LONDON – Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey got a thrill preying on other men and escalated his behavior from touchy-feely advances to hostile fondling and worse, a prosecutor told jurors Friday during Spacey's sexual assault trial in London.
Spacey is “a man who does not respect personal boundaries or space, a man who it would seem delights in making others feel powerless and uncomfortable — a sexual bully,” prosecutor Christine Agnew said in her opening statement. “His preferred method of assault is, it appears, to grab aggressively other men in the crotch.”
Spacey, 63, has pleaded not guilty to a dozen charges involving four men and allegations that date from 2001 to 2013, when he worked at London's Old Vic Theatre. The charges include sexual assault, indecent assault and causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent.
The stakes for the American actor are high. A conviction could send him to prison, while an acquittal could allow for a career comeback.
Defense lawyer Patrick Gibbs said Spacey denied all allegations of nonconsensual activity and told jurors to ask themselves as they listened to the evidence what — if anything — had occurred when he was with the men. He suggested the alleged victims had other motives and said that Spacey had left himself open to opportunists when he came out as gay in 2020.
“What has been reimagined with a sinister spin?” Gibbs said. “What has been made up or twisted and why and when because all of these allegations happened a long time ago.”
He said jurors would hear truths, half-truths, deliberate exaggerations and “many damned lies.”
Spacey, wearing spectacles and dressed in a light gray suit, white shirt and gold tie, leaned forward behind a window in the dock, listening intently as his lawyer provided a brief overview of the case. Gibbs will present a longer opening statement after the prosecution rests its case.
The actor served as the Old Vic Theatre's artistic director from 2003 until 2015. The four men who have accused Spacey of sexual assault, now in their 30s or 40s, did not know each other, but all “had the misfortune to attract” his attention, Agnew said.
One victim said he was frequently groped against his wishes by Spacey in the early 2000s, culminating with a day when he was driving and the actor, who had been drinking, grabbed his privates so hard it took his breath away and he nearly ran off the road. He told Spacey to never do that again.
Spacey “laughed and commented that his getting angry simply turned him on,” Agnew said.
Spacey narrowed his eyes and pursed his lips as Agnew spoke, occasionally jotting notes with a pencil on the pages of a large black binder he carried into court.
During questioning by police last year, Spacey said he was “baffled and deeply hurt” by those allegations from someone he considered a friend. He said the events had been reimagined into lies.
Agnew said Spacey seemed to be confident the men wouldn’t tell anyone — that the word of a celebrity would be more believable than from someone who wasn’t famous.
“None of the men wanted to be touched by Kevin Spacey ... in a sexual way, but he doesn’t seem to have cared very much for their feelings,” the prosecutor said. “He did what he wanted to do for his own personal sexual gratification.”
Another man who said Spacey groped him at a charity event in 2005 only told one friend about it until speaking with police in 2017.
“Kevin Spacey ... was a star, a golden boy as he put it,” Agnew said about the man. "He wasn’t sure he would be believed, and even if he had been, he didn’t think that he would receive any support."
In his statement to police, Spacey said he hadn't done anything without consent. He said it was “entirely possible and indeed likely” he had made a “clumsy pass” but denied grabbing anyone’s crotch. He suggested some of the men were seeking financial gain.
An aspiring actor who said he reached out to Spacey for career advice ended up at his London apartment drinking beer and smoking marijuana in 2008. He either fell asleep or passed out on the sofa and when he awoke, Spacey was performing oral sex on him, Agnew said.
The man, who was in his early 20s, said Spacey told him not to tell anyone what had happened and not to mention he had been in Spacey's apartment. The man said he was in shock as Spacey held the door open for him to leave, and that he then walked to a bus stop where he sat down and cried.
He decided to speak with police in 2017 after reading about allegations against Spacey in the U.S., Agnew said.
Spacey's career was derailed when sexual misconduct allegations against him arose as the #MeToo movement exploded. He was written off the Netflix political thriller “House of Cards,” where he played lead character Frank Underwood, a ruthless and corrupt congressman who becomes president. He was cut from the completed film “All the Money in the World,” with the scenes getting reshot with Christopher Plummer.
A jury of nine men and five women, including two alternates, will decide his fate during the four-week trial in Southwark Crown Court, where he is identified by his full name, Kevin Spacey Fowler. The actor, who has homes in London and the U.S., is free on bail.
Spacey became one of the most celebrated actors of his generation in the 1990s, starring in films including “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “LA Confidential.”
He has earned multiple prominent acting awards for the theater, the silver screen and television. He won an Academy Award for supporting actor in “The Usual Suspects” in 1995 and best actor Oscar for the 1999 movie “American Beauty.”
Spacey recently had his first film role in several years, appearing in 2022 in Italian director Franco Nero’s “The Man Who Drew God,” and playing the late Croatian President Franjo Tudjman in the biopic “Once Upon a Time in Croatia.” He also stars in the unreleased U.S. film “Peter Five Eight.”
He has suggested he would be in demand if he is acquitted.
“There are people right now who are ready to hire me the moment I am cleared of these charges,” Spacey said in an interview published this month in Germany’s Zeit magazine.
Agnew told jurors they would have to evaluate the credibility of the victims and decide if they were telling the truth or manufacturing allegations for profit.
“The prosecution suggest that Mr. Spacey ... abused the power and influence that his reputation and fame afforded him,” Agnew said. “Taking what and who he wanted, when he wanted.”