It’s hard to think of an appalling crime that hasn’t been committed by one of Kevin Spacey’s characters. He beheaded a pregnant woman in Se7en as serial killer John Doe; he became sexually fascinated with the teenage best friend of his character’s daughter in American Beauty. He pulled off a heist and killings that bamboozled not only authorities but a cunning ensemble of seasoned conmen in Usual Suspects as Keyser Soze. And in House of Cards, his Netflix political drama that enjoyed meteoric success, his protagonist Frank Underwood manipulated and murdered his way to being leader of the free world as President of the United States.
The actor’s uncanny ability to deliver monologues – particularly those delivered directly to the camera and the audience – earned him not only a slew of accolades but the distinction of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable contemporary stars. Spacey stared down the lens and into viewers’ souls, his diction deliberate and often chilling and always – always – memorable.
And now, as he faces felony assault charges in Massachusetts, he’s unexpectedly released a video that preys upon that talent. Titled ‘Let Me Be Frank’ and spoken in Underwood’s South Carolina accent, it aims to meld fiction and reality, rumor and truth, past and present – and, pointedly, the very ideas of good and evil.
Wearing a Santa Claus apron and standing resolutely in a kitchen, the actor seems to address the deplorable allegations that he fondled a teenage boy in a Nantucket bar two years ago. His attitude is unapologetic, and the actor – or whoever he’s playing – draws upon more than a few of the plotlines and poignant roles from his past.
Headlines have largely decried the video as bizarre, but Spacey’s hypnotic performance is in line with his portrayal of villains and morally complex characters – along with his signature acting style. It’s what has always worked for his characters, so perhaps it’s only fitting that the new video employs the same elements.
The career of Kevin Spacey, 59, has featured villainous roles, often men who win out in the end despite ruthless or criminal behavior – particularly his House of Cards character, Frank Underwood, who murders and manipulates his way to the US presidency
On Monday, the same day it was announced that Spacey would be charged with felony sexual assault, he released a strange new video, delivering a monologue in Underwood’s accent that seemed defiant and possibly hinted at a comeback. The video, titled ‘Let Me Be Frank,’ features Spacey in a kitchen, wearing a Santa apron, delivering lines such as: ’If you and I’ve learned nothing else these past years, it’s that in life and art, nothing should be off the table … I can promise you this: If I didn’t pay the price for the things we both know I did do, I’m certainly not gonna pay the price for the things I didn’t do’
It’s an unorthodox approach that his estranged brother – a limousine driver and Rod Stewart impersonator in Idaho – actually predicted Spacey would make, well before the charges were announced today.
‘He could play the most evil characters but give them a sympathetic edge; make viewers believe there was always a chance of redemption,’ Randy Fowler said last month. ‘That’s what he’s hoping for in real life.’
The video appears to serve as a defiant response to the charges – as well as hinting at a professional comeback. With his trademark deadpan delivery, he intones: ‘We’re not done, no matter what anyone says … Some believed everything and they’ve just been waiting with bated breath for him to confess it all. They’re just dying to have me declare that everything said is true and that I got what I deserved. Wouldn’t it be easy if it was all so simple?
‘Only you and I both know it’s never that simple. Not in politics and not in life, but you wouldn’t believe the worst without evidence, would you? You wouldn’t rush to judgement without facts, would you?’
He adds – in a clear allusion to House of Cards, which killed Underwood off when allegations first surfaced last year about predatory behavior towards younger men – that ’if you and I’ve learned nothing else these past years, it’s that in life and art, nothing should be off the table … I can promise you this: If I didn’t pay the price for the things we both know I did do, I’m certainly not gonna pay the price for the things I didn’t do.’
He adds: ‘Well, of course they’re gonna say I’m being disrespectful not playing by the rules, like I ever played by anyone’s rules. But I never did and you loved it anyhow – despite all the animosity, the headlines, the impeachment without a trial, despite everything. Despite even my own death. I feel surprisingly good and my confidence grows each day that soon enough you will know the full truth.’
But whatever the fate and the crimes of Spacey’s characters, dozens of alleged victims claim that their personal ‘full truth’ puts blame on the actor. In the felony charge case, the teenage victim in question is the son of local news anchor Heather Unruh, who has openly claimed that in 2016 Spacey repeatedly stuck his hand down the pants of her 18-year-old child, who escaped only when the actor went to the bathroom and another woman in the bar said: ‘Run!’
Spacey, pictured right in 1995 film Usual Suspects won an Oscar for his portrayal of conman Keyser Soze, or Roger ‘Verbal’ Kint – a cunning character with memorable swathes of monologue throughout the movie
In 1995’s Se7en, he starred alongside Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman as serial killer John Doe, whose fascination with the seven deadly sins drives him to unspeakable crimes – and he even beheads a pregnant woman
Spacey’s character in American Beauty, Lester Burnham, is more morally complex but becomes involved with his daughter’s teenage friend; though Lester suffers a tragic end, his message at the end of the film is more uplifting as he says: ‘I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life’
The teenager told his sister and then his mother, who has been unwaveringly resolute about her thoughts on what happened. ‘I want to see Kevin Spacey go to jail. I want to see Kevin Spacey see the hand of justice come down on him – not just for my son, but every victim who speaks the truth.’
Spacey – who was first accused publicly of sexual assault by actor Anthony Rapp in October 2017, stemming from a 1986 incident, when Rapp was just 14 – had virtually disappeared after he released a statement on the matter, which in its own right left much to be desired for many people.
Beginning by saying he had ‘a lot of respect and admiration’ for Rapp, he continued: ‘If I did behave as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply in appropriate drunken behavior, and I am sorry for the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years.
‘This story has encouraged me to address other things about my life. I know that there are stories out there about me and that some have been fueled by the fact that I have been so protective of my privacy. As those closest to me know, in my life I have had relationships with both men and women. 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 followed his statement with a stint at celebrity rehab clinic The Meadows, alongside Harvey Weinstein, thought the actor checked out early. It was too little, too late, in the eyes of many – as summed up by his estranged brother last month.
‘Kevin never came out as gay until he was accused of sexual assault, but I knew he was gay from the start,’ Randy said. ‘It was almost like he blamed his deviancy on being gay. I don’t think that went down well in Hollywood.
‘My brother is a narcissist. I truly believe he has no shame.’
Following his rehab spell, Spacey disappeared from sight.
‘He has plenty of money to lie low and he will do,’ his brother said.
An extensive investigation by the Mail on Sunday published last month tried to interview dozens of the actor’s associates and establish his whereabouts, though almost everyone associated with him declined to go on the record. The investigation did, however, uncover well-informed sources who insisted that Spacey would make a carefully crafted comeback, one that would start with a cameo in an Oscar-worthy movie and be managed from there.
Spacey, left, is pictured outside the Nantucket bar where the alleged assault occurred in 2016; he is due in Nantucket District Court on January 7 to be indicted on related charges. The alleged teenage victim’s mother, anchor Heather Unruh, right, has said: ‘I want to see Kevin Spacey go to jail. I want to see Kevin Spacey see the hand of justice come down on him – not just for my son, but every victim who speaks the truth’
In a famous line from Netflix series House of Cards, Spacey’s Frank Underwood says: ‘From the lion’s den to the pack of wolves, when you’re fresh meat: Kill and throw them something fresher’
The video released Monday appears to refer to various plot lines from House of Cards – such as the shock death of Underwood – as Spacey alludes to the fact his character’s death is never seen onscreen. He was killed off the series after allegations surfaced of sexual misconduct
The video he released today, defiantly but indirectly addressing the felony charges, may have changed that plan. Or perhaps it was part of it all along. He certainly, after all, has a wealth of cunning characters and dialogues to choose from, with many of his most quotable lines belying shrewdness, determination and, above all, a ruthless pursuit of one’s own interests.
He could have modeled the video on American Beauty, a dark but at times optimistic study of the underbelly of American society that earned the 59-year-old an Oscar.
‘I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me, but it’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world,’ says his character, Lester Burnham, after he’s been murdered – concluding, as the film closes, that ‘I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life.’
But ‘Let Me Be Frank’ is more closely intertwined with – and seems to almost daringly draw from – the plot of House of Cards and the psyches of his characters in darker dramas.
‘The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist,’ his character says in Usual Suspects, which also won Spacey an Academy Award.
But the dialogue of his new video – along with the accent, delivery and the fiercely but quietly combative vibe – is undeniably most closely linked with Underwood himself and his take-no-prisoners, almost animalistic approach to life.
‘From the lion’s den to the pack of wolves, when you’re fresh meat: Kill and throw them something fresher,’ he says in the Netflix series.
‘Every kitten grows up to be a cat,’ Underwood says. ‘They seem so harmless at first, so small, quietly lapping up their saucer of milk. But once their claws get long enough, they draw blood – sometimes from the hand that feeds them.
‘For those of us climbing to the top of the food chain, there can be no mercy. There is but one rule: Hunt or be hunted.’