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“Did You Know?” – A Biographer’s Response to the Kevin Spacey scandal

“Did you know about Kevin Spacey?”

A question I have been asked a lot in the past few weeks, by my family and friends, by the people I work with, by the media even…

Well, here is the honest answer. When I first started researching Kevin Spacey’s world in 2001 in preparation for a possible biography, it soon became clear that many of the more scandalous details about his life circulating on the Internet simply couldn’t be used, since I would a) be at risk of being sued and b) alienate his fans.

But I wanted to write about it. I couldn’t write about it. Was there another way?

Yes. Slash faux-fic, or “fan faction,” was born. Re-reading my work now I’ve realised that – in one case in particular – my “fan-fac” is much closer to the truth than I intended. The “hero” of my short story “broken boulevard,” Jack Summers, is a closeted Hollywood actor who recounts an early assault on a younger actor when they were both struggling Broadway players. The younger actor is named “Anthony.”

Did I name him after Anthony Rapp? Yes – I’d read that Spacey had made a pass at him when they were appearing in separate Broadway plays in the 1980s. This was all I’d read. I had no idea that this encounter was not consensual or that Anthony Rapp was only 14 at the time. In the cruel world of the Internet, Spacey’s predilections were just a joke (“Fowler – he’s a chicken-hawk – get it?”). We could gossip about Rapp and Spacey on message boards in 2000, but The Advocate wouldn’t “out” Kevin when Rapp first told them his story a year later. For Kevin, the closet concealed much more than just his sexual orientation – and so the abuse, apparently, continued. Twenty people at the Old Vic, eight House of Cards employees, a news anchor’s 18 year old son…

In 2009, I tried writing a Spacey bio again. This time, I played it safe – Looking Closer: Kevin Spacey, the first 50 years contains mainly secondary-source data and there are no unsupported references to Kevin’s more salacious side. As I wrote in the introduction to the book: “my aim was to take a peek behind the Spacey “mask” rather than rip it off entirely.” As for the other stuff – hints of it are there, if you know where to look (who is the poem “The Beautiful People” really about?).

So, did I “know” about Kevin Spacey?

Did I “know” he was gay, or at least bisexual? Yes – he was hardly discreet.

Did I “know” the extent of his predatory behaviour? No – I assumed that most of his encounters with men had been consensual (He was a world-famous, charismatic, millionaire movie star, after all).

Did I “know” that he preyed on minors? No. I’d heard the rumours, but I couldn’t quite believe them. Many years ago, the Daily Mail ran a piece in their “Wicked Whispers” column: "Which major male Hollywood actor followed last year's best actor winner Jamie Bell around at the BAFTAs after-show dinner taking photograph after photograph for his private album?"

This was in 2002. Bell was 15. He was born in 1986, the same year that Spacey allegedly assaulted Anthony Rapp…did I work out who they were talking about? Of course – the list of possible suspects was pretty short. A “Jamie” turned up in “broken boulevard” too – a painful reminder to Jack of his earlier crime.

“Anthony Rapp of the original cast of RENT has mentioned many times that he was hit on by Kevin Spacey--and Anthony was, shall we say, not very old when it happened.” What was idle gossip in 2000 became a career-ending disclosure in 2017. How Hollywood has changed...

So, how do I feel about Kevin Spacey now? That’s a harder question to answer and one many fans all over the world are probably asking themselves. The whole scandal is a tragedy, not least for Kevin himself. That such a brilliant talent and stage and screen presence is now – for all intents and purposes – gone. I had hoped to see Kevin perform again at the Old Vic one day, but this seems impossible now.

Clearly Kevin has behaved abominably towards certain people throughout his adult life but is now paying a very heavy price so it is hard not to have some sympathy for him, especially knowing the horrors of his childhood home and what a dark place the closet can be. Since he has – at the time of writing – not been convicted of any offence, it is also possible that he has been targeted unfairly by many of his accusers.

How do I “feel” about Kevin Spacey? Well, I still have a lot of respect for him as an actor and as the person whose life and work inspired so much of my fiction and brought several friends (including his brother Randy and Randy's original biographer, Jack Ewing) into my life. I hope that there is some way back for him and that he receives the help and support he needs and that no-one else is hurt by him. Most of all I hope that this sad situation leads to a reconciliation between the two brothers. As Randy said in a recent interview: “Kevin Spacey is done, he had his moment in time. All that’s left now is Kevin Fowler, my little brother. Call me, I love you.”

- Robin Tamblyn, November 2017

Have a browse through my various works.....

Robin's Early Works

 

     
The Romulus and Remus Complexes King of Hollywood (Screenplay) King of Hollywood (Novel)
     

Velocity
Velocity

coupling
Coupling
Medium Everything: Collected Writings
Medium Everything
     
  Looking Closer
Looking Closer
 

Robin Tamblyn (author)