Kevin Spacey comeback director says only ‘small minority’ in Hollywood think actor should quit

The director of Kevin Spacey’s first American film since his career was derailed by sexual assault allegations says he was “very aware there would be pushback on casting” the actor.

Speaking to The Independent, filmmaker Michael Zaiko Hall said he believed putting Spacey in his independent thriller Peter Five Eight was a “transgressive act”.

“Some people, which I would say is a fairly small minority in the industry, but some people don’t think he should be working,” said Hall.

“It’s kind of a transgressive act to cast him, in a sense. I should say, though, I don’t think there’s enough subversive and transgressive acts in filmmaking. So to me, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

Spacey, 64, was last year acquitted of a number of sexual offenses alleged by four men in the UK to have taken place between 2001 and 2013.

Each of Spacey’s accusers gave evidence in the trial, describing him as a “vile sexual predator”, “slippery” and “atrocious, despicable, [and] disgusting”.

Kevin Spacey in Michael Zaiko Hall’s independent thriller ‘Peter Five Eight' (Invincible Films)
Kevin Spacey in Michael Zaiko Hall’s independent thriller ‘Peter Five Eight' (Invincible Films)

In response, the two-time Oscar winner described the allegations against him as “madness” and a “stab in the back”. The jury acquitted Spacey of all charges.

Peter Five Eight stars Jet Jandreau as a real estate agent in a small mountain community who is revealed to be a troubled alcoholic with a dark secret. Spacey portrays “charismatic” stranger Peter who shows up out of the blue at the request of his shadowy boss. Rebecca De Mornay (Risky Business ) also stars.

Hall said that Spacey was a natural fit for the role. “The character of Peter in Peter Five Eight is very quintessential Kevin. There’s a certain kind of comic malevolence to the character, and a musicality to the character that I don’t think anyone else can play as good as Kevin.”

Jet Jandreau, Kevin Spacey, Rebecca De Mornay and Michael Zaiko Hall on the set of ‘Peter Five Eight’ (Invincible Films)
Jet Jandreau, Kevin Spacey, Rebecca De Mornay and Michael Zaiko Hall on the set of ‘Peter Five Eight’ (Invincible Films)

The director added that he and the producers looked into the allegations against Spacey, and came to the conclusion that they had been “blown out of proportion.”

“I like to think of myself as an ethical person, and I don’t think we would have done it if we truly felt this was a person that was as bad as his critics said he was, especially at that time,” said Hall.

“Kevin has since then won trials on two continents, and I think the narrative is changing. I think people are seeing that he is, in fact, not who some would paint him as.”

Shortly after the film was first released, the Channel 4 documentary Spacey Unmasked aired fresh allegations about the American Beauty star.

“My opinion on that documentary is that I think they’re reaching,” said Hall. “I think they’re reaching for anything that they hope will stick.

“We have people on camera who are talking about experiences with Kevin, and then we’ve come to learn years later, they were emailing back and forth with Kevin in a very friendly way. So that, to me, already discounts those individuals. I don’t think that should be put on Channel Four or HBO. I think it’s too flimsy. I absolutely think it’s too flimsy.

“When I discuss this with people, I see the full spectrum of responses to Kevin. The vast majority are tired of these allegations being brought up, and they would rather just see the man perform his art. That’s the camp I’m in. If there’s something of the severity of Harvey Weinstein or Bill Cosby, I think they should be in prison. That severity doesn’t exist here.

“To me, it’s almost a bit puritanical in the sense that Kevin is a big artist, and during the the peak of his success and artistry, he led a sexual life. When did our society become so puritanical that we judge that? It seems a bit strange to me.”

Peter Five Eight is available to stream on video-on-demand in the US.