NEW YORK — Kevin Spacey heads to court Thursday to defend himself in a lawsuit filed by Anthony Rapp, the actor who in 2017 made the first in a string of sexual misconduct allegations that left the “House of Cards” star’s theater and filmmaking career in tatters.
The trial, expected to last less than two weeks, will focus on an alleged encounter between the two men in New York City in 1986, when Rapp was a blossoming child actor and Spacey, then 26, was having a breakout moment on Broadway.
Rapp, who was 14 at the time, said the older actor invited him to a party at his Manhattan apartment, then tried to seduce him in a bedroom after the other guests had left.
He said a drunk, swaying Spacey swept him up in his arms, like a groom carrying a bride, then laid him on a bed and climbed on top of him. Rapp said he quickly wriggled away and left, then kept quiet about what happened for three decades as both actors saw their careers take off.
When Rapp told his story to Buzzfeed in 2017 as the #MeToo movement began to grip Hollywood, Spacey said he had no recollection of the incident, “but if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior.”
Since then, though, Spacey’s legal team has said the accusation is false. Rapp never attended the party, they said. And even if it had happened as Rapp described, they have argued, it wouldn’t constitute a sexual advance.
Jury selection for the trial begins Thursday, with opening statements to follow. Rapp wants compensation for mental and emotional suffering, medical expenses and loss of work.
The trial comes at a fraught time for Spacey, now 63.
Three months ago he pleaded not guilty in London to charges that he sexually assaulted three men between 2004 and 2015 when he was the artistic director at the Old Vic theater.
A judge in Los Angeles this summer approved an arbitrator’s decision to order Spacey to pay $30.9 million to the makers of the Netflix show “House of Cards” for violating his contract by sexually harassing crew members.
Those setbacks followed some victories for Spacey, who has recently been acting in films again.
In 2019, prosecutors in Massachusetts dropped indecent assault and battery charges that had been filed after a man claimed Spacey had groped him at a Nantucket bar. Spacey said he was innocent. His accuser also dropped a civil lawsuit.
Spacey won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in “American Beauty,” a 1999 film in which he played a frustrated suburban father who lusts after his teenage daughter’s best friend.
Rapp, who as a teenager acted in films including “Adventures in Babysitting,” was part of the original Broadway cast of “Rent,” and is now a regular on “Star Trek: Discovery” on television.
Both Rapp and Spacey are expected to testify at the trial.
Other witnesses will likely include a psychologist who believes Rapp currently experiences post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the encounter with Spacey.