NEW YORK (AP) — Mena Suvari wants to explain her reasoning for writing about Kevin Spacey on the set of their 1999 film “American Beauty” in her new book “The Great Peace” (Hachette).
Spacey won an Oscar for his role in the film as Lester Burnham, a suburban husband and father in the midst of a midlife crisis, who becomes fixated on his daughter’s best friend, Angela, played by Suvari.
On the day of filming a scene where Lester and Angela lie on a sofa together, Suvari writes that at set, Spacey took her “into a small room with a bed,” where they laid down, facing each other while he held her “lightly.”
Suvari, 42, says she doesn’t know if it was an instruction at the time from director Sam Mendes. In the book, she describes the tactic as “a genius move” because they went on to film an intimate scene with tenderness and sincerity.
Suvari tells The Associated Press that the reason why she included the story in her book was not to say anything against Spacey — whose career has halted in recent years due to legal troubles and allegations of sexual abuse — but to show how as a young woman about 20 years his junior, she didn’t question the situation.
“I used that story and that moment with Kevin simply to show that it was just another moment where me as a young woman ended up in a room with a man older than me — in a situation like that, a somewhat intimate, situation, and that was OK with me” said Suvari. “That was just commonplace. It was just understood.”
Suvari said: “I tried to share that story in connection with the others that came before it to show where I was at and to create a conversation around that, because, again, that work’s not done and I’m still figuring that out. But it’s interesting to me why I thought nothing of that.”
In “The Great Peace,” Suvari does identify past abusive relationships, her struggles with self-esteem and body image, substance abuse and financial troubles.
Suvari was sexually assaulted at age 12, she said. After moving to Los Angeles as a young teen to pursue acting, there were a number of toxic encounters that she didn’t question at the time with people who led her into sexual situations in which she wasn’t always comfortable. She says alcohol and drugs helped her cope, which led to meth use, and that she’s “still doing the work” to remain sober.
She credits therapy for enabling her to look back and allow herself to “consider how I was treated,“ and “the type of things that I encountered, because I would always excuse it.”
Sharing her story, says Suvari, is about taking her power back and owning what happened. She’s also developing a TV series inspired by her life.
The “What Lies Below” actor is now in a healthy marriage to her third husband, set decorator Michael Hope. “It’s not easy, it’s messy, but my husband and I can be real,” she said.
She also welcomed her first child, a son, this spring. Suvari said after she finished writing the book, she got pregnant. “It was making space and opening up for something else to come into my life.”