Actor Anthony Rapp: Kevin Spacey Made A Sexual Advance Toward Me When I Was 14
The Star Trek: Discovery actor says women speaking out about sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry has compelled him to come forward about the Oscar winner.
Last June, Anthony Rapp settled in at the home of his good friend and fellow actor Camryn Manheim to watch the Tony Awards. The New York natives were both in Toronto working, and Manheim had invited Rapp and his boyfriend over to partake in the beloved theater geek ritual. But for the first time, Rapp — a working actor since he was 9 years old, and most famously part of the original cast of the musical Rent — felt something he'd never experienced before with the Tonys: dread.
And that's because the host that night was Kevin Spacey.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Rapp is publicly alleging for the first time that in 1986, Spacey befriended Rapp while they both performed on Broadway shows, invited Rapp over to his apartment for a party, and, at the end of the night, picked Rapp up, placed him on his bed, and climbed on top of him, making a sexual advance. According to public records, Spacey was 26. Rapp was 14.
For years, Rapp, now 46, told no one about his experience, and he has never spoken with Spacey since. But as Spacey's star began to rise through the 1990s and 2000s — including a Tony Award, two Oscars, a decadelong run as the creative director of the Old Vic theater in London, and six seasons and counting on the hit Netflix series House of Cards — Rapp's frustration, anger, and incredulity with the sexual boundary he said Spacey crossed with him grew as well. Seeing Spacey now, “My stomach churns,” Rapp said. “I still to this day can't wrap my head around so many aspects of it. It's just deeply confusing to me.”
Representatives for Spacey, now 58, did not respond to numerous phone calls, emails, and a letter detailing the allegations. However, after this story was published, Spacey posted on Twitter that he did not remember the encounter with Rapp.
"But if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior," Spacey wrote.
"This story has encouraged me to address other things about my life. I know that there are other stories out there about me and that some have been fueled by the fact that I have been so protective of my privacy," he continued. He also acknowledged for the first time publicly that "I now choose to live as a gay man."
After the accusations leveled against Harvey Weinstein sparked an unprecedented conversation about sexual abuse and harassment in the entertainment industry, Rapp said he feels compelled to come forward.
"And not to simply air a grievance," he said, "but to try to shine another light on the decades of behavior that have been allowed to continue because many people, including myself, being silent. … I'm feeling really awake to the moment that we're living in, and I'm hopeful that this can make a difference."
When Rapp first met Spacey in 1986, he was a couple of months into the Broadway run of Precious Sons, starring Ed Harris and Judith Ivey, for which Rapp was receiving significant praise. At the same time, Spacey was enjoying his first major break with a supporting role alongside his idol Jack Lemmon in a revival of Long Day's Journey Into Night.
Both productions were earning enough critical attention that the casts were attending celebratory events. "It was at one of those events where I met Kevin Spacey for the first time," Rapp recalled.
He was meeting a lot of actors during that period, enjoying the time-honored custom of late-night, post-show gatherings at which many different Broadway casts would eat and mingle. Rapp had relocated from Joliet, Illinois, with his mother Mary for the run of the play; he'd even taken the semester off from school. Sometimes his mother would accompany him to those events, but sometimes she'd let him go alone.
Rapp said he encountered Spacey again at one of those post-show functions, when a 17-year-old friend from Joliet was visiting him in New York. "And he was like, 'Hey! Hi! Come join us!'" Rapp said. Spacey then invited both boys to join him at the popular nightclub Limelight, even though, as Rapp explained, “I looked younger than 14.”
"I don't know how— We got in through the front door," Rapp continued. "We didn't have to show ID. And we sat with him in some VIP area." Rapp noted that he had no memory of being offered alcohol — "It was just a fun night just talking and hanging out," he said — and at some point, Spacey invited him to attend a party he was hosting a few days later at his Manhattan apartment.
He went, gladly, and alone. Rapp said he honestly cannot recall what he told his mother — who died from cancer in 1997 — about the party, but he stressed that the idea of him attending a party held by an adult Broadway actor did not seem like a cause for concern. "I imagine that I might be opening my poor late mother up to some criticisms for how she parented, but, you know, it was a different era," he said. "I went to work by myself. I would walk to the subway, and go to the theater by myself.”
When he arrived at Spacey's apartment, Rapp quickly realized that he was the only nonadult there — which, again, did not worry him, since he so often had found himself in similar situations as a child actor. The bigger issue: "I didn't know anyone," he said. "And I was quickly kind of bored."
Rapp said he ended up wandering into the bedroom, sitting on the edge of the bed, and watching TV well past midnight.
“I was aware that he was trying to get with me sexually.”
At some point, Rapp said he turned to see Spacey standing at the bedroom door. And that's when he first realized that everyone else had left the party. They were alone.
“My memory was that I thought, Oh, everybody's gone. Well, yeah, I should probably go home,” Rapp said. Spacey, he recalled, “sort of stood in the doorway, kind of swaying. My impression when he came in the room was that he was drunk.” Rapp doesn't remember Spacey saying anything to him. Instead, Rapp said, “He picked me up like a groom picks up the bride over the threshold. But I don't, like, squirm away initially, because I'm like, 'What's going on?' And then he lays down on top of me.”
“He was trying to seduce me,” Rapp said. “I don't know if I would have used that language. But I was aware that he was trying to get with me sexually.”
Rapp recalled this all happening — Spacey appearing at the door, coming into the room, picking him up, and putting him on the bed — in one clumsy action, with Spacey landing at a slight angle on top of him. He said Spacey “was, like, pressing into me,” and that he remembers Spacey “tightening his arms.” But while he can't recall exactly how long Spacey remained on top of him, Rapp said he was able to “squirm” away after a short period.
“It was a frozen moment. In terms of fight or flight or freeze, I tend to freeze.”
“It was a frozen moment,” Rapp said of the entire encounter, with a deep, exasperated sigh. “In terms of fight or flight or freeze, I tend to freeze.”
After pushing Spacey off him, Rapp remembered he was able to step into the bathroom and close the door. "I was like, 'What is happening?'” he said. “I saw on the counter next to the sink a picture of him having his arm around a man. So I think on some level I was like, Oh. He's gay. I guess. Then I opened the door, and I was like, 'OK, I'm going to go home now.' He followed me to the front door of the apartment, and as I opened the door to leave, he was leaning on the front door[frame]. And he was like, 'Are you sure you wanna go?' I said, 'Yes, good night,' and then I did leave."
As he walked home, “My head was spinning,” Rapp said. “I have a memory of turning around and [thinking], What was that? What am I supposed to do with it? What does it mean?”
He paused. "The older I get, and the more I know, I feel very fortunate that something worse didn't happen," he said. "And at the same time, the older I get, the more I can't believe it. I could never imagine [that] anyone else I know would do something like that to a 14-year-old boy."
In the days following the party, Rapp said he considered reaching out to Spacey to talk about what had happened. But he never did, and he has no memory of ever telling his mother about it, either. For Rapp, if he had told her right away, it would have meant a larger discussion about his own sexual orientation at 14, and he wasn't ready to do that.
It was at first, however, relatively simple for Rapp to set aside his experience with Spacey. For one, Rapp said his training as an actor, even at 14, had taught him how to slough off traumatic events. As it happens, there is even a scene in Precious Sons that calls to mind Rapp's encounter with Spacey, in which Ed Harris's character drunkenly mistakes his son (played by Rapp) for someone else, climbs on top of him, and makes a sexual advance. Rapp doesn't know if Spacey ever saw him in the play, but, he said, “Looking back, I think that on some level my system was kind of weirdly accustomed to the action [of having a man crawl on top of me], because it had been happening in the play.”
“It was this thing that happened, and I locked it away.”
For another, at the time, Spacey was just one of hundreds of unknown theater actors with zero presence outside of New York, and Rapp hoped he’d never see Spacey — or have to relive the experience — again. “It was this thing that happened, and I locked it away,” he said.
But then, when Rapp was 16, he went to see the 1988 hit movie Working Girl with Melanie Griffith. Just nine minutes into the film, Rapp was shocked to see Spacey, his face on the big screen as a cocaine-snorting, champagne-guzzling Wall Street trader attempting to lewdly seduce Griffith in the back of a limo.
"I literally jumped out of my seat, like somebody had jolted me with a cattle prod," Rapp said. "It was this double whammy of, like, wait a second, that guy. And then it was coupled with the fact that his character was coming on to Melanie Griffith drunkenly. … It was a profound jolt to my system.”
As Spacey's career blossomed, Rapp could no longer pretend like he didn't exist. He cannot recall precisely the first person he told about his experience, but he knows he started around the time he costarred in the 1990–92 Broadway production of Six Degrees of Separation, the same season Spacey gave his Tony-winning performance in Lost in Yonkers. (One of Rapp's former boyfriends confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the actor shared his experience with Spacey around 1990, when they were both 18. Another friend, actor Erin Quill, confirmed Rapp first told her about Spacey around 1992. And five other friends of Rapp’s have confirmed that they’ve heard the story from him through the 1990s and 2000s as well. Rapp and I have been friends since 1999, but he only shared the allegations with me in recent weeks.)
The full weight of what Spacey’s success would mean for Rapp finally hit him while he was shooting the 1993 feature film version of Six Degrees. One day at lunch, Rapp looked over to see Spacey sitting just a few tables away, visiting someone he knew. Once again, Rapp froze. Once again, he said his mind raced with the question, “What am I supposed to fucking do here?”
“It started to occur to me: What am I supposed to do if I ever work with him?”
The man who Rapp said had made an unwanted and unwarranted sexual advance toward him when he was a boy had come to his workplace. “I certainly didn't want to make eye contact with him. And I wasn't close with anybody on the set that I could share the experience that I was having in that moment,” Rapp said. “It felt like I was trying to disappear.” In his solitude, a whole new set of distressing questions began to hit him.
“It started to occur to me: What am I supposed to do if I ever work with him?” Rapp said, his voice rising. “What am I supposed to do? What do I do?!”
Throughout the 1990s, Spacey’s fame only continued to grow, and with it, Rapp’s outrage. When Spacey won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for 1995’s The Usual Suspects, Rapp remembered openly sharing his story about Spacey with the people at the Oscar party he was attending. (Rapp’s brother Adam said he was at that party, and confirmed this happened.)
Compounding Rapp’s frustration was that he had already been out publicly since 1992, when doing so was acutely political — and professionally hazardous — for a working actor. “At that time, I wanted to scream to the rooftops, 'This guy is a fraud!'” Rapp said.
“No one's personal life is in the public interest,” Spacey said in 2010. “It's gossip, bottom line. End of story.”
Spacey’s sexual orientation has been a matter of public fascination and speculation for decades, starting with an infamous October 1997 Esquire cover story with the headline “Kevin Spacey Has A Secret.” Spacey addressed the rumors in a 2010 interview with the Daily Beast by saying, essentially, that he will never talk about his sexuality. “I have not given up my right to privacy,” he said. “It's just a line I've never crossed and never will. … No one's personal life is in the public interest. It's gossip, bottom line. End of story.” Still, when he twice joked about “coming out” when he hosted the 2017 Tony Awards, it was widely interpreted as poking fun at himself.
The rumors about Spacey haven’t been limited to his sexuality. On Oct. 13, former television news anchor Heather Unruh went viral when she tweeted, “The #weinsteinscandal has emboldened me … I was a Kevin Spacey fan until he assaulted a loved one. Time the dominoes fell.” (Unruh declined to elaborate when asked for comment. BuzzFeed News also asked Spacey's representatives about this allegation, but as with Rapp's allegations, BuzzFeed received no response.) Rapp is the first to go on the record bringing allegations against the actor.
Since that night in 1986, the two men, to Rapp’s memory, have only ever interacted one other time, at the 1999 Tony Awards. Rapp was performing on the show with the cast of the revival of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, and Spacey was nominated for his performance in the revival of The Iceman Cometh. During a break in rehearsal before the telecast, Rapp used the restroom, and just as he was leaving, Spacey stepped through the door, and met his gaze.
"It was that thing that I've always wondered over these years: Does he remember?” Rapp said. “Does he know who I am? Does he have any recollection? Is there any feeling about what happened? Does he regret it? I don't know anything about what his relationship is to what happened. He looked at me, and I thought I saw some form of recognition, and I quickly looked away. I passed him and went out the door.”
Rapp felt “relief,” he said, that he had avoided having to confront the man he said had violated him 13 years earlier. “In retrospect I'm very grateful that I wasn't alone with him,” he said. “Then I don't know what the fuck I would have done.”
“Part of what allowed the Harvey situation to occur was that there was this witting and unwitting conspiracy of silence.”
Between that encounter and Spacey winning the Oscar for Best Actor the following year for American Beauty, Rapp was riled up enough to speak about what Spacey did to him in a Q&A with the Advocate in 2001 — “I was bored, so I was in his bedroom watching TV and didn’t know everybody had left, and he came to the bedroom and he picked me up and lay down on top of me” — with Spacey’s name redacted from the story. (Bruce Steele, then the executive editor of the Advocate, confirmed to BuzzFeed News that Rapp was talking about Spacey.)
Rapp said he even met with a lawyer, who told him there was no case worth pursuing. So he put it away again, sharing his story with close friends whenever Spacey's name would come up. But then the Weinstein story hit, and the cumulative effect of woman after woman coming forward to share their stories of harassment, coercion, assault, and rape compelled him to tell his story. "Part of what allowed the Harvey situation to occur was that there was this witting and unwitting conspiracy of silence,” Rapp said. “The only way these things can continue is if there's no attention being paid to it, if it's getting forgotten.”
He also hopes to work within the industry to create infrastructure to prevent predatory behavior, and give victims more recourse to safely speak out. “In 1986, these things weren't talked about very openly very much, except for maybe in an after-school-special kind of way,” he said. “There's so much more openness about talking about these issues, and so many people are coming forward and sharing their stories. The oxygen in the room is there for us to really do something about it.”
While Rapp is ready, even eager, to speak out and help effect change within his industry, he remains deeply conflicted about what it might mean to speak to the man who was supposed to be his peer and, instead, violated him.
“If I were ever in any sort of weird situation where suddenly, like, I was at a party, and there's Kevin Spacey, and I'm with a friend, and he comes up to us, what would I do?” he said. “I have no idea. To this day, I don't know what I would do.” ●
This post has been updated to include Spacey's response.