FOR years, Kevin Spacey has fiercely guarded his private life.
And while many in Hollywood have long known the details of the A-lister's romantic life, 57-year-old Spacey has always evaded questions about his sexuality.
Following allegations made Monday by Star Trek: Discovery actor Anthony Rapp, 46, about an incident that occurred at a 1986 party when Rapp was only 14, Spacey issued an apology. And he used that apology to come out as gay.
"As those closest to me know, in my life I have had relationships with both men and women," he wrote. "I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man. I want to deal with this openly and honestly and that starts with examining my own behaviour."
For Spacey, a Hollywood veteran who rose to fame during a time when it was still considered impossible for a gay man to be a leading man on the big screen, his struggle has been a long one. And it's a struggle that hasn't been made easier by persistent tabloids that have spent years trying to out the actor, treating the mission as a blood sport.
'PHOTOS HE DOESN'T WANT YOU TO SEE'
In 2000, just a few weeks after Spacey won the Academy Award for American Beauty, Star magazine published grainy paparazzi photos of the actor spending time with an unknown male friend in a Los Angeles park.
"These are the revealing images that Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey hoped the world would never see," the accompanying article read. "They show the star of American Beauty spending an intimate Sunday afternoon with a good-looking, well-toned hunk half his age in a public park," the article continued, adding the images "rip apart the straight image Spacey has carefully cultivated".
The article claimed the pair "chatted, held hands, cuddled, stroked, and massaged each other". An "eyewitness" quoted by the magazine described the meet as an "intimate rendezvous".
"At one point, Kevin's head was in the boy's lap and later the young guy put his arms round Kevin and cuddled him ... Let me put it this way - if my wife saw me with another man like that, she would be divorcing me."
At the time, Spacey's publicist released a statement saying: "He has said all he is going to say on the subject and people are going to believe what they want to believe. We don't have any further comment."
'KEVIN SPACEY HAS A SECRET'
Following a 1997 profile piece in Esquire magazine titled "Kevin Spacey has a secret" that strongly implied the actor is gay, Spacey denied the rumours in a Playboy interview. In the story, he went to great effort to paint a picture of a heterosexual bachelor lifestyle.
"Women want to be the one to turn me around. I let them," he told the magazine, referring to the rumours.
In a 1999 interview with The Sunday Times, he was asked directly whether he's gay.
"The answer to that is no ... but why should it matter?" he replied. "Until the media stop using sexuality as a weapon against public figures, they will always lag behind ordinary, regular folk." He added: "I chose for a long time not to answer these questions because of the manner in which they were asked, and because I was never talking to someone I trusted, so why should I? Recently I chose to participate because it's a little hard on the people I love.''
As the rumours continued to fly over the years, openly-gay talk show host Andy Cohen attempted to out Spacey in his 2014 memoirs The Andy Cohen Diaries. In the book, Cohen referenced a 60 Minutes interview Spacey did in 2000 where he denied speculation he's gay and insisted he had been in a relationship with a woman for years.
"I still get enraged when I think about him talking about being in love with that woman on 60 Minutes," Cohen wrote. "Come out, sir."
Cohen also recalled the time he ran into the actor at the US Open in 2013.
"Kevin Spacey was in front of us with what looked like a face full of makeup and three male companions who were definitely not raising any questions," Cohen wrote.
Many profiles on the Hollywood veteran like to note the subtle details of his life to hint at what many believed to be true over the years: His lack of a girlfriend or wife and the fact he's taken his mother to award shows being the most cliched of the details. If Spacey wasn't going to admit it, magazines would just write around it.
During a 2010 interview with The Daily Beast when the actor was urged to talk about his sexuality, he replied: "No one's personal life is in the public interest. It's gossip, bottom line."
'ALL THE CHIPS WILL FALL'
While hosting the Tony Awards in June, Spacey made several playful jokes about "coming out".
Dressed in a black and gold frock as Sunset Boulevard's Norma Desmond, he sang: "I'm coming out," before jokingly adding: "Wait, no, wait."
It was one of several nods Spacey made to the decade-long speculation surrounding his private life. Opinion was divided about the intent of the jokes. Was Spacey offering a lighthearted confirmation of his personal life during, what many consider to be, the most gay-positive awards show in the entertainment industry? Or was he using the opportunity to quash, again, the question that has been thrown his way for most of his career?
Following Monday's claims from Anthony Rapp, Spacey used the opportunity to lift a weight from his shoulders. "I choose now to live as a gay man," he wrote in his much-criticised apology to Rapp.
Vanity Fair writer Richard Lawson acknowledged Spacey's struggle but condemned the actor for linking his coming out to the allegations.
"The psychology of the closet is dark and cruel and self-punishing. That Spacey has dwelt in that for years is sad. But 14 is 14," Lawson wrote.
Commentators have also speculated whether Spacey's coming out is an attempt to drown out a highly-damaging story of sexual misconduct.
Despite this, it's the end of a long, lonely and confused struggle for Spacey.
"Let's let people live their lives and do it the way they want to do it," he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2014.
"All the chips will fall in the end, and we'll all be judged by a much higher power than Entertainment Weekly can."
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