Eleven years after his acquittal on charges of murdering his wife and a waiter, Orenthal James Simpson finally made his return to television. It wasn’t how he expected it would go.
Simpson’s reappearance was via a pay-per-view candid camera special called “Juiced,” as The Associated Press reported. The only part anyone remembers from the 2006 show is a scene where Simpson tries to sell unsuspecting people a white Ford Bronco that he claimed was the vehicle used during his infamous slow-speed chase in 1994. (It wasn’t.)
“It was good for me — it helped me get away,” Simpson told one prospective buyer.
I’m not sure anything can beat that for sheer bad taste when it comes to a media reemergence after a scandal, but Kevin Spacey is sure going to give it his best.
Spacey — now viewed as actually being more creepy in person than his serial killer character in the 1995 movie “Se7en” — is set to make his comeback in an Italian film called “L’uomo Che Disegnò Dio,” according to Variety. The title translates, roughly, to “The Man Who Drew God.”
It’s being directed by Franco Nero. The 79-year-old will star in the movie as a blind man who can paint people by voice. Spacey — a relative stripling at only 61 — will play a police officer.
This is already dubious until you consider the film’s plot: Nero’s character is falsely accused of molesting boys.
Spacey, as you’ll remember, first met disgrace in 2017 after “Star Trek: Discovery” star Anthony Rapp accused Spacey of making inappropriate sexual advances on him when he was 14, according to the U.K. Guardian. Spacey claimed not to remember the incident happening but apologized, so seldom a good sign if you want to continue to tout your own innocence.
Worse, after years of rumors surrounding Spacey’s behavior, Rapp’s allegations opened the floodgates.
“Spacey was removed from his starring role in Netflix’s ‘House of Cards’ in November 2017 as sexual assault and misconduct allegations against him mounted. At least 20 young men involved at the Old Vic, the London Theater at which Spacey was the artistic director, reported allegations of sexual misconduct against Spacey in 2017,” Variety reported.
“In 2018, Spacey was charged with indecent assault in Nantucket Island, Mass. in an incident involving a teenage boy. Spacey pled not guilty, and the charge was later dropped when the alleged victim withdrew their civil lawsuit.”
Yet Nero doesn’t see the problem here.
“I’m very happy Kevin agreed to participate in my film,” Nero said. “I consider him a great actor and I can’t wait to start the movie.”
It’s unclear what kind of role Spacey will have. Variety described it as a “cameo,” The Guardian as a “small role” and the New York Post as a “co-star[ring]” role.
Whatever the role, it’s likely too large.
First, yes, this is being described as a low-budget indie film. The acting talent is significant, though, as Nero has been a star in his native Italy for over a half-century and has made supporting appearances in Hollywood films like “Die Hard 2” and “Camelot.”
And yet, the subject matter doesn’t so much stare you in the face so much as smack you with the ugliness and tawdriness of the decision to cast an accused molester in a movie about an accused molester — and one that happens to be innocent, it’s worth noting.
I’m not sure there’s ever a moment for Kevin Spacey to return to film. Assuming his bank accounts aren’t drained by lawsuits and he wasn’t engaging in make-it-rain profligacy during his peak earning years, Spacey probably doesn’t need to work another day in his life.
He’s continued to deny any wrongdoing — but given the volume of accusations against him and how long rumors have persisted about untoward behavior, it’s safe to say there’s not a feasible way to clear his name or chart a redemptive arc, at least publicly.
At the very least, perhaps Spacey can take some solace in the fact that, unlike other actors and directors disgraced during the #MeToo movement, almost all his best-known work involved nauseating characters who are already meant to unsettle or provoke disdain in the audience.
Perhaps, then, some people can still watch “House of Cards” or “The Usual Suspects” knowing the loathsome character on the screen is played by a loathsome man. Maybe that’s the legacy he can hope for, although I can’t claim any special knowledge of how we’ll view a man who is allegedly one of the most thoroughgoing creeps in Hollywood — a sick accomplishment by any yardstick.
What Spacey’s legacy doesn’t need is a return to the big screen in, of all things, a film about a man wrongly accused of child molestation. It’s like O.J. trying to sell the white Bronco — only worse. One can easily infer a message being sent here, and it’s a stomach-churning one. And yet, it could end up with Spacey back among the Hollywood elite if he scores enough small roles and acclaim to make people forget about the events and accusations of a few years ago.
Spacey’s last film — which was in the can before Rapp’s allegations came out — was “Billionaire Boys Club,” a critically panned 2018 crime drama that earned $618 on its opening weekend, according to ABC News. One can only hope that’s the route “L’uomo Che Disegnò Dio” goes.
Then again, we shouldn’t even have to be asking the question.
UPDATE, May 27, 2021: Since this story was published, originally reporting that Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave would appear in the Italian film “L’Uomo Che Disegno Dio,” a representative for Redgrave issued a statement that she would not have a role in movie, which is being directed by her husband, Franco Nero.
“Vanessa Redgrave’s name is being included in recent stories relating to the casting of the upcoming film The Man Who Drew God. While there have been discussions about the possibility of her joining the cast, she will not appear in the film,” the statement said, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
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