Exclusive: Director of Kevin Spacey’s New Film Stands by Casting Choice, No Regrets, Would Repeat Decision

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Gene Fallaize, the director of Kevin Spacey’s most recent film, has said he stands by his decision to cast the actor while he was awaiting trial for sexual assault.

Spacey was cleared on all counts on Thursday following a four-week trial in London’s Southwark Crown Court.

“I don’t regret casting Kevin and I would do it all over again,” Fallaize, who directed Spacey in micro-budget thriller “Control,” told Variety.

Sold by Los Angeles-based TriCoast Worldwide, the film stars Spacey — who does not appear visually in the movie — as a man hellbent on revenge who hijacks the car of a high-ranking government official. His part, which is entirely vocal, was recorded in London last December just weeks after he was charged with seven of the 12 sexual offenses for which he was tried this month.

Even before the trial had finished, Fallaize says the film had sold to distributors in Germany, Russia and the Middle East. Following the verdict, discussions have moved forward on a U.S. and U.K. release.

Fallaize, who spent time with the actor in the recording booth in the run-up to his trial, spoke to Variety about the public’s appetite for the movie, and Spacey’s career prospects now that he’s been cleared in the U.K.

You were directing Spacey just as he was preparing for his U.K. criminal trial. How did he seem?

We didn’t bring it up because we didn’t want it to be, you know, a weird thing with us. We were there in a professional capacity to work with an actor and so we didn’t bring anything like that up. But Kevin was really open between takes. We would talk, we were just having a general discussion. I didn’t want to bring up “House of Cards” because obviously he’d been let go and I didn’t know if there was kind of any negativity there or animosity but he brought up “House of Cards” quite fondly. He was really good to talk to. He is naturally quiet and comes across as quite shy. He seemed fine. I mean, I didn’t know Kevin before all of this so I can’t say what he was like in comparison to what he was like before. But you know, he just seemed like a nice guy.

Given he was facing a potential lifetime prison sentence, casting him represented something of a financial risk for you. What was your thought process there?

Well, I mean it was a risk and we knew it was a risk at the time. We had no shortage of people saying to us, “Ooh that’s a risky move.” But a good friend of mine, who used to be an exec at one of the studios, I had a frank discussion with him, and I said, “Look, what do you think? Is this going to be a bad career move, because people are saying to me that it could affect my career forever?” And he said that he thought it was genius casting because if he gets found not guilty you will have got a clean Kevin Spacey in a way that you would never normally have been able to get him. So it was just weighing up the options, really, and thinking [through] the pros and cons, [and] how’s it really going to affect us if worst comes to the worst? It was that coupled with the moral decision that we had to make. And when we met with Kevin, we said, you know, [the meeting] is for us as much as it is him. And we came away from there feeling nothing but good vibes and positivity and we didn’t get anything bad from him at all. So we said, “Okay, let’s go for it.” It’s a risk but feel it’s a risk worth taking.

If the verdict had gone the other way, what would that have meant for the film?

We did it with as low budget as we could to minimize any potential risk. We knew that the film would sell because there is a fan base there so it was always going to sell. We had sales offers from the very beginning. It was really a case of how much of a risk and how much it could lose. So it was a case of not driving the budget too high [and] keeping things manageable just in case, and hoping for the best.

Have you been in touch with Kevin since yesterday?

Briefly. I sent a message yesterday just saying congratulations on the outcome and wishing him a happy rest of his birthday.

Did he reply?

Just a very brief emoji. It wasn’t a middle finger one!

Have you received any backlash about casting Spacey and effectively helping to rehabilitate his career?

No. When we first announced his casting, we got some of that. But since yesterday I’ve received only positive so far. But for me, personally, what else can you go on? You know, the facts were laid out, simply as that. All of the facts were presented from both sides and the jury found him not guilty. [The jury] have all of the facts, facts that people on the Internet don’t have. The only people that know everything are the ones that were in that courtroom and they decided he was not guilty. These people that are saying – if they’re saying – that we’re whitewashing him or enabling him to come back, what facts have they got to contradict the jury? I don’t regret casting Kevin and I would do it all over again.

How confident are you there’s still a fanbase for him?

The response that we got when we first announced Kevin. We did anticipate a lot of negativity. What we didn’t expect was the wave of positivity from his fan base. He has got an extremely, aggressively positive fan base, which I didn’t know about before we cast him. I didn’t know that existed. There’s a huge fan base out there that reached out to us, that were congratulating us and thanking us for giving him an opportunity. I get many messages every day from these fans, completely random people I’ve never, ever met or had anything to do with before that have reached out via social media and things to ask for updates, [to say they’re] looking forward to seeing the film. It’s huge. We saw that right from when we first announced the casting and that was when we first thought, “Wow, this really has got legs regardless [of the verdict]” because these people are there and they’re all saying they want to see the film.

Before the trial concluded you were already talking to sales agents and distributors. What were people in the industry’s feelings about a film starring Kevin Spacey?

The funny thing was it shows really just how fickle — not just the industry — life can be. Because it was very much, right from the start, every distributor we spoke to outside of the majors was saying, “Yep, really, really interested. Let’s wait and see how it goes.” So they were interested right from the start. But it was a case of “Let’s see if there’s any guilty verdicts, and if so, how many, because that will affect what we offer you in terms of sales.” So nobody — not one — just said “no” straight off the bat. It was, “Let’s see how they go.” And really, that is just a case of “how are the public going to react to this?” And now it’s very much a case of everybody’s interested.

Do you think that he has a chance of reaching the career heights he previously enjoyed?

I don’t know. Since yesterday, because Kevin hasn’t got an agent at this point, we have had messages come to pass along to Kevin, which we didn’t expect. Offers for work and different things that have all come in: to be a patron, to give awards. It was a wave that began yesterday the moment that not guilty verdict came in. We got a load of stuff within minutes of the verdict being reached. If that’s a little sliver of what has washed over onto us, I don’t doubt for a second that Kevin and his team have been inundated with offers.

They aren’t going to be from the studio level at this point. The majors can’t take that kind of risk because they know there is still a large group of people out there that aren’t going to accept any number of not guilty verdicts. They’ve made up their mind from the limited number of facts that they have and they’re going to stick with that. And that’s fine, they’re entitled to do that. But the studios know that until it’s proven — until some other indie productions have him and they’re not falling flat on their face — that they can take that risk. So I think the next probably two years are going to be a case of doing some indies, climbing back up the ladder. At that point I think it’s absolutely doable that he could get up to doing major studio films. Whether it’s at the level it once was, I don’t know. But absolutely, he’s got every possibility of being able to.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length

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