Anthony Rapp said watching Kevin Spacey play a suburban dad obsessed with a teenage cheerleader in “American Beauty” was a disturbing reminder of his own traumatic experience with the Oscar-winning actor. The two men are locked in a courtroom battle over Rapp’s $40 million civil lawsuit, in which he alleges that Spacey made unwanted sexual advances when Rapp was 14 years old and Spacey was 26.
Watching Spacey as Lester Burnham ogling his high school age daughter’s best friend was “unpleasantly familiar,” Rapp said while taking the stand in New York City on Tuesday. “American Beauty” was the last film of Spacey’s that he watched. Rapp says his alleged encounter with Spacey took place in 1986, but he continued watching the actor’s films because “they were by and large very acclaimed” and he “felt it was my duty to do so.”
Their paths crossed in other professional contexts. In 1993, the men saw each other in the lunch room of a building where they were filming projects and at the 1999 Tony Awards, they ran into each other in the lobby bathroom and exchanged “locked eye contact.” At a benefit in 2013 or 2014, Rapp says he watched from the audience as Spacey took the podium. “It felt like I was sort of in the spotlight,” Rapp remembers, but says he didn’t leave the event out of fear that he would make a scene.
Attorneys for Spacey have argued that Rapp manufactured the allegations against the actor out of jealousy. They claim that the openly gay actor, who appeared in the original Broadway production of “Rent” and on “Star Trek: Discovery,” was upset that his decision to come out of the closet had limited his career prospects.
Rapp pushed back at that assertion in his testimony, saying that he never blamed being openly gay with any “dry period” in his professional life. He said he told many people about the Spacey incident during points where he was “working very, very steadily.”
Rapp went public with allegations against Spacey in a 2017 BuzzFeed article. He was inspired to do so after reading an op-ed in the New York Times in which Lupita Nyong’o described being propositioned by Harvey Weinstein.
“I identified and resonated with her and other stories of shining a spotlight where there had been darkness before,” Rapp said.
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