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World London’s famed Old Vic theatre received 20 allegations against Spacey

This file photo taken on Feb. 23, 2016, shows actor Kevin Spacey arriving for a House of Cards premiere in Washington.

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

London's Old Vic Theatre said Thursday it has received 20 allegations of inappropriate behaviour by its former artistic director Kevin Spacey, and acknowledged that a "cult of personality" around the Hollywood star had made it difficult for people to come forward.

The London theatre launched an investigation into Spacey last month after claims of sexual harassment emerged in the United States. Spacey, 58, led the Old Vic between 2004 and 2015.

The Old Vic said it had received 20 allegations of "a range of inappropriate behaviour," from actions that made people feel uncomfortable to "sexually inappropriate" touching.

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All the alleged victims are young men, none under 18 years old. The reported incidents took place between 1995 and 2013, many of them at the Old Vic, and all but four of the alleged victims are former staff of the theatre.

In all but one case, the complainants say they didn't report them at the time. One man says he reported an incident to his manager, who didn't act on the information.

The Old Vic said it had encouraged 14 of the complainants to go to police, but couldn't confirm whether any had done so.

The theatre said Spacey's "star power" contributed to an atmosphere in which staff "didn't feel confident that the Old Vic would take those allegations seriously, given who he was."

"During his tenure, The Old Vic was in a unique position of having a Hollywood star at the helm around whom existed a cult of personality," the theatre said in a statement. "The investigation found that his stardom and status at The Old Vic may have prevented people, and in particular junior staff or young actors, from feeling that they could speak up or raise a hand for help."

A two-time Academy Award winner, Spacey is one of the biggest names to lose work and standing in Hollywood since The New York Times and The New Yorker detailed sexual harassment and abuse allegations against film mogul Harvey Weinstein earlier this year. The reports sparked a wave of abuse and harassment allegations to surface across the industry.

Spacey has been fired from the Netflix TV series "House of Cards," was dropped by his talent agency and publicist and is being cut out of Ridley Scott's finished film "All the Money in the World," replaced by Christopher Plummer.

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The Old Vic appointed law firm Lewis Silkin to investigate in late October, as reports and rumours circulated about Spacey's behaviour while he was at the helm of the 200-year-old theatre company.

Richard Miskella, a partner at Lewis Silkin who led the investigation, said the firm invited Spacey to participate in its inquiries "and he didn't respond."

The Old Vic has faced criticism for failing to act on what some claim were widespread rumours about Spacey's behaviour. But Miskella said he found no evidence that suspicion about wrongdoing was common. He said the company's board of trustees was "completely shocked" by the allegations.

"There wasn't widespread knowledge of this," Miskella said. "Pockets of the business knew, and it didn't get escalated."

The Old Vic promised to improve, and said it would appoint "guardians" whom staff could contact with concerns.

Executive director Kate Varah said this was "a really dismaying time" for the theatre.

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"The Old Vic does apologize for what is alleged to have happened," she said. "We have not slept since this came out."

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