Five years after sexual misconduct allegations ended his Hollywood career, Kevin Spacey appeared in a New York court Thursday to face a civil lawsuit brought by actor Anthony Rapp, who accuses the disgraced Oscar winner of assaulting him as a teenager, in 1986.
One of the first stars to be caught up in the global #MeToo reckoning over sexual abuse, the 63-year-old Spacey smiled as he arrived at a federal court in Manhattan at around 9 am (1300 GMT), just after Mr Rapp entered the building.
Jury selection was slated to begin about a half hour later in a case presided over by Judge Lewis Kaplan.
"Star Trek: Discovery" star Anthony Rapp, who turns 51 this month, filed a complaint in September 2020 against Spacey for advances and an alleged sexual assault at a party in Manhattan in 1986, when he was 14 and Spacey was in his late 20s.
The "House of Cards" actor, who built his worldwide fame since the 1980s in movies such as "The Usual Suspects" and "American Beauty," has always denied allegations of sexual abuse.
But Spacey, whose full name is Kevin Spacey Fowler, has disappeared from public view after becoming caught up in the early days of the #MeToo movement.
The #MeToo movement exploded in October 2017, when more than 80 women in the movie industry accused -- and ultimately brought down -- the previously untouchable producer Harvey Weinstein.
At the end of the month, Mr Rapp accused Spacey for the first time, in great detail, in an interview with BuzzFeed News.
The next day, on Twitter, Spacey presented his "sincerest apology" to Mr Rapp for any "deeply inappropriate drunken behavior," saying he did not recall the incident.
After a 2020 criminal charge of sexual assault was dismissed by a judge, Mr Rapp filed a civil suit.
According to a court document, Mr Rapp claims that during the 1986 party, Spacey lifted him up, and that his hand "grazed" his buttocks while doing so. Mr Rapp claims Spacey then placed him back down on a bed and "briefly placed his own clothed body partially beside and partially across" the 14-year-old's.
During his testimony 35 years after the incident, Mr Rapp agreed there had been "no kissing, no undressing, no reaching under clothes, and no sexualized statements or innuendo," during an incident that had lasted no more than two minutes.
"Mr Spacey will appear Thursday and throughout the trial. We look forward to his vindication by an impartial jury," his lawyer Jennifer Keller previously told AFP in an email.
If found guilty, Spacey faces significant damages.
Mr Kaplan had dropped Rapp's initial charge of sexual assault, ruling it had been brought too late and was not covered by a New York state law on child protection, implemented in 2019.
Spacey has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual assault of three men between March 2005 and April 2013 in Britain, and in 2019 charges against the actor of indecent assault and sexual assault were dropped in Massachusetts.