LONDON (AP) — Kevin Spacey fought back tears and dabbed his eyes with a tissue Thursday as he told jurors in a London court how sexual misconduct allegations six years ago had destroyed his career.
“My world exploded,” Spacey said at his sexual assault trial. “There was a rush to judgment and before the first question was asked or answered I lost my job, I lost my reputation, I lost everything in a matter of days.”
The emotional testimony came toward the end of his nearly three hours in the witness box, in what could be the most consequential speaking part of his life. He denied sexually assaulting three men and chalked up crotch-grabbing allegations by a fourth as having been a “clumsy pass.”
The allegations that sent Spacey’s stellar film and stage career into a spiral came in 2017 as the #metoo movement gained momentum in the U.S. and a fellow actor accused him of sexually inappropriate behavior three decades earlier.
News of those accusations led others to come forward, including four men in England who said the two-time Oscar winner sexually assaulted them between 2001 and 2013.
Prosecutor Christine Agnew has called Spacey a “sexual bully” who “delights in making others feel powerless and uncomfortable.”
The four alleged victims, who didn’t know each other, independently described disturbing encounters that escalated from unwanted touching to aggressive fondling. One man who called Spacey a “vile sexual predator” said he passed out or fell asleep on the actor’s London sofa and woke up to find him performing oral sex.
Spacey spoke in a calm tone and earnest demeanor, raising his voice in contempt only briefly to address some of the allegations.
At times he was humorous, humble and self-deprecating as he breezed over a career in acting that began, he joked, when he emerged from his mother’s womb. He repeatedly dropped names of some of the stars in his universe, including high school classmate Val Kilmer and Judi Dench — whom he said he taught to play ping-pong.
Spacey seemed more than content to reflect on happier times in his career but was repeatedly drawn back to the reason he was addressing a jury of nine men and three women at Southwark Crown Court.
He could face a prison term if convicted of charges that include sexual and indecent assault counts and one count of causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent. Spacey, 63, has pleaded not guilty to all counts.
Defense lawyer Patrick Gibbs went through the allegations chronologically with Spacey, dating to the early 2000s when he came to work at the Old Vic Theatre in London and later became its artistic director.
Spacey took a dramatic pause in his testimony as he recalled the “intimate” and “somewhat sexual” friendship he shared with a man now accusing the actor of violently groping him. He said he was “crushed” the man accused him of sexual assault.
“I never thought that (the man) I knew would … 20 years later stab me in the back,” Spacey said.
The accuser had testified that Spacey’s fondling culminated w hen the man was driving and Spacey grabbed his crotch so violently he almost ran off the road. He told police he warned Spacey to never do it again and threatened to knock him out.
“That never happened,” Spacey testified. “I was not on a suicide mission in any of those years.”
Spacey said the man was funny and charming, appearing wistful as he looked at a photo the man sent him from a mountainous trek he took to raise money for charity.
“I’m a big flirt,” Spacey said, acknowledging he probably made the first moves. He said he touched the man but not in a “violent, aggressive, painful way.”
Spacey’s description of gentle stroking was in direct contradiction to the testimony from the alleged victims. They said he caught them by surprise when he aggressively grabbed their privates through their clothing.
“It wasn’t like a caress,” one man testified. “It was like a cobra coming out and getting hold.”
Spacey called that man’s account “madness” and said it never happened. He also denied he made racially offensive remarks to the man during a rehearsal for a charity theater event.
Addressing the most serious charge in the case, Spacey raised his voice and denied the suggestion he drugged a man before assaulting him.
“I know the way I am with someone and I would never be behaving in the way he claimed — it makes no logical sense,” he said.
Spacey said he couldn’t recall the man when police confronted him. After repeatedly watching video of the man’s interview by a detective, he said he pieced together that they had a brief consensual sexual encounter in his apartment that ended when the man left in a hurry.
“The person that I had this intimate moment with was suddenly awkward and fumbling,” he said. “If he regretted it immediately, I don’t know. I can’t speak for him, but something was weird.”
He said his phone records indicated they continued to text each other over several months.
Spacey said he primarily accepted the account of a fourth man who accused the actor of kissing his neck twice and grabbing his crotch during a night of heavy drinking.
The man testified that Spacey looked panicked when he pushed him away and said, “I don’t bat for that team.”
Spacey said he didn’t recall making the “clumsy pass” but was glad the man said he ceased when the man said he wasn’t interested.
At least two of the men have also filed suit against Spacey.
Spacey said he successfully fought his accusers in U.S. courts but is in debt with legal bills.
Prosecutors in Massachusetts dropped charges against him when the alleged victim refused to testify. A jury in New York jury last fall cleared Spacey in a $40 million lawsuit by “Star Trek: Discovery” actor Anthony Rapp on allegations dating to 1986.
Spacey said he fought that case the same way he has in London, but doggedly digging through old records, boxes of photos and any evidence that could disprove the claims.
Looking across the courtroom at his 12-person audience, Spacey noted that he had been swiftly cleared in the New York case by a unanimous “jury of my peers.”
Spacey faces hours of cross-examination Friday and his lawyer will then present several witnesses on his behalf.