Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey, taking the witness stand in his sexual misconduct trial Monday, flatly denied Anthony Rapp’s allegation and then grew visibly emotional as he recalled his “humiliating and terrifying” upbringing as the son of a man he described as a “white supremacist and neo-Nazi.”
Spacey, face red and voice shaking, told jurors in New York federal court that he was “forced to listen to hours and hours and hours” of lectures from his father, Thomas Geoffrey Fowler, instilling in him a “hatred” of bigotry.
“I have never talked about these things publicly,” Spacey said on the witness stand, appearing to fight back tears. “Ever.”
Rapp, the star of the Paramount+ series “Star Trek: Discovery,” alleges that Spacey lifted him up, put him on a bed and climbed on top of him during a party in New York City in 1986, when Rapp was 14 and Spacey was 26.
Spacey’s lawyers have argued that Rapp “created a story” about their client because he was jealous of the “American Beauty” star’s professional success.
Rapp filed a lawsuit against Spacey in 2020, and his lawyers are seeking $40 million in damages.
In a significant development Monday, the judge overseeing the trial tossed out Rapp’s claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Judge Lewis A. Kaplan said that claim “repeats and re-alleges” Rapp’s allegation of battery.
Spacey, wearing a gray suit and white shirt with a pale pink tie, told jurors that he “grew up in a very complicated family dynamic.” He testified that his father, who died in 1992, was frequently unemployed, moving the family from home to home.
Spacey said his father “fell in” with a bad crowd and eventually became what the actor described as a “white supremacist and neo-Nazi.” Spacey said he felt too ashamed to invite school friends over to his house out of fear his father would go on a racist tirade.
Chase A. Scolnick, Spacey’s lead attorney, asked his client to respond to Rapp’s suggestion earlier in the trial that the older actor was a “fraud” for remaining in the closet for most of his public life.
Spacey, eyes appearing to well up with tears, responded: “To call someone a ‘fraud’ is to, I guess, say that you think they are living a lie. … I wasn’t living a lie. I was just reluctant to talk about my personal life.”
“We have to have empathy … for everyone’s process of coming out,” he said.
Spacey publicly came out as gay in 2017 in response to an article published by BuzzFeed News in which Rapp detailed his allegations. In a statement on Twitter, Spacey said in part: “I choose now to live as a gay man.”
The actor testified that he “certainly had a degree of shame” about being gay because he grew up with his father’s hateful views. “I’d grown up in a situation as a child where I wasn’t comfortable talking about these things,” he said.
In the prime of his acting career, he added, he “wanted people to remember the characters” he played — not the man behind them.
Spacey recalled discovering a love for performance as a “shy” boy, in part because “being able to hear my mother laugh” was one of the highlights of his young life. He amused her with spot-on impressions of Hollywood movie stars from the 1930s and ’40s.
The actor interspersed his testimony with brief impersonations of important people from his life, including actor Jack Lemmon and the New York theater impresario Joseph Papp, describing the latter as a “father figure.”
Spacey then attempted to rebut testimony from Andy Holtzman, a former employee at New York’s famed Public Theater who alleges that Spacey sexually assaulted him there in 1981.
Spacey denies that allegation. Scolnick, Spacey’s lead attorney, attempted to draw out discrepancies in Holtzman’s testimony Monday.
Holtzman said that he recognized Spacey after seeing his photo in a program for the Public’s production of “Henry IV, Part 1,” in which Spacey — then in his early 20s — had a small role.
But a copy of the program submitted as evidence Monday does not feature a photo of Spacey.
Spacey is expected to rebut Rapp’s allegation of sexual misconduct on Monday afternoon following a roughly hour-long lunch break.
Rapp said that he met Spacey in 1986 when they were each acting in Broadway shows — Rapp alongside Ed Harris in “Precious Sons,” Spacey with Lemmon in “Long Day’s Journey into Night.” Rapp testified that Spacey invited him to a party at his apartment.
Rapp alleged that he did not recognize anyone at the party, so he went into a bedroom to watch TV. He testified that at some point, an apparently drunken Spacey entered the room, lifted him up, placed him on a bed and rested his full weight on top of him.
Spacey’s lawyers on Monday showed jurors what they said was a floor plan of the apartment their client rented in 1986 — a studio apartment that did not have a bedroom.
Rapp said he privately told friends about the alleged encounter over the years but felt inspired to go public with his allegations in the early days of the #MeToo movement in October 2017.