Tuesday Talk*: A $31 Million Price Tag For Being Cancelled (Update)

The timing could not have been worse. It was 2017. The sixth season of House of Cards was being filmed. Harvey Weinstein’s conduct made powerful Hollywood men a primary target of the MeToo movement. And Kevin Spacey was the host of the Oscars. It was more than Anthony Rapp could take, and so out it came.

In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Rapp is publicly alleging for the first time that in 1986, Spacey befriended Rapp while they both performed on Broadway shows, invited Rapp over to his apartment for a party, and, at the end of the night, picked Rapp up, placed him on his bed, and climbed on top of him, making a sexual advance. According to public records, Spacey was 26. Rapp was 14.

Spacey’s people said he had no memory of Rapp, but if it happened, he apologized. Whereupon Spacey was immediately canceled, fired from his show, tarred as a pariah in perpetuity and sentenced to…

An arbitrator ruled last year that Kevin Spacey and his production companies owe MRC, the studio behind the Netflix series “House of Cards,” nearly $31 million for breach of contract following numerous sexual harassment allegations against the actor.

The arb’s award was rendered 13 months ago, but just became public as MRC sought enforcement.

In the arbitration, MRC argued that Mr. Spacey’s behavior caused the studio to lose millions of dollars because it had already spent time and money in developing, writing and shooting the final season. It also said it brought in less revenue because the season had to be shortened to eight episodes from the 13 because Mr. Spacey’s character was written out.

Whether Spacey did what Rapp accused him of doing is unknown, as there was no prosecution since Rapp didn’t raise his accusations for 36 years. And after Spacey was tainted, other allegations arose as they almost always do, the details of which are obscure and untested.

By December 2017, after further allegations were made against Mr. Spacey, including by crew members of “House of Cards,” MRC and Netflix fired the actor from the show.

Whether $31 million is an appropriate loss amount is one issue, but without the details to support the claim, it’s hard to question. What is less difficult to question is whether Spacey breached the contract with MRC. Even worse, did MRC breach its contract with Spacey?

Was the confluence of events that resulted in Spacey’s ouster something he did or something done to him? The Rapp accusations were horrific, but unproven and likely unprovable. They were ancient, which may well be understandable, but that doesn’t make them any more truthful. Whatever happened, or didn’t happen, it was well before Spacey’s involvement in House of Cards. It’s not that Spacey did anything to Rapp during his tenure on the hit series, but that the allegations became public. Is that a breach of contract by Spacey?

With regard to the additional allegations, there is even less clarity.

The theater then engaged a law firm to conduct the investigation. The 20 allegations made relate to a range of inappropriate behavior from 1995 to 2013, none of which involved minors.

Thursday’s report said that in addition to Mr. Spacey’s stardom, factors that may have contributed to the problem included a lack of clarity about the Old Vic’s accepted code of behavior, confusion regarding the impact of reporting misconduct, and career insecurity.

The report emphasized that the Old Vic was not able to independently verify the allegations, nor did Mr. Spacey take part in the investigation.

Of course, Spacey had already been thrown off House of Cards, so whether these allegations, whatever they may have been, were accurate or significant has nothing to do with the damages MRC claimed to suffer.

But what is clear is that Spacey didn’t walk away from House of Cards on his own volition, but was fired as a result of an unproven ancient allegations in the throes of MeToo hysteria fed by the Weinstein revelations of powerful men in Hollywood engaging in sexual misconduct. Not only did Spacey’s star fall from the sky, but now he’s on the hook for MRC’s decision to fire him for fear of MeToo backlash, putting Kevin Spacey in the awkward position of both being canceled and having to pay for the damages as a consequence of MRC’s decision.

Is this Spacey’s fault? Did he breach the contract by something that he’s accused of doing in 1984, Assuming the contract contains the usual “morals” clause, should it be applied in retrospect, even if its terms provide otherwise, because MeToo made Spacey’s continued performance in the role untenable?

Update: For those mired in the details of the Spacey matter and unable to raise their sights to the broader concerns (hereinafter referred to as “the intellectually puny”), here’s the complaint filed to confirm the arbitration award. If this matters, then you likely belong on reddit rather than here.

*Tuesday Talk rules apply.

35 thoughts on “Tuesday Talk*: A $31 Million Price Tag For Being Cancelled (Update)

  1. Jacob Zelmanovitz

    Speculating on the basis of an award in a confidential arbitration would be like what much of twitter and the media have done in ignorantly opining on the Rittenhouse trial and what they thought the verdict should be.

    1. PseudonymousKid

      Except one is confidential and one is public, so your comparison sucks for that reason and a few others. They are both matters of public concern that aren’t immune to comment despite none of us walking in the participants shoes but them. Not that I’m against comparing our host to ignorant twitterers, but he should at least deserve it.

      1. David

        Be fair, Kid. Not everyone will grasp the broader question raised here. Small minds can’t get beyond the petty details.

      2. Hunting Guy

        Question for PK, not our host.

        Why is the Spacey issue a public matter?

        From my POV it’s something between an individual and his employer and none of my business.

        1. PseudonymousKid

          The only thing keeping Spacey’s case out of the limelight is a damned arbitration clause or else he and his employer would have to fight it out in public like everyone else. Also he starred in lots of movies and benefits from being very famous. You’re touching on something that causes me great pain. I hate arbitration and keeping things behind closed doors, but I also hate ignorant gawkers opening their mouths and saying things that are wrong.

      3. Jacob Zelmanovitz

        I’m not saying either is immune from comment. But when we comment on proceedings without any knowledge or understanding of what occurred, which, in the case of this arbitration, we necessarily are, what’s the point?

        1. PseudonymousKid

          There are broader questions we can and should opine upon lest ignorant twitterers get the better of us. To be fair, your point that the proceedings and evidence are confidential holds for the arbitration but doesn’t hold for the trial which was broadcast live for all to see. Thus my impertinent objection.

          We can talk about contracts and arbitration clauses and the horrors of the FAA instead of how stupid it is to opine on things without complete knowledge. The point being that there’s plenty of stupid going around and the “learned” few we are shouldn’t shy away from taking an affirmative position or else the void will be filled by others with less care for accuracy or precision.

          I assumed you were a lawyer for some reason. If you aren’t, sorry about that. I don’t know you and you don’t know me and that’s ok. I’m somewhat curious about whether my gut was right, but I’ve always been fascinated with myself.

          1. Jacob Zelmanovitz

            You’re gut is right, I caught the family curse and am a lawyer. A commercial litigator with a healthy loathing of the FAA and arbitration in general, I would add.
            And you are correct, that in my initial comment, I was comparing apples to oranges.
            But what “broader questions” are we supposed to opine on here? Whether Spacey should have been punished to the tune of $31M for what he allegedly did in 1984? I personally don’t think so.
            But that’s a straw man, because it’s not what happened here, as far as we can tell. I don’t frequent this space, so maybe beating up on straw men is the norm, but it doesn’t seem like SG’s style to me.

            1. Miles

              Some get it. Some don’t. Just because you fell below the threshold doesn’t make the broad question a strawman, but it makes you shallow.

              Suggestion: You would do well to walk away, as you’re not making this any better for yourself and since you’re using your real name, it’s not helping your brand any to be the idiot in the comments.

            2. PseudonymousKid

              I think Kevin Spacey is a demon from hell who deserves to be exorcised for what he did in 1984 and that contracts should be rewritten to allow for this. Even if Spacey’s breach of contract was entirely based on conduct in 1984, I think the award is fair, just, right, and appropriate, if not too kind to Spacey.

              There. It’s not straw anymore. When pricked, I do bleed. I don’t know why you’re so fascinated with scarecrows. I’m trying to help get you out of this hole we’re in, but you keep digging. You even got a nice update from the host and everything.

              As much as I like tangents, I usually want to propose the direction myself. TT is more forgiving, so if you stick around try to engage with the topic or else you’ll get shot down hard. I try very hard not to get rebuked at as much as I used to, so please trust me.

        2. Ron

          TT tend to use cases or situations in the news to raise broader issues for discussion, not to avoid the broader issues by limiting it to only the most concrete details. This should be sufficiently obvious to lawyers unless they are desperately trying to avoid the broader issue by obsessing about the concrete details because it doesn’t bode well for their tribe.

          And HG, invoking my TT right to reply even though you ask your question of PK, since you aren’t a lawyer, you are forgiven your intellectual deficits. It’s not as if you would be expected to understand what a stupid fucking question that is.

          1. Hunting Guy

            Nah, I’ve got a thick skin.

            But I found out a long time ago that you never learn anything if you don’t ask a question when you don’t understand what’s going on.

            1. Ron

              Swap Spacey for anybody whose been canceled for something done decades before and maybe then the question will be clearer.

  2. Quinn Martindale

    Assuming MRC’s representations about the arbitrator’s award are accurate, Spacey’s breach of contract was his conduct towards House of Cards. That conduct violated his duty to provide his services in a professional manner and in accordance with MRC’s harassment policy. The petition claims that the arbitration award came after 20 days of depositions and an 8 day hearing. CNN had multiple sources saying Spacey routinely groped people on set, and the arbitration award seems to suggest their reporting was accurate.

    1. Ron

      But for Rapp’s accusation, Spacey would still be hosting the Oscars. The rest are excuses, if even remotely true. You are the posterboy for why smart and wise to not necessarily go together.

  3. JR

    …invited Rapp over to his apartment for a party, and, at the end of the night, picked Rapp up, placed him on his bed, and climbed on top of him, making a sexual advance. ….. he had no memory of Rapp, but if it happened, he apologized.

    When I was single and played the meat market in Ft Lauderdale gay leather bars, I was approached by a few hotties who swore I had deflowered their muscle ass during a previous hookup. Not recalling them and going only on their outward appearance, I would reply, “I cant remember. Drop your pants and bend over, that might help”

    Stacey is a pitiful top. Good luck with raising money with that kind of notoriety. CNN hires nothing but omega gay males so he might approach them.

    1. PseudonymousKid

      I can play the conservative and call you a degenerate if you’d like. Your free market ideology is as disgusting as your inability to recognize others as human beings. They aren’t merely objects for your pleasure. Your post is as vulgar as your ideology. Well done.

      A dose of shame never hurt anyone. I’m ashamed I haven’t eliminated my desire to moralize or to go far off topic because I think I’m right. What in the hell were you going for by saying this? I hope you aren’t just boasting or something so base. You sexed so many people you can’t remember them all. Bravo. No, I don’t want to hear more about you.

      TT is probably hopeless, but I don’t want it to be. Please don’t be another mole.

      1. Flyingmyplane

        That’s twice now in TT you’ve shown your true colors. So you weren’t the object of older men’s affections. You’re disappointed. We get it.

        You can still make a decent life for yourself.

        1. PseudonymousKid

          You’re misunderstanding and I’m embarrassed for you. I’m ready willing and able to defend positions I don’t believe. Also, I’ve talked to JR before. If you could actually see my true colors I’d be impressed. Did you see the esoteric messages I hide in my comments? What’s the shibboleth?

          Yea, I wanted one guy’s affections as a kid, my dad’s. I didn’t get it and it fucked me up. Thanks for the therapy. I agree that there’s life yet to live and the best revenge is to live it well.

          Let’s see if I can go 2/2. You aren’t a lawyer. My gut says so.

          1. JR

            Also, I’ve talked to JR before.

            But you’ve never bent over for me, and there’s a reason for that. I have my standards, and if you are:
            1. A whiny queen
            2. A whiny bitchy queen
            3. A whiny bitchy attention seeking, condescending queen (e.g. Kevin Spacey),

            …no matter how muscular, hairy or well proportioned you might be, Ive been known to top pleasant men and diss muscle Mary types. You, cupcake, put the M in Mary. You really ought to see a physician for testosterone replacement therapy and grow a pair because ….

            Mercados Libre Rule


          2. Flyingmyplane

            I’m embarrassed for you. It took all those words for you to not recognize sarcasm?

            Gotta go. Cleared for the front course ILS. Not the back course localizer; a poor substitute but with higher minimums.

  4. B. McLeod

    The “morals clause” in the industry has always been a misnomer. It’s actually a studio-embarrassment clause. Performers are in a catch-22 trying to negotiate for contracts that can’t be terminated while they are able and willing to perform. The studios will simply treat such an effort as the sign that a ticking timebomb is present, perhaps just out of sight. What it means is people in the industry have to be ready to live with this risk, which has been part of showbiz since Fatty Arbuckle at least.

  5. Sgt. Schultz

    The Spacey case, like the Weinstein case, emits the unpleasant odor of the MeToo mob. Too many people played a game with these stars and starmakers for their own benefit, and only after becoming the victim became popular, they stood up to claim their personal slice of victimhood.

    This isn’t to trivialize bad conduct, but there was plenty of it to go around and a lot of people enjoyed the benefits of it until it better served them to complain about it. As if nobody noticed Spacy groping anyone for the first five seasons, but after the Rapp complaint, declared they were “shocked, shocked” to learn Spacey was a groping pig.

    1. David

      Wait wat?!? Are you suggesting that when Weinstein told some ingenue to come up to his hotel room at midnight and he would make her a star, then answered the door in his robe and nothing else, she should have been suspicious of his motive?

      But that would be victim blaming.

    2. Bryan Burroughs

      And it’s not like that nebulous creepiness wasn’t part of Spacey’s cachet, either. He was way too convincing as the pedophilic neighbor in American Beauty, a fact which no doubt led to his casting in House of Cards. That creepiness didn’t seem to come from a method place, but you could never quite pin it down, either. I’ll stop tweaking the bartender now

  6. Anonymous Employee

    “Was the confluence of events that resulted in Spacey’s ouster something he did or something done to him? “

    A long time ago someone corrected me on the true purpose of HR. It’s not to protect you, the employee — but the company.

    In this time of cancellation and perception becoming reality, it’s not hard to see why a company’s extension of that HR principle would lead to a result like this.

    Did Spacey hurt anyone? It seems like the most material question is meaningless now – anonymous allegations that he may have will hurt the company, therefore the policy against harassment kicks in and they go to the mattresses.

    Those of us who have seen our employers change HR manuals to include the perceived offence taken by someone else, as prohibited conduct capable of causing your termination, understand what is happening — even as we are powerless to prevent it.

    Buckle up, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride. But don’t do anything to show you’re even slightly nervous as the face you project could be construed as harassment if someone so aggrieved glances in your direction.

    1. Rengit

      I would have thought the very name “human resources” was a dead giveaway as to who such office serves. As if you, the employee, are a piece of office/industrial equipment that just happens to take the shape of a person and be capable of independent action.

  7. Bryan Burroughs

    This particular case might not be the best instance to discuss it, because there’s contemporaneous accusations along with ones prior to the contract at issue. It does muddy the waters a bit.

    If I force myself to focus and ignore the contemporaneous allegations, it’s still a mixed bag. Vanessa Williams got booted from Miss America for nakey pics she took before she ever signed a contract. I seem to recall a recent incident that was similar as well. Not sure of she was required to pay anything back, though.

    As a gut feeling, it feels wrong to can somebody over innuendo and then demand compensation for the losses you incur, but the devil really is in the details of any particular incident. Seems like the kind of thing that lawyers are designed to flesh out on a case by case basis.

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