How Kevin Spacey vanished off the face of the Earth
When the new series of US political drama House Of Cards was screened this month, it received an unusually lacklustre reception.
The much-acclaimed show, now in its sixth season, had been a cornerstone of Netflix's annual schedule, with tens of millions around the world gripped by the malevolent scheming of its central character, President Frank Underwood, portrayed to eerie perfection by Kevin Spacey.
But this time, there is a gaping hole - Spacey is missing, his character killed off by uneasy producers and scriptwriters following sexual assault and harassment allegations made against the actor by a string of young men last year.
The show limps on regardless, with a female president in the form of Frank's equally ruthless wife Claire, icily played by Robin Wright. But the real drama lies elsewhere. For despite being one of Hollywood's most recognisable stars, Spacey has apparently disappeared.
Nothing has been seen or heard of the double Oscar-winning actor since the first allegations emerged over a year ago in October 2017.
On both sides of the Atlantic, where Spacey owns multimillion-dollar homes, the question is being asked with growing urgency: where is Kevin Spacey?
"He's become a total recluse," one friend says.
"No one has heard from him. He's vanished. It's almost unbelievable that someone of his stature can pull it off in a world where everyone has a cellphone."
One producer said Spacey had "one of the most recognisable faces on the planet" and added: "I was with him when he walked into a restaurant in Beverly Hills and the whole place applauded."
It may be a long time before he receives applause again.
His downfall began on October 29 last year, when Star Trek actor Anthony Rapp accused Spacey of sexually assaulting him in the star's New York flat in 1986 when Rapp was just 14, triggering a string of similar complaints.
To date, 30 men have made public allegations about the actor. While no formal charges have been filed, police in LA and London are investigating allegations of sexual assault, including rape. In Britain, there are six active investigations. The Old Vic theatre in London, where Spacey was artistic director for 11 years until 2015, said it had received 20 complaints of inappropriate behaviour during his tenure.
Spacey issued a swift and contrite apology, ended years of rumours about his sexuality by "coming out" as gay and checked into sex rehab clinic The Meadows in Arizona alongside disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
But unlike Weinstein - who has been photographed going about his daily business, visiting his lawyers' offices and picking his children up from school - there has been no sign of Spacey.
The last known pictures of the actor are fuzzy paparazzi shots taken at the $44,000-a-month rehab centre in November last year. Where he went after that remains unclear, although there are plenty of associates who claim to know where he is.
One well-connected British socialite who knew Spacey during his early theatre days insists he is living in seclusion in the Cook Islands.
But a source who worked on House Of Cards insists the actor, whose real name is Kevin Spacey Fowler, is hiding in France.
"He's been in the south of France living on a big estate," the man says. "He's been working out like crazy, doing massive oil paintings and keeping a low profile."
One source said: "Kevin is travelling under his real name of Kevin Fowler." Intriguingly, the source added: "I wouldn't be surprised if he's not been seen because he is going out in public wearing a disguise. He's spent his life transforming himself into other characters - why not now?"
With the exception of Spacey's estranged brother Randy, not one person was prepared to go on the record to discuss the star.
"Kevin never came out as gay until he was accused of sexual assault, but I knew he was gay from the start," Randy said.
In a memoir, Randy recounted the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of their father, Thomas.
"Was Kevin abused too? It's not something we ever discussed," he said. "Whatever went on at home with Kevin, it taught him to survive no matter what the circumstances. He's in survival mode now."
Dame Judi Dench recently became the first high-profile name to defend the actor, saying he should not have been cut out of last year's film All The Money In The World and replaced with Christopher Plummer.
Dench, who worked with Spacey on the 2001 film The Shipping News, said: "I can't approve in any way of the fact that - whatever he has done - then you start to cut him out of films.
"Are we to go back throughout history and anyone who has misbehaved in any way … are they always going to be cut out? Are we going to extrude them from our history?"
And earlier this month, actor Diane Lane, who appears in the new series of House Of Cards, also admitted she had "tremendous respect for his artistry".
It is not clear who else, though, is on Spacey's side. He has been dumped by his long-time agents at the Creative Artists Agency and his PR representatives at Polaris.
Dana Brunetti, Spacey's long-time producing partner at Trigger Street Productions, refused to respond to calls and emails seeking comment about the star.
His manager, Evan Lowenstein, and business managers Frank Selvaggi and Barry Greenfield, also did not return calls, and attempts to reach Spacey through his lawyer were unsuccessful.
Such silence speaks volumes. It is not unknown for disgraced Hollywood stars to return to prominence - Mel Gibson, Woody Allen and Roman Polanski have prospered despite controversy.
But as one friend of Spacey's said, wryly: "Only time will tell if Kevin can make one of the greatest comebacks ever."