Kevin Spacey announced today that he will not be leading Relativity Media with Dana Brunetti after all. This declaration contradicts what Spacey had made public a few months ago, when Relativity desperately needed new leadership and the decorated actor and producer had stepped up to take the reins.
In July of last year, Relativity Media filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for missed loan payments, spiraling the company into a whirlwind of flailing reorganization. The Hollywood Reporter, who broke the story of Spacey’s departure today, called the six-month period between Relativity’s bankruptcy and its eventual resurrection the “most contentious and closely-watched bankruptcies in Hollywood history,” and it’s no surprise whatsoever. As well as being responsible for over 200 films in its overall lifespan, the company is also head of Relativity Music, who signed the rapper Common, as well as Relativity Sports, a large institution for sports agents who collectively have contracted $2.5 billion in athlete deals.
The company was scrambling, to say the least. Therefore when Spacey and Brunetti offered to take the lead in January, it was the exact element that Relativity craved to sell their case to US Bankruptcy Judge Michael Wiles, who approved the media company’s pleas for reorganization, provided that the pair were essential to the progress going forward.
While Spacey himself is a talented actor, both on the stage and on-screen, and Brunetti a renowned producer, it wasn’t so much their track records that nailed their credibility into Relativity’s revival. It was, instead, their relationship with a certain juggernaut of another media company–Netflix.
House of Cards, on which Spacey lead acts and produces with Brunetti, is one of Netflix’s oldest and most prominent series, maintaining consistent ratings flushes and victories in every year the show has been nominated for awards (mostly thanks to lead actress, Robin Wright).
While Judge Wiles seemed assured in this plan where Spacey could continue his Netflix prowess in his new role as Relativity chairman, Netflix itself was not sure. The streaming giant and Relativity have a business agreement contingent on whether or not the latter would be able to produce a certain number of projects for Netflix, and with Spacey in one of the lead roles, Netflix worried that the actor-producer-studio manager would not be able to find the time required to reconstruct the company from the ground.
After all, no one knows how busy Spacey is more than Netflix. Just last month, it renewed House of Cards for its fifth season. Immediately after that announcement, show-creator and head-writer Beau Willimon declared that he would be departing from the show after the conclusion of the fourth season, which aired March 4th on Netflix. This would now mean that Spacey, along with all of these other responsibilities, would have to shoulder a bigger piece of managing House of Cards as well.
Spacey, and Brunetti as well, are also the founders and runners of Trigger Street Productions, which is the company behind a slew of movies and other projects, including multiple Oscar-nominated films like Captain Phillips, The Social Network, Fifty Shades of Grey (as well as the to-be-released succeeding two movies in the trilogy). It also created House of Cards, of course.
Trigger Street had been purchased by Relativity in January, in a move that would throw Spacey and Brunetti into the driver’s seat of the parent company, but now, it is clear that the move backfired. As myriad as Spacey’s talents are, it seems that it all became too much.
“I can think of very few things more exciting to an actor than being given the opportunity to work with fellow actors, writers and directors with the ability to bring their creative works to light,” said Spacey to The Hollywood Reporter. “That was, and still is, a very powerful idea for me.”
He then continued, stating, “as Relativity emerges from bankruptcy and now that I have a much deeper understanding of the specifics of the amount of work that will be needed to shepherd the company through this transition, I have concluded it is work that I neither have the time nor the wherewithal to take on.”