Hold on to your hats…Rupert's back! Everett on his riotous new memoir and racy new TV show

Hold on to your hats…Rupert’s back! Everett on his riotous new memoir, a racy new TV show – and how Colin ‘Frothy’ Firth saved his bacon after a 20-year feud

  • After years of freedom finding Rupert Everett reveals how he lives a content life
  • Aged 61 the actor now lives with his mother in Wiltshire and couldn’t be happier 
  • He talks on his third memoir: To The End Of The World: Travels With Oscar Wilde

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When Rupert Everett was 18 and his dear mum was worried about where life was taking him, she packed him off to Paris to correct his course. 

‘My parents thought I was going off the rails, so they thought the best thing to do would be to send me to a good French family so I could learn French and straighten myself up,’ he explains.

He found himself living in a delightful arrondissement, and on the first afternoon the madame of the house sent him for a walk so he could get his bearings. What happened next is very Rupert Everett.

‘In the Bois de Boulogne I found a truck with a transsexual sex worker living in it.

I made friends with her and I kind of lived in her world. All plans for learning the language and going to drawing classes were sort of sidelined.’

Rupert Everett (pictured) – actor, writer, and singer – has released his third memoir, To The End Of The World: Travels With Oscar Wilde

So that went well. Suffice to say, Rupert – actor, writer, singer, disappointed diva – never wanted to go home, geographically or otherwise.

He became a citizen of the world, a free spirit, flirting with the realms of fashion, film and, latterly, writing. He couldn’t be Oscar Wilde, his great hero, but he could die trying.

Obviously, the path he took meandered, but it did take in fame and fortune. He started off in a very British way with a much-acclaimed performance as Guy Bennett, a spy loosely based on Guy Burgess, in 1984’s Another Country, but then he was wooed by Hollywood and is perhaps best known for starring as Julia Roberts’s gay friend in the 1997 rom-com My Best Friend’s Wedding.

He was once the ultimate gay best friend in real life, too.

He became mates with Madonna (and then fell out with her when he called her an ‘old whiny barmaid’ in his autobiography).

He got a house in LA. He had a 20-year feud with that nice Colin Firth (who he said was boring). He did the drugs and the sex.

With men and women. Did he really have an affair with Paula Yates for six years, while she was with Sir Bob Geldof? Yes. ‘It didn’t matter to me who I was having sex with,’ he admits. ‘Sex was freedom, or it felt like it.

Sex was the bottle you could throw through the window to smash everything up.’ 

Hold on to your hats...Rupert's back! Everett on his riotous new memoir and racy new TV show

Having found contentment Rupert, aged 61, now lives with his mother Sara (pictured together) in Wiltshire and says he could not be happier

Hold on to your hats...Rupert's back! Everett on his riotous new memoir and racy new TV show

Rupert Everett as Oscar Wilde in The Happy Prince, in which Oscar lives out his last days in exile

So far, so racy. So why are we doing this interview in a pub in Northumberland, after he’s spent the morning stomping along Hadrian’s Wall? Why is he in sensible walking boots, with a dog at his feet, ordering scampi and chips?

Can there be a less sexy dish? More pertinently, why are we talking about how, aged 61, he now lives with his mother in Wiltshire and could not be happier?

‘It’s odd, isn’t it?’ he agrees. ‘You spend so much of your life wanting to get away from somewhere, then you have this need to come back. I’ve been thinking of that a lot this week.

I’ve been walking here because it’s where we used to come when I was a child.

‘You come back to the things you used to run from. I certainly have. I’ve been looking back and everything seems rose-tinted now.

I’m very nostalgic about the past I rejected.’

Hold on to your hats...Rupert's back! Everett on his riotous new memoir and racy new TV show

Rupert Everett starring as Julia Roberts’ gay friend (pictured together) in the 1997 rom-com My Best Friend’s Wedding

Hold on to your hats...Rupert's back! Everett on his riotous new memoir and racy new TV show

Madonna and Rupert Everett.

The pair fell out when he called her an ‘old whiny barmaid’ in his autobiography

He first moved away in 1984, and says for ten, 15 years, he ‘rarely came back’. He could have stayed away for good. Plenty of people in his circle did.

‘That’s a thing about my generation.

In those days it was quite alright not to see your family again. Lots of people just disappeared. At the end of the 90s, though, my dad got ill and there’s a choice you have to make.

Do you take part or get further away?’

He chose the former. He came back – physically and emotionally – in stages. ‘My dad was a great traveller so I did a few holidays with him. We became friends.’

A couple of years ago, with his father gone, he did an extraordinary thing.

He moved back in with his mum to be as close as possible in the final chapter of her life. He brought with him his partner, a Brazilian accountant called Henrique, and they divided the house so that they could live separate lives, yet together.

Hold on to your hats...Rupert's back! Everett on his riotous new memoir and racy new TV show

Rupert with his dog Pluto in London, August 2020. He will be gracing Channel 4 this autumn in a new series: Adult Material

Obviously, it sounds like a reality show in the making since he’s known for being a theatrical sort while his mother is, in his words, ‘upper middle class, very straight. We are complete opposites.

She’s a Brexiteer. She likes Boris. She even likes Trump.

People thought it would end in tears. But it hasn’t. Quite the opposite.’

He adores his mother, Sara, however much she infuriates him.

She adores him back. He asks if I have children and when I say yes, teenagers now, he winces. ‘The relationship between kids and mothers is a very sad one. The first six, seven, eight years, you love your mother so much.

And then you really kind of give her such a cold shoulder.’

A BIT OF VA VA VOOM 

In his new book about the making of his Oscar Wilde film, Rupert recalls being on the Eurostar to Paris and trying to pitch the idea to some film execs. He ends up screaming down the phone, much to the amusement of the ‘amazing-looking black man’ sitting opposite, who assured him he at least would like to see this film made.

This man was ‘decked out in Gucci and Prada, with bangles, rings, chains, diamond-studded shades on an exquisite shaved head with delicious tiny ears begging to be nibbled’. The man said he was a footballer, which Rupert didn’t believe, particularly when he thought he said he played for ‘A***hole’.

Yes, it turned out to be Arsenal, and the man was Thierry Henry. 

But in your case you came back? ‘Yes, and it’s funny the way it has all developed. You do suddenly age, she did and I did – like ten years in the course of a year.’ Are there rows? ‘Well, she doesn’t like it if I try to do anything different with the garden.’

What does his mother think of the path his life did take? He says she picks and chooses the parts to delight in. ‘She thinks I’m the most successful actor in the world.

If I was compared to Robert De Niro, she’d say, ‘Robert who?’ It used to really irritate me. She’d say, ‘Don’t be so down on yourself’. I’d say, ‘I am not.

I am a realist.’

‘Now I feel very lucky. It’s sweet. At least someone thinks I’m the greatest actor.

She doesn’t have a clear idea of who I am and the challenges I face. She sees what she wants to in my life.’

His mother will not be seeing him in new Channel 4 series Adult Material, airing this autumn. Leading the cast are Hayley Squires who plays Jolene Dollar, a mother-of-three and seasoned pro in the porn industry, and Siena Kelly as a young dancer who wants to make it in blue movies.

Rupert is Carroll Quinn, a porn mogul struggling to remain relevant as free content changes the modern-day industry. He’s a sleazeball, but an accidental one, says Rupert. ‘He’s essentially a sweet man who gets bent by the wind in a direction that becomes quite lethal.’ It’s most definitely not one for Mother. ‘Oh no. It might upset her slightly.’

He really is divine when it comes to talking about showbusiness, and all that lies underneath the glamour.

He has written two autobiographical books now, and has a deserving reputation as a chronicler of celebrity. His third book To The End Of The World: Travels With Oscar Wilde is another romp. It charts his journey from actor to producer, telling the story of how he made his biographical film about Oscar Wilde’s last years, called The Happy Prince, and will be serialised in the Daily Mail next week.

He charts the whole astonishing saga: how he snared top names like Emily Watson and Colin Firth, how he got funding (‘I lied through my teeth’).

It was a rollercoaster, and it sounds as if it nearly killed him.

Sometimes it sounds a bit Carry On Oscar Wilde. He tells how the vast production machine swings into action when Colin Firth is due on set, arranging Champagne and chocolates for his dressing room, but in the meticulous planning the car to pick him up is forgotten. ‘Poor Frothy,’ muses Rupert.

But Colin Firth? Didn’t you hate each other?

What was it he called you? ‘A monster,’ he says. ‘I was a monster to him. I was quite horrible.’ At the time, back when they appeared together in Another Country, he called Colin ‘a ghastly guitar-playing redbrick socialist who was going to give his first half-million away to charity’. He despised him. ‘Actually I fancied him first, but then, as is my wont, I stopped fancying him.

The switch went out like an electric light.’ Why? ‘I have no idea. It could have been anything. Maybe he was too good.’

Hold on to your hats...Rupert's back! Everett on his riotous new memoir and racy new TV show

Colin Firth (left) and Rupert Everett as Guy Bennett, a spy loosely based on Guy Burgess, in 1984’s Another Country

Hold on to your hats...Rupert's back! Everett on his riotous new memoir and racy new TV show

Rupert Everett in Hearts Of Fire, a 1986 American musical drama film starring Bob Dylan

They badmouthed each other in interviews for years, but reconciled – fittingly – on the set of 2002’s The Importance Of Being Earnest.

Then they starred in the St Trinian’s films, cementing a friendship. Getting Colin’s name attached to his Oscar Wilde film was paramount. ‘If he hadn’t done it, I’d have been sunk,’ Rupert admits. ‘I’d lied through my teeth to get everyone on board and all the ducks were in line and the financiers were in place. If Colin hadn’t done it, it would have been curtains.’

It takes much of the book to tell the extraordinary ride of making the film, and the twist is that the money does indeed run out.

At one point Colin is going to pull out, his fee already cut in half. What does Rupert do? He asks his one-time enemy to forgo his fee fully to save the project. ‘And he agreed!

Isn’t that amazing? Imagine doing a job for nothing. It was unbelievably generous.

He stood by me with no obligation to. He’s just a nice man. Thank God.’ What was Plan B? ‘I would’ve had to get Jean-Claude Van Damme or something.’

He still has it – that edge – but he’s not the Queen of Mean he’s sometimes portrayed as.

He doesn’t even slag Madonna off today, although he doesn’t fall over himself to say that they’re friends again either. ‘I can’t talk about her. I can’t.’

So has he mellowed? It seems so.

He credits his relationship with Henrique to a certain calming down. He isn’t as obsessed with sex as he was, and thank God, he says. ‘The thing I was most afraid of was ending up at 70 in a tie-dyed T-shirt doing ecstasy in a club. I didn’t see an end to it.’

Hold on to your hats...Rupert's back! Everett on his riotous new memoir and racy new TV show

Rupert says he is no longer as obsessed with sex as he was and now jokes that he is too old to talk about sex

That’s a very negative spin on what sounds like a very carefree existence? ‘Well, a lot of us of my generation thought it was.

Sex was freedom, but it turns into its own prison. It puts a barrier between people sometimes. The most intimate act, isn’t.’

Maybe he got bored with it?

He gestures to his dog, oblivious on the floor. ‘When you’re a dog your curiosity about other dogs is endless, but when we get older all dogs seem the same. Maybe we get bored with it all.’ The people at the next table have left by now, which is a relief. ‘Anyway, I don’t think people of 61 should be talking about sex,’ he says, which is hilarious given that ship has already sailed.

He survived what he calls ‘the other pandemic’, Aids, and draws parallels with Covid-19. ‘It was worse, in some ways, than this one. This one is hideous, but everyone is supportive,’ he says. ‘We had hatred.

Even people who liked you were afraid if you were gay. If you went to dinner with a family who had kids, you’d see people washing your plates aside from everyone else’s. There is no stigma with Covid, and the stigma with Aids was as lethal as the disease.’

He’s bemused though by ‘this new puritanism’ among millennials. ‘It’s the opposite to when we were young, so you feel you are dying, in a way.

But that’s how it should be. Everyone has their turn on the stage, and now it’s this generation’s turn. If they want a boring life, they can have it.

Ours was more a rough and ready, rumpy-pumpy world.’

We can conclude then that his relationship with Henrique – which is now 11 years old – has taken him by surprise. ‘Yes, I think it has. It isn’t what I imagined.’ What sort of relationship did the 18-year-old Rupert think was in store for him? He laughs. ‘In my 20s, 30s, I thought it would be cinematic.

I think we all did in the 70s. We were raised on Montgomery Clift. We thought it’d be all about the suffering.

You wanted the suffering. You wanted it to be as hard as possible, to throw yourself in, to be killed for it.’

Contentment is different? ‘Very. It’s about comfort, affection, all the things you thought would be claustrophobic but are nice.’

  • To The End Of The World: Travels With Oscar Wilde by Rupert Everett is published on 8 October by Little Brown, GBP20.

    To order a copy for GBP17, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193 (offer valid to 10/10/20, p&p free).

    Adult Material begins on Channel 4 early next month.

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