Famed London theater receives 20 allegations against Spacey

FILE - In this June 11, 2017 file photo, Kevin Spacey arrives at the 71st annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York. The sexual harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein that rocked Hollywood and sparked a flurry of allegations in other American industries, as well as the political arena, are reaching far beyond U.S. borders. Emboldened by the women, and men, who have spoken up, the "Weinstein Effect" is rippling across the globe. London was for many years a base for actor Spacey, who served as artistic director of the Old Vic theater from 2004 until 2015. The allegations of sexual harassment that have surfaced in recent weeks, including some during his tenure at the Old Vic, have cast a pall over his tenure. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
A general view of The Old Vic theatre in London, Wednesday Nov. 15, 2017, where actor Kevin Spacey used to work as Artistic Director. London's Old Vic theatre says it has received allegations of "a range of inappropriate behavior" against Kevin Spacey, which are currently being investigated. (Jonathan Brady/PA via AP)

LONDON — London's Old Vic Theatre said Thursday it has received 20 allegations of inappropriate behavior by its former artistic director Kevin Spacey, and acknowledged that a "cult of personality" around the Hollywood star had made it difficult for people to come forward.

The London theater launched an investigation into Spacey last month after claims of sexual harassment emerged in the United States. Spacey, 58, led the Old Vic between 2004 and 2015.

The Old Vic said it had received 20 allegations of "a range of inappropriate behavior," from actions that made people feel uncomfortable to "sexually inappropriate" touching.

All the alleged victims are young men, none under 18 years old. The reported incidents took place between 1995 and 2013, many of them at the Old Vic, and all but four of the alleged victims are former staff of the theater.

In all but one case, the complainants say they didn't report them at the time. One man says he reported an incident to his manager, who didn't act on the information.

The Old Vic said it had encouraged 14 of the complainants to go to police, but couldn't confirm whether any had done so.

The theater said Spacey's "star power" contributed to an atmosphere in which staff "didn't feel confident that the Old Vic would take those allegations seriously, given who he was."

"During his tenure, The Old Vic was in a unique position of having a Hollywood star at the helm around whom existed a cult of personality," the theater said in a statement. "The investigation found that his stardom and status at The Old Vic may have prevented people, and in particular junior staff or young actors, from feeling that they could speak up or raise a hand for help."

A two-time Academy Award winner, Spacey is one of the biggest names to lose work and standing in Hollywood since The New York Times and The New Yorker detailed sexual harassment and abuse allegations against film mogul Harvey Weinstein earlier this year. The reports sparked a wave of abuse and harassment allegations to surface across the industry.

Spacey has been fired from the Netflix TV series "House of Cards," was dropped by his talent agency and publicist and is being cut out of Ridley Scott's finished film "All the Money in the World," replaced by Christopher Plummer.

The Old Vic appointed law firm Lewis Silkin to investigate in late October, as reports and rumors circulated about Spacey's behavior while he was at the helm of the 200-year-old theater company.

Richard Miskella, a partner at Lewis Silkin who led the investigation, said the firm invited Spacey to participate in its inquiries "and he didn't respond."

The Old Vic has faced criticism for failing to act on what some claim were widespread rumors about Spacey's behavior. But Miskella said he found no evidence that suspicion about wrongdoing was common. He said the company's board of trustees was "completely shocked" by the allegations.

"There wasn't widespread knowledge of this," Miskella said. "Pockets of the business knew, and it didn't get escalated."

The Old Vic promised to improve, and said it would appoint "guardians" whom staff could contact with concerns.

Executive director Kate Varah said this was "a really dismaying time" for the theater.

"The Old Vic does apologize for what is alleged to have happened," she said. "We have not slept since this came out."

___

Danica Kirka contributed to this story.

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