LOS ANGELES • Director Ridley Scott decided on Wednesday to remove actor Kevin Spacey from a finished movie, All The Money In The World, and re-film scenes with a substitute as a long-time television journalist accused Spacey of sexually assaulting her 18-year-old son.
Scott's move is highly unusual and will be a race against time. He promised Sony Pictures Entertainment that the altered film, which will star Christopher Plummer in Spacey's role as reclusive oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, will be ready in time for a scheduled release on Dec 22.
Entertainment trade news site Deadline reported the casting change on Wednesday; it was confirmed by spokesmen for Sony and Scott.
Hollywood has been distancing itself from Spacey after allegations from more than a dozen men that he had sexually harassed, groped or assaulted them.
At an emotional news conference on Wednesday, Ms Heather Unruh, a former news anchor for ABC affiliate WCVB, said the actor had plied her son with drink after drink last summer at a Nantucket bar and then reached down his pants and grabbed his genitals.
Her son had told Spacey he was 21, she said, though he was only 18.
But, regardless of her son's age, she said: "Kevin Spacey had no right to sexually assault him. There was no consent." She said she hopes the actor goes to jail.
A timeline of the Spacey scandal
The Kevin Spacey scandal started when actor Anthony Rapp came forward to accuse the Oscar-winning actor of sexual misconduct 31 years ago. Here is a timeline.
Oct 29: BuzzFeed published Rapp's account of a then 26-year-old Spacey's sexual advances towards him in 1986, when he was only 14. On Twitter, Spacey apologised for the encounter, which he said he did not remember. He also came out as gay, outraging members of the LGBT community, who accused him of trying to deflect serious allegations of misconduct against a minor.
Oct 30: Netflix announced that the sixth season of its House Of Cards series, starring Spacey, would be its last.
Oct 31: Production on House Of Cards was suspended.
Mexican actor Roberto Cavazos, who appeared in productions at London's Old Vic theatre when Spacey was artistic director between 2004 and 2015, accused the star of harassment on Facebook.
British barman Daniel Beal accused Spacey of exposing himself in front of him in 2010 and then giving him an expensive watch to keep quiet.
American film-maker Tony Montana alleged that Spacey groped him in a Los Angeles bar in 2003.
Nov 1: A man told the BBC that when he was 17 in the 1980s in New York, Spacey had lain on him while he was sleeping.
Spacey's publicist announced that the actor is seeking treatment.
Nov 2: CNN reported that eight current and former employees of House Of Cards alleged sexual misconduct against Spacey.
An artist told Vulture he had a one-year relationship with Spacey which ended when he was 15, after the actor, then 24, allegedly tried to rape him.
Nov 3: The British police confirmed that they have opened an investigation into an allegation of sexual assault in 2008. The British media said Spacey is the object of the inquiry.
Netflix booted Spacey from House Of Cards and axed his movie Gore.
Nov 5: Actor Harry Dreyfuss, son of Oscar-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss, told BuzzFeed that Spacey groped him in 2008, when he was 18.
Another British barman, Kris Nixon, accused Spacey of sexual harassment.
Nov 8: Former news anchor Heather Unruh accused Spacey of sexually assaulting her 18-year-old son.
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Spacey and his spokesman did not immediately reply to e-mail seeking comment on Wednesday. Ms Unruh said she discussed the incident informally with the Nantucket sheriff last summer, shortly after it occurred, but only last week did her son officially report the matter to the Nantucket police, who are conducting an investigation.
She said her son also "handed over evidence", which she declined to describe. Her son, now a sophomore in college, did not attend the news conference.
She said they have decided to go public now because the climate has changed after accusations of sexual assault and harassment against movie producer Harvey Weinstein.
Last week, Netflix halted production of House Of Cards, the popular political drama starring Spacey, and said it would abandon the series if he remains involved. The streaming service also shelved Gore, a nearly completed Gore Vidal biopic in which Spacey plays the lead role, one involving a relationship with a young man.
On Monday, Sony pulled All The Money In The World from a Los Angeles film festival. But the studio vowed to forge ahead with its release plans for the movie, in part because Spacey has a supporting role and is nearly unrecognisable under heavy make-up.
The film, estimated to have cost roughly US$40 million (S$54.5 million) to make, dramatises Getty's refusal in the 1970s to pay a ransom for his grandson. It also stars Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams.
Sony said in a statement: "There are over 800 other actors, writers, artists, craftspeople and crew who worked tirelessly and ethically on this film. It would be a gross injustice to punish all of them for the wrongdoings of one supporting actor in the film."
But on Wednesday afternoon, Scott, fuming that the allegations against Spacey might make ticket buyers stay away and doom any chances the film might have among critics and Oscar voters, told Sony he wanted to reshoot Spacey's scenes with Plummer. It agreed on the condition that the release date be kept. Spacey had spent about eight days filming the scenes.
It was unclear on Wednesday what would happen to his remaining film project, Billionaire Boys Club. It is nearly completed, but no release plans have been announced.