It’s amazing what one can find when one actually starts to look, eh? After actor Anthony Rapp accused Kevin Spacey of attempted sexual assault when Rapp was just 14 years old and other allegations emerged from the set of House of Cards, Britain’s famed Old Vic Theater started asking its staff about any issues from Spacey’s 11-year run as artistic director. The BBC reports that they have uncovered 20 incidents of “inappropriate behavior” from his tenure:
The Old Vic theatre said it has received 20 personal testimonies of alleged inappropriate behaviour by Kevin Spacey during his 11-year tenure as artistic director.
Those affected said they “felt unable to raise concerns” adding he “operated without sufficient accountability”.
The acclaimed London theatre said it “truly apologises for not creating an environment or culture where people felt able to speak freely. It will “commit to a new way forward.”
The headlines are sensational, but the report itself seems pretty vague. What exactly were the types of “inappropriate behavior”? That description ranges from rudeness all the way to felonious assaults. Spacey faces public accusations across that spectrum already, but those reports have been more specific and serious. Rapp accused him of attempted sexual assault, and the son of a Boston anchorwoman has filed a complaint involving sexual battery. British police are also reportedly investigating Spacey for an alleged assault that took place in 2008, in which an actor claims he awoke to Spacey performing a sex act on him.
We’re a little beyond “inappropriate behavior” and other legalese, in other words. Why not offer more specificity about the behavior their investigation found? At this point, no one cares if Spacey acted like an entitled jerk; they want to know whether Spacey was a sexual predator — and why no one stepped in to put a stop to it. This sounds like an attempt to minimize any potential liability for the Old Vic, and the statement quoted by NBC News in this tweet sounds even more like that’s the point:
READ: The Old Vic theatre releases conclusions of its investigation following the allegations made against Kevin Spacey. pic.twitter.com/mY9CNVGQYn
— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 16, 2017
The main point of emphasis here seems to be that no one told the Old Vic’s management about any of it — save one case, which doesn’t get any elaboration either. There is the usual passive mea culpa about not having had the proper accountability in place, but even then, the statement lays off some of the blame for accountability on “tribalism between operational and creative staff.”
The Guardian reports that the “tribalism” may have started at the top:
The theatre also emphasised that “no legal claims, formal grievances, formal disputes, settlement agreements or payments made or authorised were made at all in relation to Kevin Spacey during his tenure”.
The investigation into Spacey by the London theatre was prompted by Mexican actor Roberto Cavazos alleging that that Spacey had preyed on men while he was artistic director. That account was supported by several other accounts in the Guardian from actors and former staff at the theatre, who claimed that Spacey’s inappropriate behaviour was widely known, and that the theatre had turned a blind eye to it.
That’s the point that this statement seems designed to obscure, and its ambiguity only helps serve that mission. To buy that, we’d have to believe that the Old Vic’s management remained in the dark for 11 years but suddenly could find twenty people to testify about Spacey’s “inappropriate behavior” within a two-week investigation.
The report also called out a “cult of personality” around Spacey as a cause for the silence around this “behavior”:
The Old Vic said a “cult of personality” had existed around Spacey during his time as director and that his stardom and status had prevented people, particularly junior staff and young actors, from speaking out.
Perhaps that cult of personality started at the top with the people who hired Spacey as “artistic director” in the first place? From earlier reports, it certainly sounds like the Old Vic had an “open secret” operating in their organization, just as Netflix did with House of Cards and Hollywood had with Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, Brett Ratner, et al. It seems as though there may be more “inappropriate behavior” to be exposed by the people who covered for these power players. The Old Vic has to hope that its “mistakes were made, but no one knew” statement will ring down the curtain before the applause dies down.