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Kevin Spacey Movie Peter Five Eight Director Defends Casting

Kevin Spacey Movie Peter Five Eight Director Defends Casting

Filmmaker Michael Zaiko Hall knew he was courting controversy when he cast Kevin Spacey as the lead in his thriller Peter Five Eight. Now, as the film is becoming available via various streaming services, the director is vehemently defending the decision to cast the two-time Oscar winner, citing the actor’s “rare talent.”

The film is Spacey’s first lead role since being acquitted of nine charges of sexual misconduct brought against him in a London trial in 2023. In May, a Channel 4 documentary titled Spacey Unmasked aired in which the testimonies of another 10 men, not involved with the trial, were featured. Their allegations include that Spacey pushed his groin into the face of an Old Vic worker while serving as the London venue’s director and that he masturbated in front of an aspiring actor as they watched Saving Private Ryan in a public theater. Spacey has vehemently denied the claims, saying in an interview with journalist Dan Wootton that while his behavior may have been “embarrassing,” it wasn’t illegal.

Spacey was also cleared of allegations made by actor Anthony Rapp, after a jury in a federal court in New York found in October 2022 that Rapp had not proved his claim that Spacey had sexually abused him.

Spacey told Lex Fridman that forgiveness isn’t found in Hollywood, but Hall hopes his low-budget indie thriller prompts a shift in attitude toward hiring the two-time Oscar winner.

In Peter Five Eight, an alcoholic but seemingly glamorous real-estate agent (played by Jet Jandreau) becomes increasingly paranoid when a charismatic man in black (Spacey) begins following her. He moves into the house across from hers and works, at the behest of a shadowy boss, to unearth a long-kept secret of hers.

The film was independently produced by Ascent Films, Mad Honey Productions, LTD Films and Forever Safe Productions. It is available for purchase on demand in the U.S., but its release in the U.K. is yet to be set.

Jet Jandreau, Kevin Spacey, Rebecca De Mornay and Michael Zaiko Hall on the set of Peter Five Eight.

Ascent Films

The director, who began his career in visual effects before stepping behind the camera — Peter Five Eight is his fourth feature as a director — sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to discuss what he calls a “controversial” casting decision.

“The script was written prior to Kevin’s involvement,” Hall says. “I actually had another actor in mind, initially for Peter, but as the script came together … discussions amongst the producers started to drift toward who would be the absolute best Peter on the planet. And quickly, the discussion moved to Kevin Spacey.”

The entire crew “agreed” that no one could play the titular character better than Spacey, Hall explains.

“With a comic malevolence and this lyrical quality to him, we decided to approach Kevin’s management with the script, and to offer him the role,” Hall continues. “Of course, this is a controversial choice, if you will. We were very cognizant about what we were embarking on by bringing this to Kevin, but we knew it would be in the interest of the film. The film would be far more compelling with Kevin as Peter.”

Production on Peter Five Eight began in late 2021. By May 2022, the U.K. prosecution service had charged Spacey and he was awaiting trial. The release of Hall’s film had to be delayed until after the trial, the result of which he believes validated his decision.

“Kevin Spacey is a rare talent,” he says. “Of eight billion people on earth, how many people can do what Kevin does? I would say, generously, 100. He brings something powerful to the screen and I think this is one of the unfortunate side effects of cancel culture.”

Hall explains that after conversations with Spacey’s management, he thinks it became clear that the allegations against Spacey and much of what was written about him were “blown out of proportion”.

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“This was even prior to him winning his trials and having his name cleared by multiple juries,” he says. “When presented with the evidence that was shared with us, there was a lot a lot of rumor and innuendo that were completely blown out of proportion. So we’re dealing with a very rare talent who I firmly believe belongs on the silver screen. It’s a real detriment to the culture, to deprive us of Kevin on the screen.”

Hall reveals tidbits from the set that he says speak to Spacey’s character. He makes comparisons to disgraced former film mogul Harvey Weinstein, as well as Armie Hammer, who was once considered a rising star but now faces extensive allegations of sexual misconduct. (Alleged texts of Hammer’s were posted online and one woman told the New York Post‘s “Page Six” that he had subjected her to emotional abuse and expressed a desire to cook and eat one of her ribs.)

“I support the #MeToo movement in cases where actual monsters are convicted,” Hall says. “But I think it’s a case-by-case basis. After giving this much thought and having many discussions with Kevin and his management, I ultimately felt that this is a man of integrity … and I feel since then that that opinion has been corroborated.”

Hall says Spacey’s misconduct allegations don’t rise to the level of some of the more notorious figures of the #MeToo era: “I don’t think Kevin is a Harvey Weinstein. I don’t think Kevin is a Bill Cosby. I would go so far as to say I don’t even think Kevin is an Armie Hammer. I read Armie Hammer’s texts, and as a amateur student of psychology, I think the man is a psychopath. I think there’s a sadism there and there’s a cruelty. With Kevin, there’s none of that. There’s absolutely none of that. There’s no cruelty. There’s no sadism. He’s a sweet man. He’s really a sweet man. This was my character assessment of him.”

Hall reveals that Spacey threw a birthday party on set for his young niece and gifted her a director’s chair with her name on it.

“He was extremely sweet to work with. I saw Kevin as a grandfatherly, sweet man. That was my assessment, and I understand there would be those that disagree with that assessment and I respect that disagreement, but I do think, when it comes to these cases, they do need to be evaluated individually, and one must come to their own conclusions. I decided I was comfortable working with the man, and was quite happy I did.”

Hall also believes Spacey should be able to continue in his career after Peter Five Eight. “And I believe he will. And I believe he has projects in the works.” He declined to comment further on the specifics of Spacey’s plans.

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