Actor Kevin Spacey has read a poem about a worn-out and dejected boxer during an unexpected performance at a Rome museum, weeks after a criminal sexual misconduct case against him collapsed in Massachusetts.
Spacey's appearance on Friday night at the National Roman Museum was not publicly announced in advance.
The museum had posted a cryptic notice on its website saying a two-time Oscar winner would be reading works by Italian poet Gabriele Tinti during a rare evening event - but didn't name the person.
During the reading, Spacey stood next to an ancient Greek bronze statue of a battered fighter while reciting Tinti's "The Boxer." The poem is about a fighter left bleeding at ringside, cast aside despite previous glory
Anyone familiar with the rapid downward course of the former House of Cards actor's career after sexual misconduct allegations were made against him in 2017 would have an easy time finding meaning between the lines.
Clips published in Italian media and by US news site The Daily Beast show Spacey dramatically intoning the verses, including one reading: "The more you are wounded, the greater you are. And the more empty you are. They used me for their entertainment, fed on shoddy stuff. Life was over in a moment."
Rome Daily Beast correspondent Barbie Latza Nadeau said four journalists were invited to the reading and promised sit-down interviews with Spacey that did not materialise.
"Everyone in the tiny room was left speechless by Spacey's unapologetic performance. By the time it was over, a bigger crowd had gathered outside, and he read the whole poem again to them," Latza Nadeau wrote.
She said the most poignant part of the reading came near the end, when he read the lines "You have to suck the heart of a hero as long as it beats" and "I shook the country, made the arenas vibrate, tore my opponents to shreds. I lit up the darkness, collected insults, compelled applause. Not everyone knew how to do this."
Tinti, the 38-year-old poet, works with museums to create poems as tributes to specific art works, and he wrote the poem Spacey read as a tribute to the Greek statue the actor stood by on Friday, "Boxer at Rest."
Tinti wrote "The Boxer" several years before sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood crystallised into the scandal that cost Spacey and others their reputations.
The poet told The Daily Beast he penned the poem with Spacey in mind but never expected the actor would read it.
Prosecutors in Massachusetts last month dropped a case in which Spacey was accused of groping a young man at a bar in 2016, after the accuser invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify about text messages from the night of the alleged groping that the defence claimed were deleted.
The former House of Cards star is still being investigated in London and Los Angeles over several allegations and faces a federal lawsuit alleging he assaulted a massage therapist.
Australian Associated Press