In his first stage appearance since last July’s trial, when he was cleared of the charges of sexual assault, Kevin Spacey received a standing ovation on Monday night after a controversial lecture that he gave at the Sheldonian Theatre at the University of Oxford, in which he talked about cancel culture.
After the introduction given by Douglas Murray, English columnist and editor for The Spectator, Spacey read a five-minute scene from Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens. The event was held in memory of Sir Roger Scruton, a late conservative philosopher who was described as a victim of cancel culture by Murray and Spacey when he was accused of anti-Semitic comments.
“There is something I learned from Sir Scruton’s story: Please always stand up for your friends, especially when they are right”, stated Murray in his introductory speech. “In an era of cancellation and defenestration, we sometimes forget that we cannot go on like this. And also we’ve been here before. thanks to our greatest writers and artists who have addressed this question in their own times.”
Shakespeare’s play Timon of Athens–that Murray compared to Sir Scruton’s life–is about a wealthy and revered Athenian philanthropist who, after wastefully giving away all his money to his “friends”, is turned down and rejected by them. “Timon has the whole world before him, he’s surrounded by friends and admirers, he’s been generous to all”, continued Murray in his supportive speech. “Yet he falls on hard times in the city and when he does, absolutely everyone deserts him. He’s left with nothing and nobody and risks being filled with despair and rage”, concluded Murray giving the floor to Spacey.
Throughout the Oscar-winning actor’s lecture, it was easy to think that he was alluding to himself, comparing Timon’s story to his own personal experience. Recently, the Prince Charles Cinema in London withdrew its offer to host the premiere of Control, a British film where Spacey featured with his voice, without actually appearing. They refused to be linked to him in any way. And the 64-year-old actor hasn’t taken part in any movie yet.
It is his first stage appearance since he was found not guilty three months ago by a judge at Southwark Crown Court in London of sexually assaulting four men. Spacey always denied the charges, claiming the allegations against him were “madness”, “absolute bollocks” and a “stab in the back”.
Last July the trial lasted four weeks, but this story is a few years older. The first time Spacey was sued was in 2017 by American actor Anthony Rapp, from Star Trek: Discovery. That civil trial ended in New York in October 2022 with the 64-year-old Oscar winning actor found not liable.
Kevin Spacey’s speech, introduced by Douglas Murray: “What Shakespeare can teach us about cancel culture” – credit: The Spectator