In David Thomson's The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, there's an entry on Kevin Spacey that is chilling to read. “Do not be fooled: Kevin Fowler [his birth name] is and always was a chronic pretender, a naughty boy, a wicked mimic... you can see his Lester Burnham in American Beauty as the salt of the earth gone sour... Me, I think he's just one of Kevin's nasty jokers. But it won him the Oscar.”
At 40, Spacey took home the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Burnham, a man who channelled his mid-life crisis into an infatuation with his daughter's best friend Angela (played by Mena Suvari). Spacey was the casting directors' first choice.
On Monday, Spacey made an apology to actor Anthony Rapp, who had, hours before, alleged that when he was a teenager, Spacey invited him to a party at his home and tried “to seduce” him. Spacey claimed not to remember the encounter, which Rapp says took place in 1986, but said “if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behaviour”. In a move that has outraged the LGBT community, Spacey also publicly announced his homosexuality for the first time.
But, as Vicky Featherstone, artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Monday, “Kevin Spacey would be one of the people that people have had concerns about” for years.
The news has made many reconsider American Beauty, with social media users saying that they would feel uncomfortable watching it in light of the allegations.
American Beauty is one of my favourite films, but now watching Kevin Spacey's character prey on an underage girl makes my skin crawl.
— Law-Abiding-Psycho (@MassCrimes) October 30, 2017
In the film, Burnham pursues Angela from afar, before the pair kiss in a scene in which he tells her, “I wanted you from the first moment I saw you”.
Spacey may, however, have hinted at his behaviour during his Best Actor acceptance speech at the 2000 Oscars. After dedicating his award to Jack Lemmon, whom he compared to his father, Spacey veered away from rattling off the usual list of filmmakers, agents and producers to thank. Here is part of the transcript:
To my friends, for pointing out my worst qualities. I know you do it because you love me, and that's why I love playing Lester, because we got to see all of his worst qualities and we still grew to love him.
This movie to me is about how any single act by any single person put out of context, is damnable. But the joy of this movie is that it is real beauty, and we found real beauty in this extraordinary script by Alan Ball.
I'm very proud to be an actor and I've tried very hard to protect my work and I'm stunned and a bit speechless.
On Monday, US director Christopher Shinn tweeted about the speech:
I always felt Kevin Spacey's 2000 Oscar speech alluded to/minimized his misconduct. I bet it'll be played a lot once more stories emerge
— Christopher Shinn (@chris_shinn) 30 October 2017
Others involved in the making of American Beauty, including director Sam Mendes and Suvari, are yet to publicly comment on Spacey.