An “exclusive” report in THR saying Kevin Spacey won’t run Relativity but that his Trigger Street partner Dana Brunetti will steer Ryan Kavanaugh’s company once it emerges from Chapter 11 will only surprise those who didn’t read it in Deadline on March 7. There, we said Spacey was looking shaky but that Brunetti’s deal was solidifying anyway, which was as far as I could go at the time when nobody would confirm.

It has been clear for weeks that Spacey wasn’t going forward. What Deadline had been hearing is that Spacey — whose shrewdness and intelligence were among the things that gave hope for a Relativity future when Deadline broke the story he would become chairman and Brunetti president on January 6 — took a good long sniff of what he was getting into with this troubled company, and bailed.

Relativity logoThe legal filing was made Saturday night, and THR — which has long been Kavanaugh’s go-to publication for positive spin throughout Relativity’s bankruptcy plunge — uses it to paint a narrative that implies Spacey was never going to have time to run a studio and that “even with Trigger Street, Brunetti was seen as the creative force behind the duo, while Spacey was viewed as the figurehead.” An interview that Spacey and Brunetti gave in Deadline’s original break indicated they were in fact, all in. But nothing is as it seems at Relativity, which is why they didn’t take their positions in early February when Relativity was expected to emerge from Chapter 11 with new funding.

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No slight to Brunetti, but he was barely out of the Coast Guard when Spacey hired him as assistant and empowered Brunetti to grow, especially when Spacey was busy rebuilding London’s Old Vic Theatre company. Brunetti made the most of that, and the result is a string of prestige films, the kind that would have really helped Relativity over the past few years as it struggled for hits and its own bets didn’t pay off. But there was some prestige with Spacey, and his two Oscars, and the disruptive way he has run his career, that gave this was very intriguing. Maybe Brunetti was the secret weapon in the Trigger Street success story; we will find out soon. But instead of Spacey holding greenlight power and being the face of the new Relativity with his upstart protege Brunetti, the company goes forward with Kavanaugh still making the greenlights, in consultation with Brunetti. Despite Brunetti’s talent, and his work on movies from Captain Phillips to Fifty Shades of Grey, the focus swings back to Kavanaugh; spinning this as a victory seems a stretch, from my point of view. It is certainly a potential career making challenge for the ambitious Brunetti, if he can pull it off. The big hope is that all of the completed movies that have been frozen — from the Halle Berry film Kidnap to the Jared Hess-directed Masterminds — eventually get their chance in the marketplace.

Here is Spacey’s statement, given March 3:

“It is with much thought and consideration and after many discussions with those I trust most that I have decided not to go through with accepting the role of Chairman at Relativity Studios. 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. That was, and still is, a very powerful idea for me.

However, 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.

Equally, I do not want to deny Dana the chance to pursue this great opportunity to run a studio; and so while this is a difficult decision to have made, I am so happy and excited for Dana to be continuing on in his new role as President of Relativity Studios. Dana is a remarkable man, who has been a great partner and proved his abilities as a producer on many successful film and television projects.
Relativity is fortunate to be bringing him on board. While I am sad not to be joining them, I want to wish Dana, Ryan, Joe and all at Relativity the very best for a bright and sustained future.”

Kevin Spacey