Just days after a London theater canceled the premiere of Kevin Spacey’s first film since his sexual assault trial, the Oscar winner found a more appreciative audience at the University of Oxford.
Spacey surprised a group of lecture attendees on Monday night at Oxford with a performance of a Shakespearean monologue.
The “House of Cards” actor delivered a scene from “Timon of Athens” to cap off a lecture led by British writer Douglas Murray that was held in honor of the late conservative British philosopher Roger Scruton. The monologue was Spacey’s first such appearance since he was acquitted of nine counts of sexual assault and indecent assault by a British court in July.
Spacey was introduced by Murray, the controversial associate editor of British magazine the Spectator, as seen in a YouTube video of the event titled “What Shakespeare can teach us about cancel culture.” Spacey’s involvement in the event was limited to his recitation.
Murray had previously spoken out about Spacey’s acquittal in a July interview with Piers Morgan on Sky News Australia. “If anyone followed closely, the incredibly weak, appalling case that the [Crown Prosecution Service] brought against him in the U.K. — the four claimants had one of the weakest I have ever seen brought before a jury,” Murray told Morgan. “Nobody who followed this case could possibly be surprised that the jury came back saying Kevin Spacey was innocent.”
At Monday’s event, Murray brought up Scruton’s brush with cancel culture, when he was temporarily ousted from a government commission in 2019 after one of his quotes in an interview with the New Statesman was taken out of context. The article had not properly characterized or contextualized Scruton’s views on the Chinese government and billionaire George Soros. The magazine later formally apologized, and Scruton was reinstated.
“In an era of cancellation and defenestration, we sometimes forget that we both cannot go on like this and that we have been here before,” Murray told the Oxford audience. “We know this because our greatest writers and artists have addressed this question in their own times. When Roger was going through his own battle with the shallows, I often thought of Shakespeare’s rarely performed but great play ‘Timon of Athens.’
“Timon has the whole world before him. He is surrounded by friends and admirers. He is generous to all,” Murray continued. “Yet he falls on hard times and when he does, absolutely everybody deserts him. He is left with nothing and nobody, and risks being filled with despair and rage. It does not help that he is shadowed by the cynical philosopher Apemantus, who has warned him that just such a desertion might occur.”
After Murray’s introduction, Spacey emerged from the back of the auditorium where the event was held to deliver his monologue, which ended with the emphatic line, “I am sick of this false world, and will love it not!” After the performance, the “American Beauty” actor was greeted with a standing ovation.
Almost exactly the opposite happened when the Prince Charles Cinema learned that Spacey was featured in the movie “Control.” The London venue took back its offer to host the film’s premiere. “Last night it came to our attention that your film features Kevin Spacey, in particular his first film since the court case,” Greg Lynn, who runs the theater, wrote to producer and star Lauren Metcalfe, according to the Telegraph. “My staff as well as I are horrified that we are being mentioned in the same breath as his new film for the premiere,”
The film will premiere at a theater in the East End of London, with Spacey expected to attend.
In July, the Oscar-winning actor was found not guilty of nine charges, including several sexual assault charges and a charge of causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent. The case was among several to arise against Spacey amid the #MeToo movement as the actor fell from grace and went largely without work after 2017.
In addition to the acquittal in London, Spacey has prevailed against a pair of would-be criminal cases in the United States and a $40-million lawsuit from actor Anthony Rapp, who had accused Spacey of sexually abusing him when Rapp was a teen in 1986. Spacey said before the London trial began that he intended to return to acting full-time if he was acquitted.