May 29, 1959– Rupert James Hector Everett:
“It’s amazing the clarity that comes with psychotic jealousy.”
We were already big fans of his good-looks and his talent when, in spring of 1984, The Husband (then the BF) was the waiter for Rupert Everett and his entourage, in town for the Seattle International Film Festival’s world premier showing of the film Another Country, at the rather famous gay dining spot, The Ritz Café, in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. The Husband came home with a sordid tale of Everett’s very bad behavior, culminating in the actor passing out face first into a plate of food. The Husband’s tale somehow made me loved Everett even more.
At 15-years-old, Everett ran away from boarding school and went to London to become an actor. He found work straight off and continued getting stage roles. He starred opposite Kenneth Brannagh in the stage version of Another Country when he was 23-years-old. It’s based on the life of gay British spy Guy Burgess. Everett repeated his stage role in the film version opposite Colin Firth two years later. Everett then came out of the closet when he was 29-years-old and then… the offers for acting gigs dried up.
He did find work in smaller roles on stage and he gave interesting and deft performances in films like Robert Altman’s romp Prêt-à-Porter and The Madness Of King George, both in 1994, but when he starred opposite Julia Roberts in My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997) the industry was abuzz with the idea of the “gay best friend” as an asset for any original screenplay. It was unique to have a gay character who was happily partnered, not a victim, not dying, and not a sissy. He carried the film with the charm of Cary Grant and he won wads of awards. It was the role that generated a buzz that Everett might become the first gay James Bond. That didn’t happen.
That charm brought him more work though, roles like gay playwright Christopher Marlowe in Shakespeare In Love (1998), and good, sometimes great, performances in An Ideal Husband (1999), Inspector Gadget (1999), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999), The Importance Of Being Earnest (2002), and the tragically overlooked Stage Beauty (2004). He is the voice of Prince Charming in the money-making Shrek franchise, disproving his very own theory that out of the closet gay actors can’t get work.
Everett has written two novels. I very much enjoyed reading his memoir Red Carpets And Other Banana Skins (2006), in which he includes the fact that for a time he worked as a rent boy. He followed that up with a highly readable second volume of memoirs The Vanished Years (2012). In both tomes, Everett names names, something I have come to expect from a good memoir. He is honest, hugely funny and deeply wise about human nature, particularly his own. To me, his beautiful face, his lovely manners, all his attractive qualities seemed to be worth the cash.
Oddly, Everett has urged gay stars not to come out of the closet. He advises to keep their sexuality a secret as it might easily end their film career. He came out as gay 30 years ago and he has admitted that since then, he has been only able to get supporting roles.
“It’s not that advisable to be honest. It’s not very easy, and I would not advise any actor necessarily, if he was really thinking of his career, to come out… The fact is that you could not be, and still cannot be, a 25 year old homosexual trying to make it in the British film business or the American film business or even the Italian film business. It just doesn’t work. You’re going to hit a brick wall at some point. You’re going to manage to make it roll for a certain amount of time, but at the first sign of failure, they’ll cut you right off. I’m sick of saying: ‘Yes, it’s probably my own fault.’ Because I’ve always tried to make it work and when it stops working somewhere, I try to make it work somewhere else. But the fact of the matter is, and I don’t care who disagrees, it doesn’t work if you’re openly gay.”
Yet, Everett added that he does believe he is happier than those other major stars who are keeping their sexuality a secret:
“I think, all in all, I’m probably much happier than they are. I may not be as rich or successful, but at least I’m vaguely free to be myself.”
Openly gay John Schlesinger was a great director, responsible for Midnight Cowboy (1969) and Sunday, Bloody Sunday (1971), ground-breaking gay themed films. But, I think Schlesinger’s The Next Best Thing (2000), co-starring Everett and his BFF, Madonna, is one of the most dreadful films I have ever had to sit through… and not in a fun way. Drek, not Shrek. I managed to sit through it just to watch Everett.
Everett was really terrific in the film Hysteria (2011) along with Felicity Jones and Maggie Gyllenhaal, plus the delectable Hugh Dancy. The film, set in the Victorian era, is about the invention of the vibrator. I think I was acquainted with a vibrator nicknamed “Rupert” back in the early 1990s. I thought highly of this witty film.
In 2012, Everett starred in the BBC adaptation of Parade’s End with my boo, Benedict Cumberbatch. The five-part drama was adapted by Tom Stoppard from the novels of Ford Madox Ford. This television series is provocative and a must for Downton Abbey fans.
An aptly cast Everett then starred as Oscar Wilde in the London production of the stage play The Judas Kiss in 2012. That production played a year ago at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music. Everett’s Olivier Award nominated portrayal of the gay playwright and the play have received rapturous reviews, with the NY Times calling it “the performance of Everett’s career.”
“I think we are going to see the end of celebrity as we know it. Show business is not an honest profession.”
Last winter he was featured in Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children directed by Tim Burton, and The Musketeers on BBC America.
Up next: The Happy Prince, a piopic about Oscar Wilde, written and directed by Everett, because he just can’t have enough Wilde projects. This one stars Everett with his friend Colin Firth, along with Colin Morgan, Emily Watson, and Tom Wilkinson.
He’s happy these days with his partner of 12 years, a Brazilian accountant called Henrique. Everett:
“When they fell in love my world kind of changed around to something else. That’s when I started concentrating on this film. Looking back, I’d dedicated my whole life to having fun. There have been so many sleepless nights thinking, ‘What can I do now?’ I was always afraid I was going to be one of those 70-year-old club freaks in a tie-dyed T-shirt taking Ecstasy. I couldn’t imagine myself ever wanting to stop.”
Despite having had just a little too much work done on his face, he is really starting to look his age. I would still do him, though. Like Everett, I can be very shallow and a bit of a slut. Apparently he will never marry though:
“I loathe heterosexual weddings. The wedding cake, the party, the champagne, the inevitable divorce two years later. It’s just a waste of time in the heterosexual world, and in the homosexual world I find it personally beyond tragic that we want to ape this institution that is so clearly a disaster.”