EXCLUSIVE: Rupert Everett talks lockdown talents, marriage and Jacinda Ardern
EXCLUSIVE: Rupert Everett talks lockdown talents, marriage and Jacinda Ardern
He played one of Hollywood’s enduringly iconic gay roles – in 1997’s My Best Friend’s Wedding, opposite Julia Roberts – before stealing assorted stage and screen productions including Shrek 2 and 3, as winningly surly Prince Charming, and Oscar Wilde adaptations An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest.
His follow-up gay sidekick role, in 2000’s much maligned The Next Best Thing opposite Madonna, boosted his career not one iota. But 20 years later, he has resurrected it himself.
Now 61, Everett won some of the best reviews of his career, and awards to boot, as Wilde himself, in 2018’s The Happy Prince about the doomed Irishman’s final days, which he also wrote and directed.
His third stunningly well-reviewed memoir, To the End of the World: Travels with Oscar Wilde – follow-up to 2004’s Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins and 2009’s Vanished Years – follows the film’s peripatetic decade-long journey, with much more besides, and is out 8 December.
These days his anchor is Wilshire, England, where he lives with his longterm partner, Henrique, his black lab Pluto, and his mum.
How do you feel about the acclaim for your books eclipsing that for your acting?
I think being a great actor relies on getting a great part. So it’s very lucky for me to have developed a job writing – because it’s a great thing to be able to do, and you don’t necessarily need anybody else to make it happen.
Is there a philosophy or discipline you feel has helped you succeed?
I haven’t really followed any but if I was going to follow one, and I should have done, it’s just keep going. If you keep on pushing, something happens. And I think giving up is the thing that we are all prone to. And giving up is fatal. Only fatal in the sense that nothing will [happen]. It’s very, very rare that you give up and then something fabulous comes along. Maybe it does sometimes, but mostly I think things come through struggle. Struggle seems to be the kind of cornerstone of the human experience really.
With that in mind, do you listen to your inner voice – and what happens when you don’t?
I ignore my inner voice mostly because it’s quite paranoid (laughs) – Catholic and kind of guilty, and I’d rather reject it.
What’s your writing process?
I write in spurts of four minutes and then two hours of despair.
What are you reading right now?
J.P. Donleavy’s The Lady Who Liked Clean Restrooms.
Is it true you forgot you were nominated as Best Actor for The Happy Prince (2019 UK National Film Awards), had left the award show, and were tucked up in bed when you won?
Yes, that’s true (laughs).
What do awards mean to you?
Well, it seems self-congratulatory, the industry awarding ourselves. I went through a stage once of being a presenter of awards, I found it absolutely like eating an electric light bulb. Also, winning an award is fairly excruciating and obviously losing is like stabbing yourself to death. So I don’t think they’re very much fun to be honest.
What was it like reuniting with the My Best Friend’s Wedding cast in January 2019 (for a special Entertainment Weekly cover)?
Amazing, really nice. Quite moving as a matter of fact, because we hadn’t seen each other for years and time flies. Suddenly it’s 20 years later from something that was so life changing for me. It was lovely going back to L.A. and seeing them all. The girls [Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz] looked amazing, and so did Dermot [Mulroney].
How do you view the 90s now?
I feel quite nostalgic, for the whole past at the moment, to be honest: 90s, 70s, 60s. They all feel very nostalgic to me, and I miss them. I first went to Australia when there was still the Sebel Town House in Sydney. It must have been 1986, and that was an amazing time. The thing I feel mostly about the 90s is I should have known better not to have winged it so much. I should have worked harder and more consistently then, when I had all that opportunity. But I was still such a kid, I thought everything was lasting forever at that stage.
Any plans to return to Australia?
Yes. I have been asked if I might be able to take part in the reopening of the Sydney Theatre Royal , which would be amazing. I opened the gay parade at the Mardi Gras once in Sydney . Loved it.
Has COVID-19 brought out the best or worst in you?
I had a very lucky COVID time in a way. I was taking part in a play on Broadway [Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf opposite Laurie Metcalf]. We came off and I went initially to upstate New York with two friends, my dog, and my friend’s dog. I think a lot of people’s depressions, and certainly mine, often happen when I think, ‘Oh God! I should be doing something everyone else is doing!’ But with Covid, you had a feeling that everybody in the world was in the same waiting boat, just sitting in their room. It was quite an extraordinary feeling, and quite emboldening I found, that you could get a kind of glimpse at unity through that.
Did you develop any hidden talents in lockdown?
The talent I developed was drinking tequila and orange juice. It was great. Then at the beginning of May, I thought, ‘I’d better go home.’ I didn’t want to go home originally because I live with my mum. She’s 86 and I didn’t know if maybe I had it [COVID-19], but I got home and spent two months in the West Country. I was very lucky because I was doing the edit of my book, and I am writing a couple of screenplays, so I had tons to do. I really did feel very lucky that I had some way to construct my time, because I think what a lot of people had difficulty with is not being able to have anything to make your day work. So I enjoyed lockdown.
Why do you think female world leaders, like Jacinda Ardern, Angela Merkel and Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen, handled the coronavirus best?
Well, the girls in politics in general are much nicer. And I think also, by the way, the other unsung hero, and this is one of the things that’s been strange for me to get my head around, is Theresa May. Funnily enough, she did a really good job when she took over as prime minister and, despite #MeToo, she was vilified by everyone, torn to shreds. I found that very peculiar, and I was very, very upset. When she finally gave up and broke down in that speech in front of 10 Downing Street, honestly, it’s one of the most moving things I’ve ever seen. I felt so bad for her. But I think women are better at politics than men frankly. Jacinda Ardern is wonderful. She has been great about everything that girl.
Who in the world would you most like to meet?
Marcel Proust, because I am trying to write about him at the moment. Actually, I would love to be in one of those time machines where you just hover above a lot of things, and you don’t have to get out. I would love to see Marilyn Monroe getting ready, I would love to know what was going on in those moments when she couldn’t come out of the trailer [on set]. But I think if you’ve got a preconception about somebody then you shouldn’t really try and meet them. They are never going to be the same and they are always going to discombobulate your image of them.
You famously railed against marriage for years, but suddenly you’re talking about getting hitched. Are you serious?
Well it’s not my idea of heaven, marriage. When you are 18 or 19, it starts happening, going to weddings – and everything about all of my friends’ weddings I found repellent, actually. Going to stag nights in the early 80s was one of the most appalling things I have ever experienced. When I really started thinking about it, I was so lucky for being gay and not having to go through all that stuff. The ghastly wedding, the hideous wedding dress, the horrible things that men have to wear, and that weird thing of the best man giving a rude speech. It’s incomprehensible, and then everyone is splitting up within two years. So it was never appealing to me. The wedding cake I think is ghastly, nothing was nice about it, and I think making it a legal contract is very, very damaging to a relationship. A relationship has to breathe and live and change, and turn into a different thing every day. And if you are comparing it to that Polaroid, that wedding snap, I think you’re f****ed.
When did your opinion change?
I think about the time I was doing the play about Oscar Wilde, The Judas Kiss, in London and gay marriage was legalised . The play is about a poor gay man, really being crucified for being gay, and it suddenly did feel like a landmark for gay people. It felt important, and extraordinary. So now I think everyone should do whatever they like. It’s always made up that I’m against gay marriage, but I am not really at all. I’m not against any type of marriage, I just don’t think it’s the best way to nurture a relationship necessarily – to give it a day and to fix that day by which you compare every other day.
OK, so you’re not getting married?
I might be (laughs). I’m planning on staying with my other half forever.
Will your mum be thrilled if you do?
No, she’ll turn. She will do a 360-degree turn of her head, like Regan in The Exorcist: “Are you crazy?”
What would your wedding look like?
It’s not going to be George Clooney on a motorski going down the Grand Canal in Venice, no. It’s going to be very quiet.