or appearing as a baddie in the franchises du jour.
Spacey is a ‘free’ man and that includes freedom to WORK. But what if he HAD been found guilty of xyz and simply did his time and atoned? It is somewhat hypocritical that a liberal, inclusive and forgiving society cannot countenance the idea. Rehabilitation is not the same as a capitulation. Safety (especially that of the vulnerable) can still be protected, with proactively policed vigilance and sensible safeguards in place.
Will Spacey ever be ‘popular’ again or a ‘star’: no. I doubt it, anyway. But he is an incredibly gifted actor who cares deeply about his craft and had much to give to the arts. To hire him in that capacity is NOT to endorse the behaviours with which he was associated and could indeed be seen as the opposite. There has to be some hope for redemption, surely?
All I am saying is, there are layers to how this story started, how it has played out and what the legacy will be in terms of rewriting our moral, creative and legal DNA. Kevin’s case is but one stage or building block in a long process of societal reinvention and though there will be failings along the way, there must also be an equal hope of transparent communication, artistic expression and true justice. For ALL.