Kevin Spacey Reads Poetry at National Roman Museum

Disgraced actor inhabits character of wounded boxer

ROME, ITALY - AUGUST 02: Actor Kevin Spacey attends the reading of the event "The Boxer - La nostalgia del poeta" (The Boxer - The nostalgia of the poet) at Palazzo Massimo alle Terme on August 02, 2019 in Rome, Italy.
Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images
By Tobias Carroll / August 3, 2019 12:21 pm

Visitors to the National Roman Museum this week were greeted by a surreal sight: disgraced actor Kevin Spacey standing beside an ancient Greek statue, reading poetry. As the AV Club notes, “it’s not clear if Spacey views this as a launchpad back to acting success.” It is, however, an undeniably strange convergence of performer and art — though it’s not entirely without precedent. 

Spacey read “The Boxer,” a poem by Italian writer Gabriele Tinti. With that in mind, this event is slightly less bizarre than it might seem at first. Tinti has frequently partnered with actors to read his work at museums, including the likes of Michael Imperioli and Joe Mantegna. The statue Spacey read beside — Boxer at Rest, a bronze statue unearthed in 1885 after around 2000 years — was the inspiration for Tinti’s poem. 

Spacey is also not the first actor to read this particular poem next to the work that inspired it. Franco Nero read the poem in its original language at the same location in 2014, and Robert Davi read it at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

In a statement, Tinti said that it was he who had approached Spacey about the event. “‘I contacted Kevin Spacey letting my work speak and presenting the project to him,” he wrote. “He immediately appreciated the courage and special nature of my proposal.”

The juxtaposition of a poem about a boxer in his twilight with an actor whose career has, due to his own actions, seen better days does make for some uncomfortable moments of overlap. And while Spacey is an undeniably talented performer, he has yet to express contrition for the numerous acts of misconduct that got him here in the first place. At least this is less of a surreal moment than the video he released on YouTube last Christmas.

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