Why Spacey’s new film needs to be his last

 

IN THE immediate aftermath of last year's Buzzfeed report wherein actor Anthony Rapp spoke out about Kevin Spacey making sexual advances on him when Rapp was only 14, Spacey quickly became nuclear.

Ridley Scott made the virtually unprecedented move of going back to reshoot scenes of his film All the Money in the World to replace Kevin Spacey - in the featured role of J. Paul Getty - with Christopher Plummer (Plummer would be rewarded with an Oscar nomination for his short-notice work).

Production on his Netflix series House of Cards was halted, and when it started up again, it was retooled to leave his character, Frank Underwood, behind. Netflix also put the brakes on the Gore Vidal biopic it was making with Spacey, which was in post-production at the time.

The one outstanding project that Spacey's name was attached to was Billionaire Boys Club, a long-in-development movie about a real-life group of young, preppy, investor-fraud types whose exploits turned to murder, which made the story a hot-button on the tabloid scene at the time.

Spacey was cast to play the group's shady mentor, turned murder victim, and the cast of the film included Ansel Elgort (who'd so recently starred with Spacey in Baby Driver), Taron Egerton, and Jeremy Irvine.

The real-life story was tawdry, and the film promised to be tawdry too.

But once the Spacey allegations hit the press - which were followed in quick succession by Spacey coming out of the closet as a defensive manoeuvre and then additional reports and rumours about further misconduct on set - the mere prospect of Spacey starring in a movie called Billionaire Boys Club became a dark and unsettling punchline.

Which is very likely why the film's US distributor, Vertical Entertainment, shoved the film out a back door with a video on demand release on July 17. There's no way to do publicity for a movie like this, with Spacey so central to the plot, and especially with his role as a shady, leering financial predator who lures young men into his crimes.

It is perversely fascinating to watch, like a parallel universe where Spacey has been typecast as a man who preys on baby-faced young boys.

There’s a bitter irony to Spacey’s role in the new film.
There’s a bitter irony to Spacey’s role in the new film.

That the boyishness of the young Ponzi-schemers is a central part of the story isn't remotely able to obscure the visual image of Spacey sleazing around the likes of Ansel Elgort and Taron Egerton, two young stars whose boyish good looks have been the bedrock of their success in Hollywood.

A more creative marketer might be able to repackage this movie as a commentary on the predatory nature of Hollywood, though the film is nowhere near sturdy enough to support it.

The pedestrian nature of the film is ultimately what sinks it, and the biggest lingering question you're left with after Billionaire Boys Club - more so than, "Have we finally reached the outer limits of what kinds of '80s movies can comfortably accommodate Yaz's Only You on the soundtrack?" - is this: Is Billionaire Boys Club the final Kevin Spacey movie?"

 

It should be. Spacey's had a long and accomplished career, but we have now officially passed the point where his demerits outweigh the benefits of casting him in a movie. He's a distraction in a bad movie like Billionaire Boys Club. You have to imagine he'd be an even bigger distraction in a good movie.

That said, the evidence may be stacking up against the idea that #MeToo villains will stay exiled. Chris Hardwick got his job back, and we're already talking about James Franco movies again. Woody Allen never stopped making movies, nor did Roman Polanski.

There's going to be a shifting spectrum of which #MeToo infractions become survivable and which ones don't, which may well be a good thing, but in the absence of any evidence of atonement or even admission from Spacey, Hollywood would have to fully turn a blind eye towards the claims made against him in order for him to keep working.

Ideally, Billionaire Boys Club is an ironic final chapter for his on-screen career. It won't be a proud one, but you'd be hard pressed to argue that's what he deserves.

 

This story originally appeared on Decider and is republished here with permission.