A judge has ordered Kevin Spacey to pay “House of Cards” production company MRC nearly $31 million for alleged sexual misconduct behind the scenes of the Netflix White House drama.
Spacey, who played Frank Underwood, was kicked off the series during its sixth season after facing allegations that he had sexually assaulted and preyed upon young men, including a “House of Cards” production assistant who said Spacey groped him, prompting MRC’s investigation.
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Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mel Red Recana confirmed an award previously handed down by an arbitrator in October 2020, which consisted of around $29.5 million in damages and $1.5 million in costs and fees.
MRC had argued that Spacey owed them millions in lost profits because his misconduct forced them to remove him from the sixth season of the show, and it had to trim the season from 13 episodes to eight. Ruling in the producer’s favor, the arbitrator found that Spacey’s behavior constituted a material breach of his agreements as an actor and executive producing agreements.
Earlier this year, Spacey’s attorneys attempted to throw out the $31 million arbitration award, saying his behavior amounted to nothing more than “sexual innuendos” and “innocent horseplay” and did not violate MRC’s anti-harassment policy.
Spacey was first accused of misconduct in 2017 in a Buzzfeed article, in which actor Anthony Rapp alleged that Spacey had made a sexual advance on him in 1986, when Rapp was 14. Production on “House of Cards” was suspended two days later. Two days after that, CNN published a story that accused Spacey of creating a “toxic” environment on set by making crude comments and engaging in non-consensual touching of young male staffers.
The arbitrator viewed videotaped deposition testimony and found that Spacey violated MRC’s sexual harassment policy with respect to five “House of Cards” crew members. According to Spacey’s lawyers – Stephen G. Larson and Jonathan E. Phillips – that conduct was not part of the CNN story, and only came to light after a subsequent internal investigation.
They argue that MRC’s move to scrap two episodes of the show that had already gone into production and start over was forced by Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos’ decision on Nov. 2. Therefore, they contend, the damages MRC ultimately suffered could not have been caused by the alleged misconduct that surfaced later on.
The arbitrator noted that MRC “presented a straightforward damages claim based on concrete numbers” and that the “calculations of MRC’s damages were appropriately conservative and relied almost entirely on MRC’s actual costs and contracted-for revenues.”
In May, Spacey was charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of “causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent” by the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which had spent over a year reviewing a file passed to them by the Metropolitan Police. The alleged incidents took place in London and Gloucestershire between 2005 and 2013.
Despite these charges, Spacey is still set to appear in an upcoming film titled “Peter Five Eight.”
“While it’s unfortunate that increased negative press is timed with Kevin returning to work, it’s also to be expected,” the film’s producers said in a statement to Variety. “There are those who wish for him not to act, but they are outnumbered by fans worldwide who await an artist they have enjoyed for decades returning to the screen. The production has no knowledge or comment on the various swirling allegations, and believe it’s a matter for the courts to determine validity if it exists. ‘Peter Five Eight’ is a film for fans who care more for the art than the scandal.”
MRC had no comment.
Gene Maddaus contributed to this report.
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