Kevin Spacey — who has been notoriously protective over keeping his private life a secret — came out as gay Sunday after actor Anthony Rapp accused the House of Cards star of inappropriate sexual advances when he was 14 years old.
Rapp, now 46, alleged that then-26-year-old Spacey invited him to his Manhattan apartment for a party in 1986. (They were both starring in hit Broadway plays at the time.) Rapp says he was the only teen at the party and spent most of the evening in a bedroom watching television. After the party ended, he said, Spacey came into the room, picked him up and laid “down on top of me…he was trying to seduce me”
Spacey, 58, issued a statement late Sunday saying he doesn’t remember the alleged incident, apologizing for “for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior” and announcing, “I choose now to live as a gay man.” Almost immediately, high-profile LBGTQ actors like Wanda Sykes and Billy Eichner criticized the statement, with GLAAD cautioning that Spacey coming out should not “deflect” from Rapp’s allegation.
“This story has encouraged me to address other things about my life,” Spacey said in the statement. “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 closes to me know, in my life, I have had relationships with both men and women. I have loved and had romantic relationships 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 behavior.”
This came as a departure for the actor, who has a long refused to comment on his private life and spoken out against the media for making assumptions about his sexuality.
In 1997 — two years after he rose to prominence with his first Oscar win for The Usual Suspects — Esquire published an article titled “Kevin Spacey Has a Secret,” which focused on rumors that the actor was gay.
In a statement to The New York Times, Spacey’s publicist at the time said that the actor “categorically refutes the statement made in the current issue of Esquire magazine, which implies that he personally ‘came out last spring’ while playing Jim Williams in the film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”
“While Mr. Spacey respects many diverse life styles and admires those who have chosen to come out with dignity and courage, he has always maintained a separation between his professional and personal life, and will continue to do so,” the statement continued. “His decision not to publicly define his private life has apparently prompted the publication’s attempt to present as fact their version of what they imagine his private life to be.”
Two years later, in 1999, during an interview with The Sunday Times, Spacey was asked directly if he was gay, which the actor denied. “The answer to that is no … but why should it matter? Until the media stop using sexuality as a weapon against public figures, they will always lag behind ordinary regularly folk,” he said.
“I chose for a long time not to answer these questions because of the manner in which they were asked, and because I was never talking to someone I trusted, so why would I?” he added to the Times. “Recently I chose to participate because it’s a little hard on the people I love.”
In 1999, he also denied to Playboy that he was gay, adding that the rumors about his personal life hadn’t dissuaded women from pursuing him. “There are a few women who think the [Esquire] article might be true. It’s a challenge for them: They want to be the ones to turn me around. I let them.”
Almost a decade later, the actor opened up about his right to a private life, telling Gotham magazine in 2007, “I’ve never believed in pumping my personal life out for publicity. Although I might be interested in doing it, I will never do it. People can gossip all they want; they can speculate all the want. I just happened to believe that there’s a separation between the public life and the private life. Everybody has the right to a private life no matter what their professions are.”
And in 2010, he doubled down on the importance of his privacy. During an interview with The Daily Beast, when asked why he had never come out, Spacey replied, “Look I might have lived in England for the last several years, but I’m still an American citizen and I have not given up my right to privacy.”
He also attacked the media, saying, “Why is it in this country that kids might think it’s OK to bully and make fun of somebody? I’ll tell you why, because what do they see in the media happening all the time? In the media they seem to think that’s OK. So if we stop using sexuality as a weapon against people maybe everyone will eventually get cool with it.
“I don’t live a lie. You have to understand that people who choose not to discuss their personal lives are not living a lie. That is a presumption that people jump to,” he continued. “Look, at the end of the day people have to respect people’s differences. I am different than some people would like me to be. I just don’t buy into that the personal can be political. I just think that’s h—t. No one’s personal life is in the public interest. It’s gossip, bottom line. End of story.”
In 2014 — the year after Spacey’s hit Netflix show House of Cards premiered — the actor briefly spoke about his personal life, telling The Hollywood Reporter, “Let’s let people live their lives and do it the way they want to do it.”
And in 2017 — when the actor hosted the Tony awards — he poked fun at the speculation over his sexuality during a musical number when he dressed as Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard, singing, “I’m coming out — wait, no no no no.”
But the timing and wording of Sunday’s announcement is no laughing matter to peers like actor Zachary Quinto, who tweeted, “it is deeply sad and troubling that this is how kevin spacey has chosen to come out. not by standing up as a point of pride — in the light of his many awards and accomplishments — thus inspiring tens of thousands of struggling LGBTQ kids around the world. but as a calculated manipulation to deflect attention from the very serious accusation that he attempted to molest one.”