ROME— At times, it wasn't clear if Kevin Spacey was talking about the chiseled nude bronze alongside him, the poem he was reading, or himself.
“The more you're wounded the greater you are,” he read with intent. “And the more empty you are.”
The 60-year-old Spacey was wearing a tobacco-colored suit on a painfully humid day in front of the Greek bronze “Boxer at Rest” statue at the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme—the National Roman Museum—in central Rome, where the air conditioning was broken.
He was reading Italian poet Gabriele Tinti's poem, “The Boxer,” about a tired and broken fighter who has been punched and beaten, and is left bleeding by the ringside.
This was the first time anyone has seen Spacey perform in public since sexual misconduct charges from 2017 were dropped by a Massachusetts prosecutor, after William Little declined to testify at a pre-trial hearing after initially accusing the actor of groping him when he worked as a then 18-year-old busboy in Nantucket in 2016.
The Nantucket case was the first of more than a dozen allegations of sexual misconduct against Spacey to make it to trial, and this reporter would have certainly asked all about them had a promised interview with Spacey materialized, which is perhaps why it didn’t.
In Rome, Spacey did not speak about these other allegations, or the actor Anthony Rapp's 2017 allegations that Spacey tried to seduce him when he was 14, or Spacey's own subsequent, much-criticized coming out, which he did in the wake of Rapp making his accusations.
At the time, Spacey said he did not remember the alleged incident with Rapp but was “beyond horrified to hear his story.”
Last December, Spacey put out a bizarre video where he appeared to adopt the persona of Frank Underwood, his character from House of Cards. “You want me back,” he snarled at the viewer. (Radar Online has reported Spacey is planning to relaunch his acting career.)
In Rome, and just like last December, Spacey did not want to address reality, but still wanted to telegraph a very personal message. Art and metaphor would have to do.
Spacey was standing on the side of the bronze statue, which dates from around 316 BC. It seemed like the figure was looking away, unconvinced.
Why he was doing this wasn't entirely clear. The event wasn’t advertised and just four journalists were tipped off. We were promised private interviews, which ended up being just a few meaningless words over Prosecco in the museum cafe after the shamed Oscar-winning actor was chased away by the paparazzi.
But the poetry reading was as much a confession as a moment of acting, it seemed. As his voice rang out in front of no more than 50 surprised museum goers and selected guests, it was clear that while he may have fallen from grace for the alleged sexual assaults he did not feel any apparent remorse.
Everyone in the tiny room was left speechless by Spacey's unapologetic performance. By the time it was over, a bigger crowd had gathered outside, and he read the whole poem again to them.
His bearing emanated the same furious intensity of that Christmas Eve video, as he blamed others for his fall. “They used me for their entertainment, fed on shoddy stuff,” he said. “Life was over in a moment.”
His pauses were long, his gaze was intense and, at times, he took a boxer's stance, bobbing and weaving in subtle movements. He made eye contact with almost everyone in the first few rows of the standing crowd. It was as mesmerizing as it was slightly terrifying.
“I fought, I looked for an edge, a dawn where I could start again,” he read. “I have endured no end of sleepless nights. I have spent hours and hours sweating to destroy and fall.”
The most poignant part of the poem was towards the end when Spacey seemed to forget the fine line between acting and being. “You have to suck the heart of a hero as long as it beats,” he read. “I shook the country, made the arenas vibrate, tore my opponents to shreds. I lit up the darkness, collected insults, compelled applause. Not everyone knew how to do this.”
Then he stopped for a long moment and looked around the room. “None of you.”
Tinti, the poet, told The Daily Beast that he was never convinced the actor would read it in this setting.
‘‘I contacted Kevin Spacey about the poem by just sending it to him through a friend,” he said. “He immediately appreciated the courage and nature of the proposal of reading it in front of this particular statue.”
The last lines of the poem seemed to exhaust Spacey. “On the other hand, life is not frightening for those who have never taken a risk,” he said.
“The spirit is ill, it can no longer be cured. It will disappear off the face of the earth. This is its fate. I know, now I am tired and becoming sad. This is why you have dug me the grave. You have opened it down there, far away. To conceal me. So as not to have problems and not have to see. Fools!”
The final words—“You couldn’t imagine that I would be resuscitated in this metal suit, that I would come back to stare at you with my dark face, without lips”—sounded like a strange, jarring ending. And that in itself seemed oddly apposite to the current life and circumstances of Kevin Spacey.
By Gabriele Tinti (translated from the Italian)
Say that again, please. I can’t hear what you’re saying. My face is made of bronze, can’t you see? Look at my eyes, my ears, this chest. Say it again, if you like. Or save your breath. The words give way before me. Every time there is something that doesn’t add up, the voice is lost. I don’t know why, but it is never enough. What is that you’re saying? Perhaps you’re right. The more you’re wounded the greater you are. And the more empty you are. They used me for their entertainment, fed on shoddy stuff. Life was over in a moment. It was always like this: I fought, I looked for an edge, a dawn where I could start again. I have endured no end of sleepless nights. I have spent hours and hours sweating to destroy and fall. I did everything to fill up every space. The blood shone in my veins and, basically, I always wanted to drop.
What you see are my gloves sacred to life, my wounds. Stop a minute, rest your hand there, look. You have to suck the heart of a hero as long as it beats, you ought to know this. I shook the country, made the arenas vibrate, tore my opponents to shreds. I lit up the darkness, collected insults, compelled applause. Not everyone knew how to do this. None of you. On the other hand life is not frightening for those who have never taken a risk. Who can understand me? Who can I still speak to? The spirit is ill, it can no longer be cured. It will disappear off the face of the earth. This is its fate. I know, now I am tired and becoming sad. This is why you have dug me the grave. You have opened it down there, far away. To conceal me. So as not to have problems and not have to see. Fools! You couldn’t imagine that I would be resuscitated in this metal suit, that I would come back to stare at you with my dark face, without lips.