Kevin Spacey's latest legal victory over sexual assault allegations could prompt a remarkable career comeback, experts say, even if Hollywood producers remain cautious about the star's presence on set.
The Oscar-winning "American Beauty" and "House of Cards" actor was acquitted on Wednesday in Britain of nine alleged sex offenses.
During the trial, Spacey testified how he had lost his job, his reputation and "everything in a matter of days" when allegations first broke in 2017, at the height of the #MeToo movement.
According to celebrity lawyer Christopher Melcher, whereas Spacey remained "unemployable" while criminal charges were still pending, this week's verdict changes everything.
As is typical of Hollywood, it all comes down to money, said Melcher, noting that Spacey remains a very popular actor whose fans showed up daily to support him during the London trial.
"None of these casting decisions are going to be made out of benevolence," he told AFP. "There's going to be a desire to make money."
Spacey himself suggested as much in a recent interview, telling German national weekly Die Zeit that "there are people right now who are ready to hire me the moment I am cleared."
"Producers will look at this court victory and may use it as a reason to justify hiring him again," said entertainment attorney Tre Lovell.
- 'Clumsy pass' -
Spacey's exoneration came less than a year after a New York court dismissed a sexual misconduct lawsuit against him, and follows sexual assault charges being dropped in Massachusetts in 2019.
Despite the successful legal outcomes, Spacey's reputation has endured potentially damaging allegations from multiple people, and very public revelations of embarrassing or unsettling details.
He admitted making a "clumsy pass" at one alleged victim, and to "reaching out to people sexually" to ease the "burden" of loneliness.
His defense relied on inconsistencies in the allegations, and supportive voices from celebrities such as Elton John.
The volume of allegations against Spacey could give Hollywood producers worries from a legal liability standpoint, especially as many came from fellow actors, said Melcher.
If a new allegation were made, "true or false, the producer is on notice that all these past allegations have been made, and they would have a heightened duty to protect cast and crew," he said.
Melcher suggested future contracts could prohibit Spacey from having social interactions with cast and crew, or he could be given a "chaperone" during productions.
This could serve to protect Spacey himself from new allegations, while also giving producers "eyes and ears" as a protective measure, he suggested.
- 'Opportunities' -
But according to Evan Nierman, CEO of crisis PR firm Red Banyan, and author of "The Cancel Culture Curse," the "details" of the trials were "only being followed by a small subset of the population."
Most audiences "are going to come away with the main takeaway -- which is, he's innocent."
Last year, Johnny Depp effectively won a defamation trial against his ex-wife Amber Heard.
His latest film opened the Cannes film festival in May, drawing a warm welcome from fans, and he remains the lucrative face of Dior fragrance.
As with Depp, Spacey's image could even be bolstered among some fans, who respect the actors for standing "up for what they believe is true," said Melcher.
"What happened with Johnny Depp provides a great template for Kevin Spacey," said Nierman.
"As soon as he had the verdict, he leaped back into his work, opportunities began presenting themselves again.
"I think the same is going to happen for Kevin Spacey."