You cannot rehabilitate the image of a person still in the midst of his reckoning — though many of the men whose behavior finally had consequences as a result of the #MeToo movement seem to have conflated those consequences with their personal reckonings and are wont to try.
And with the release of "Billionaire Boys Club," Kevin Spacey, with the help of the men behind the movie, is the latest to try.
In case you need a reminder of why this is inappropriate: Last October, actor Anthony Rapp accused Spacey of making a sexual advance towards him in 1986 when he was just 14 years old. Spacey claimed ignorance of the encounter, but nonetheless offered Rapp “the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior” and went on to declare that he was gay. Nonetheless, after a little more than a week, the list of accusers grew to more than a dozen men. Five of those accusers claimed to be minors at the time of their alleged offenses, which include claims of sexual harassment, assault, and attempted rape. This month, Variety confirmed with London police that three more men have accused Spacey of sexual assault.
Not long after the allegations were made, Spacey was canned from "House of Cards" and dropped from roles in films like the Ridley Scott-directed "All the Money in the World." Sony Pictures, which was distributing that film, had been touting Spacey’s performance at Oscar-worthy, but as Scott explained to The Guardian in January, “My decision was almost immediate. I said: ‘We need to re-do this.’”
That should be every reasonable person’s stance: No one of decency should want to be professionally associated with a person accused of what Kevin Spacey is accused of doing to men and children, let alone enriching that sort of person. It does not matter how exceptional an actor he is or how far along a project is: It is not worth it. It is better to cut one’s losses rather than give any indication that it is okay to reward a person accused of being a serial sexual assaulter.
Yet, Spacey will nonetheless be featured in the film "Billionaire Boys Club." Granted, the film wrapped shooting two and a half years ago but, as the New York Post reports, “producers were actively seeking distribution last October right as [Spacey] was being accused of sexual assault of a then minor.” In other words, they made a choice to continue to try and profit from this work in spite of the allegations leveled against one of its stars.
The producers and distributors also chose to feature Spacey in the trailer, using his image to actually try and sell the film. And Spacey’s co-star Richard DuPont argued in defense of the Spacey casting and film promotion, claiming, “People have such short memories. And Spacey is almost unrecognizable in a beard and glasses.”
DuPont’s point is already being proven wrong, as it appears the film is being considered DOA. As producer Gavin Polone noted in an interview, “It looks like the movie is being dumped.”
It does deserve to fail, but the larger question is why the film ever got the opportunity to succeed.
Besides trying to recoup their investment in the project, it's hard to ignore the possibility that producers were perhaps trying to capitalize off of the controversy surrounding Spacey’s fallen star: In the movie, he plays a con artist who is murdered by the titular club members after allegedly swindling them. If that is the case, it is cynical, it is tacky, it is vile.
But if their thought process behind going forward with the movie as-in wasn’t rooted in some despicable effort of exploitation, doing so was just dumb. There was never any way to sell a movie with Kevin Spacey in 2018. Even if they kept Spacey himself from the press, his co-stars were going to have to answer questions about him. They were going to be pressed to say if they believed the accusers, and if so, why promote their work with Spacey and, if they didn't believe them, to answer why not.
No studio should want to run to risk of having one of its actors sound as smug and dismissive about the issue of sexual assault as Richard DuPont in the era of #MeToo. And, while I understand the notion of creating a body of work and wanting to share it with the world, sometimes you need to start humming “know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em” and let God find you a tax write off.
We can’t take back Spacey's fame or fortune, nor the accolades he amassed over a previously storied career, but we can make him persona non grata. We can stop giving him jobs. We can stop talking about him. We can make him the distant memory he deserves to be.
I can’t imagine why others wouldn’t decide on this course of action. Kevin Spacey has been credibly accused of sexually assaulting men and boys and is being investigated by the police. People like that don’t deserve to continue working in Hollywood; there are plenty of other actors.
And though in terms of box office performance, "Billionaire Boys Club" will probably make "Howard The Duck" look like "Black Panther," the fact remains that this movie means that Kevin Spacey The Serious Actor is back in the conversation when he should remain outside of Hollywood milieu that shielded him from the consequences of his alleged actions far longer than it ever should.
Michael Arceneaux is the author of the book "I Can't Date Jesus" (July 2018, Atria Books).