Rupert Everett enjoyed quite the wild full circle moment last year, more than two decades after the famously handsome Brit had taken Hollywood, and much of the cinema-going world, by storm. It was 1997 when the British actor - out since the 1980s - almost stole My Best Friend’s Wedding from his equally attractive co-stars Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz and Dermot Mulroney. In playing Julia’s gay best friend George – a character as witty and erudite as the actor who played him – Everett pushed the envelope and was justly rewarded with Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations. He did not, however, expect to be reunited with the cast at 59 for a splashy 2019 Entertainment Weekly cover story to mark Valentine’s Day.
He had earned a second Globe nod, too, back in the day, for Oscar Wilde adaptation An Ideal Husband (1999), in which he winningly went toe-to-toe with Cate Blanchett and Julianne Moore. Continuing as a scene-stealer on stage and screen, whether seen in person or not, he voiced Prince Charming in Shrek 2 and 3 (2004, 2007) and Mr. Fox in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005), and played both an eccentric headmistress and her brother in the St. Trinian’s films (2007, 2009), as well as a nutty ornithologist in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016).
And then, in 2018, he scored his best reviews for years – and two British awards as Best Actor to boot – for The Happy Prince, in which he revisits his own personal hero Oscar Wilde, during the doomed Irish poet and playwright’s final days in exile. He also wrote and directed the film. In 2019, he was a sinister bearded Bernardo Gui, opposite John Turturro in the TV miniseries The Name of the Rose.
Everett’s latest projects are his third, fantastically well-reviewed memoir To the End of the World: Travels with Oscar Wilde, and the acclaimed British television miniseries Adult Material, a realistic and predictably dark look at the porn industry - with some laughs - coming to HBO Max in December, in which he plays a creepy porn mogul in a long grey wig.
Is To The End of the World your best book yet?
My best? I’m not sure. I’m enjoying the process of writing more maybe now, so in that sense it’s less like pulling teeth. I think when you come from the discipline of acting, which is a group endeavor, it’s quite difficult to get used to a solitary discipline – and all the usual actorly things of self-doubt manifest themselves much stronger when you are out of the group. So I think that’s a hard change to make. But I find that writing has become more natural to me now in a way.
Will you narrate an audio version too?
We’re planning on it, yes. That’s more hard work than acting and writing put together, doing an audiobook. I think it’s a talent all on its own. I find that very difficult actually. It takes forever to do and it’s very, very difficult to keep sharp and on edge. It’s like driving for 48 hours nonstop.
You have said you made The Happy Prince to get your acting career back on track…
Nothing happened, did it!
Yes it did. Your IMDb page looks very busy!
Oh, God, well it doesn’t feel that way, it feels like it didn’t work (laughs). But I am hoping that it’s going to get my acting career back up and running. My acting career stumbles on and I don’t know if it’s in the best place, but I am fatalistic at this stage in my life about things, apart from trying to make a movie. I’m lucky to be doing anything in a way.
But Adult Material, which just aired on Channel 4 in the UK, got rave reviews.
That was really fun to do, I must say. A very good job!
Did you discover anything you didn’t know about the porn industry?
Not really. no. I kind of had a pretty clear picture of the industry. And I always thought that maybe I could have a second career as a fluffer on a gay porn set. There’s an amazing character over there in LA called Chi Chi LaRue. She’s a drag queen and became a kind of star director, when porn was really big in the 90s and people were minting it. I went on one of her sets once, a gay porn film. So no, there weren’t any surprises particularly. The thing about the industry now is, like everything, it got deregulated in a way – that didn’t just happen to Wall Street, but to the porn business too. So now anybody can make a porn movie with their telephone and their best friends. The business side has sort of gone out of it.
Speaking of the 90s, what was it like reuniting with the My Best Friend’s Wedding cast in Los Angeles last year?
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].
Do you think you made the most of your success back then?
Not really, because I could have made an awful lot more. For example, it took me so long to make my film [The Happy Prince] all those years later. If I had been more concentrated and more focused at that time, I could have made it very easily then - and it would have been a great time for the film, too. As it was, I tortured myself for years over it, and by the time that it came out, suddenly no one was interested in that kind of a film.
Or perhaps it wasn’t promoted as well as it should have been – because everyone who saw the film loved it.
Yes I know, that’s true. And the other thing, in show business, which I think is really funny, you can spend years and years deliberating what went wrong – was it this, was it that? But in the end, it’s a roulette wheel. Sometimes you hit double-sixes and green lights all the way, and sometimes you don’t, and that’s that. For me, I had to have more of a hard time, I suppose.
For the film, you deservedly won the London Critics Circle British/Irish Actor of the Year Award and Best Actor at the UK National Film Awards. Is it true you forgot you were nominated for the second one, left the Awards show, and were tucked up in bed when you won?
Yes, that’s true (laughs).
The next film we’ll see you in is Creation Stories, inspired by Alan McGee, the Scottish boss of famed record label Creation Records. Are you a rocker in that?
No, I play this robot that’s about to be decommissioned, and it’s a very, very sweet character, an amazing film. I’ll bet it’s going to be very, very good.
And soon you’re starring in the film adaption of Stephen Fry’s book The Liar. Do you think there are occasions when lying is acceptable?
Well, I think it’s acceptable all the time (laughs). Everyone lies, you can’t help it. You just have to have a very good memory of the lie you told.