In mid-June, less than two weeks before the start of Kevin Spacey’s U.K. criminal trial over multiple sexual assault charges, the German publication ZEITmagazin featured an interview with the actor in which he said he anticipated working again almost immediately should he be found not guilty.
“There are people right now who are ready to hire me the moment I am cleared of these charges in London,” he declared. “The second that happens, they’re ready to move forward.”
Such bold claims may come back to haunt the two-time Oscar winner, who was found not guilty of all nine charges he was facing in the U.K. In November, he was also found not liable in the New York civil case brought by U.S. actor Anthony Rapp.
With Spacey legally exonerated, is his claim that producers are now lining up to cast him true? And if so, what type of projects? Indeed, the main discussion from commentators after Spacey walked free from Southwark Crown Court on July 26 — almost six years since he was subjected to arguably the most dramatic cancellation of any actor in the wake of the #MeToo era — was whether he could rebuild his leading man status and pick up where he left off in 2017.
According to multiple sources, the answer is no — at least nothing resembling the lauded Hollywood career he once had.
As one former studio chief succinctly tells The Hollywood Reporter: “Not going to prison doesn’t qualify as an indicator of someone’s exciting career prospects.”
When Spacey’s “world erupted,” as he tearfully told the jury in London, his star credentials were largely being driven by Netflix’s House of Cards, which had already landed him Golden Globe and SAG awards plus five Emmy nominations. He was also popping up every now and then to add some prestige to various high-profile features.
Universal’s Baby Driver was released just before the sexual harassment allegations emerged in November 2017, but Sony saw fit to scrub him from that year’s Ridley Scott historical drama All the Money in the World in some famously expensive reshoots (Christopher Plummer replaced him as J. Paul Getty) and painstaking digital removals. By then, Spacey had already been sacked from House of Cards by producers MRC, and in Aug. of 2022 he lost his bid to overturn a $31 million arbitration award he was ordered to pay MRC for sexual misconduct involving young crew members behind the scenes of the Netflix series. Netflix also scrapped its Gore Vidal biopic, which had wrapped just weeks earlier with Spacey in the role of the legendary author.
Barely seen onscreen since, Spacey’s very limited work over the following years has been confined to a handful of small parts in obscure, low-budget indie titles, including comedy Peter Five Eighty and thriller Control (just a voice role), neither of which has been released, and the Italian drama The Man Who Drew God (which released in Italy last year with Spacey having been dubbed over by a local actor).
Assuming Spacey would even want to return, the idea of Hollywood immediately opening the same doors it shut with such ferocity may be wishful thinking on his part.
“I think it will take some time to see where the streamers and studios stand on casting Spacey,” notes Miriam Elchanan, senior vice president of Fabrication Films, which this year launched the Alec Baldwin-starring Kent State at the Cannes’ Marche. “I think the challenge would be predominantly on the domestic side — I’m not sure that currently there’s much demand for him in a leading role in North America.”
The past year saw another big-name actor attempt to resurrect his career: Johnny Depp, who had previously generated billions in box office and fronted a major Disney franchise before his legal domestic dispute with ex-wife Amber Heard frayed his reputation. But, as an international buyer suggests, there’s very little to compare.
“It’s not like Depp, where you go, ‘Oh, he’s free now, let’s go after Jeanne du Barry,” says the buyer, adding that, such has Spacey’s stock plummeted, even international distributors less concerned by his legal affairs and their optics are unlikely to be interested in a project purely because he’s in it.
So where does that leave the actor, who throughout the U.K. trial and hearing implied that he’d been left in financial ruin and needed to work?
For one producer, Spacey’s future likely lies in the lower rungs of the industry and the sort of “cheaper action films and thrillers” seen propping up the halls of the American Film Market and corners of other international film markets. “I think he’ll have that ‘Millennium Phase’ first,” he adds, referring to the production company renowned for its Expendables franchise that has given several aging stars a new lease of life, plus numerous Nic Cage and Gerard Butler titles.
There’s also the question of representation. Among the first to act in the wake of the 2017 accusations was CAA, which ditched Spacey just days later, as did his publicist Staci Wolfe. There is no indication of who — if anyone — is fielding whatever calls may be coming in now, and it remains to be seen if any of the major agencies would be interested in taking him on.
As one veteran publicist notes, even though Spacey has been found innocent, such was the extent of the allegations and the speed of his Hollywood exit that the damage may be difficult to repair.
“His stock went from negative 20 percent to negative 5 percent,” says the publicist. “The energy around him is hard to come back from in any meaningful way.”
Kim Masters contributed to this article.