“The more you’re wounded the greater you are,” declared Kevin Spacey to guests at Rome’s Palazzo Massimo alle Terme museum on Friday evening.
It was a pointed reading of the poem “The Boxer” – about a bloodied fighter who rises against the odds – from the actor who has faced multiple charges of sexual misconduct in recent years.
Spacey, dressed in a striking brown suit, stood beside the museum’s bronze statue “Boxer at Rest,” as he read the words from Italian poet Gabriele Tinti.
“They used me for their entertainment, fed on shoddy stuff,” Spacey read from the poem.
He continued: “Fools! You couldn’t imagine that I would be resuscitated in this metal suit, that I would come back to stare at you with my dark face, without lips.”
The dramatic performance put “a smile on the face of the 150 attendants,” said Tinti in a Twitter post, adding that it “brightened up the cloudy day in Rome.”
The performance was part of Tinti’s ongoing project composing poems inspired by ancient statues. He said he contacted Spacey about taking part, and the proposal “struck a note” with the actor’s “sensitivity and deep love of art.”
Marcello Barbanera, a professor and archeologist in attendance, told CNN that Spacey gave a “masterful” performance.
“As an archaeologist, I was a bit skeptical about this way of explaining art through poetry,” Barbanera said. “But Kevin Spacey, as a great actor, performed a masterful reading, he gave the word to the statue. Like the boxer, Spacey also suffered strokes that remain in the body and soul.”
Allegations of sexual harassment
It was the first time Spacey has performed in public since Massachusetts prosecutors last month dropped a case accusing him of groping a young man at a Nantucket bar in 2016, which he denies.
Spacey, who was artistic director at London’s The Old Vic theater between 2004 and 2015, has also faced accusations of sexual misconduct in the UK.
He faces six allegations of sexual assault in the UK between 1996 and 2013, and was voluntarily interviewed by London detectives in May, though was not arrested.
The Oscar-winning actor’s career collapsed in November 2017 following several allegations of sexual assault and harassment.
Actor Anthony Rapp, in an interview with BuzzFeed, accused Spacey of making a sexual advance toward him in 1986 when he was 14 years old and Spacey was 26.
In a Twitter statement, Spacey said he did not remember the incident but offered an apology in response to Rapp’s acount. In the same statement, he came out as a gay man, a decision sharply criticized for its seeming attempt to conflate his sexuality with a serious allegation of wrongdoing.
Netflix fired Spacey days later, following a CNN report in November 2017 that featured several current and former members of the “House of Cards” production staff coming forward with allegations of sexual harassment.
Spacey has not responded to CNN’s request for comment regarding those allegations.
Last year, Spacey posted an eyebrow-raising video to his Twitter account speaking directly to the camera in the persona of his “House of Cards” character Frank Underwood.
“They’re just dying to have me declare that everything said is true and that I got what I deserved. Wouldn’t that be easy if it was all so simple?” he said.
“Only you and I both know it’s not that simple, not in politics and not in life.”
CNN’s Max Ramsay and Livia Borghese contributed to this report.