Rupert Everett is
suddenly on a roll. He voices the foppish, hair-tossing
Prince Charming in Shrek 2, the biggest hit of the
year and the top-grossing animated film of all time.
(It comes out on DVD on November 5, joining the
just-released special edition of his breakthrough 1984
film, Another Country.) The out actor is also
on-screen in the key role of a cross-dressing King
Charles II in the current Oscar hopeful Stage
Beauty, with Billy Crudup and Claire Danes.
Soon, Everett will join Emily Watson and Tom
Wilkinson in Separate Lives, the directorial
debut of Oscar-winning Gosford Park
screenwriter Julian Fellowes, and will reunite with
Another Country’s director on A
Different Loyalty, with Sharon Stone.
There’s also that MIA Russian epic he made with the
legendary Sergei Bondarchuk (War and Peace), and he
voices the role of the Fox in the anticipated
blockbuster The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the
Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Is it any wonder Everett’s exhausted when
he arrives spot on-time for a chat at a restaurant in
Manhattan’s West Village, where he currently
lives? Everett, who’s greeted in Italian by the
staff, who know him on sight, is very polite and quite
comfortable and candid. Maybe it’s that second
declared bankruptcy. “It’s tremendously
releasing,” he assures The Advocate. “I
can’t advise it too strongly.”
Do you like politics?
Yes, very much.
I don’t know how you feel about Tony Blair. We
wanted him to be our president at first.
Blair is a mystery. I think God plays a role in this
whole thing. I was talking to my mum the other day,
who is a staunch Republican. We were having one of
those mother-son arguments about politics that don’t
go anywhere. I said, “What do you think George Bush
and God talked about that time when George Bush asked
about going into Iraq? Mummy, do you really think God
said, ‘Yes, you should go and lop off some
Iraqis?’ ” And my mum went, “Well,
you never know. He’s a very funny man, God.”
My father is slightly to the right of Mussolini.
My mother is slightly to the right of Imelda Marcos.
But not as many shoes?
In Stage Beauty, you play your own son, which is
fun. [Everett plays Charles II, while in the 2003
British film To Kill a King he played
Charles I, that monarch’s doomed father.]
That was really fun, playing the son of a father in
Stage Beauty. That was what I liked most,
because in the category of your own work,
that’s kind of a fun thing to do. Also, to play
scenes where you’re talking about your father
and you’re imagining
yourself—it’s great. For someone who is not a
Method actor, I thought it was about as methodical as
I could possibly get.
Now you have to play Cromwell, who beheaded Charles I. I
know you went to Catholic school. Did you
practice, or are you practicing?
Am I a practicing Catholic? No, I’m a practicing Buddhist.
Not even for your mother at Christmas?
Yes, I do [go to church then], and I love Christianity.
But the Catholic Church and Christianity in general I
find unsatisfactory, because since the third century
they’ve been hijacked by neocons. If you look
at Christianity before the third century, you discover a
very different thing.
You were on the cover of The Advocate in January
1998, and you didn’t seem interested in
carrying the gay banner and saying,
“I’m the out gay actor, and other people
should come out too.” But is there any
disappointment that there haven’t been more
people coming out?
Well, selfishly, less is more for me, right? [Laughs]
You get to be the gay actor. “Get me Rupert!”
I don’t think it’s something I’d advise.
Not in show business. Not in a trophy business like
Hollywood. I don’t think it’s ideal. I
think it’s very lucky for me to have been
English and to have the opportunities to work in all the
various different places that I could so I could keep going.
French cinema, Italian cinema, theater, English
movies, and getting a Hollywood one if I can. I think
if I had been an American…it’s
definitely not a…a…friendly environment,
really. I don’t want to particularly elaborate
Do you wish you hadn’t done it?
No. I have a very old-fashioned way of thinking about
the business and my career. I thought when I started
out that your life was kind of it. All the actors I
saw and loved from the ’50s and the ’60s
were people who stretched their lives out like a bodybuilder
stretches muscles out.
Oh, yeah. The hell-raisers; not my favorite one. But
Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh. You saw the madness of
Vivien Leigh in every frame of her films. Montgomery
Clift. Not wearing your heart on your sleeve—it
was all part of one thing, your life and your work.
It’s part of your expression. It’s a
different business now. Now, the relationship between
actor and audience has changed substantially. When you
think of On the Waterfront and imagine working America going
to the cinema on the weekend and seeing this god. This
god but almost, almost like them and talking about
their problems. When he said, “I coulda been a
contender,” you can imagine what the atmosphere
across the screen and into the audience was. It was a
communion. You came out of that theater and back to
whatever your life was. You could get a lot of things
out of it. You could analyze your own life through a great
piece of writing. You could comfort your own life.
Montgomery Clift in A Place in the Sun. The
relationship between spectator and star was much more
Clift and Elizabeth Taylor were the two most beautiful
people in the world at that moment.
Yes. But now none of the characters in mainstream cinema
are realistic. They’re all about what we want
people to be or what a Republican pretending to be a
Democrat in Hollywood wants. Look at Tom Cruise in
Mission: Impossible. It’s not a character.
What the audience wants is a kind of love-hate thing.
They want the hair, the teeth, the ass, the body, the
money, the girlfriend—they know they
can’t have it but they look, steamed-up against the
window like Dickensian children, at what they
can’t have. And it’s a very, very scary
kind of fandom. I noticed it particularly when we were
premiering Shrek 2 at Cannes. At Cannes, you drive in
cars very slowly through the crowds. And it’s
really scary because the crowd
is…there’s love and hate in there. Really,
there’s a very conflicted emotional response.
Sometimes it’s, “Who is it? Who is
it?” Someone will at Cannes get out a gun and shoot
someone because the relationship between a spectator and
what they’re watching has really changed. I
think it’s because we’re not putting out
the kind of work that’s telling us
about…we’re not holding up a mirror in show
business to the real world.
The question was, Could you come out in Hollywood and
play a heterosexual hero? And the answer was, Of
course, as long as he was animated.
If people came to you today and said they wanted a
I wouldn’t come out then.
You wouldn’t encourage them to come out?
No, definitely not. Have electroshock treatment.
[Laughs] You’d do much better.
It always seems to us that the U.K. is so much better for
gays, and then some artists say the U.S. is
better—not for your career, but for life.
I don’t know. I was thinking about this because I
thought you might ask. I don’t know what
it’s like in the workplace in general if
you’re gay. I think maybe soon we’ll get to a
point— maybe—where all the divisions between
us that make us all different types of human beings,
maybe we’ll grow out of that. We’re so
insecure as human beings, is how it feels to me.
I’m too insecure to do drag. I wouldn’t
even do it for Halloween. I want people to know
I’m gay, but I don’t want them to
think I’m gay.
It’s all my fault, I’m sure.
You’ve done drag onstage in The Milk Train
Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore [the
Tennessee Williams play in which he assayed a
female role], and of course you have a very funny drag
scene in Stage Beauty.
Well, I wouldn’t dress up for Halloween.
I wouldn’t go to a club dressed in drag. For
work, yeah, I like the idea. But having said that,
from the age of 1 to 10 I was a seasoned cross-dresser. I
used to be taken out on these very macho things like
hunting, and I would just be dreaming of being home
and trying on my mother’s nightdress.
It makes it very hard to tell which British men are gay.
And of course it doesn’t make it any easier
to tell when someone like Robbie Williams is witty
and clever and records a love duet with you. He just
doesn’t care what people might think.
He doesn’t care.
That had to be fun [recording the duet “They
Can’t Take That Away From Me” for
Williams’s 2001 big band album Swing
When You’re Winning].
It was really fun and very memorable, because I recorded
that on September 12 here in New York.
When I think of September the 11th, I was watching the
television between takes and singing this
extraordinary song. It was such a weird juxtaposition.
We did it for two days, and the second day all those rains
came. It was a very extraordinary time. Funny enough, I
felt…were you here?
I thought afterwards, when you were in the city, you
knew if you asked anyone for anything, they would help
you. They’d do it. You could feel the spirits
of the dead hovering around. It lasted until the rain
came. That rain came, and then the whole thing of what they
were doing down there in the rain…you could
feel that energy went down and it turned into this
panic and then victimization and then anger. But for
the first few days I thought, My God, this could herald
the biggest change in the world. If everyone
could see how all New Yorkers—the most hardened
bitches on the planet—how they are now in the
eye of this disaster. And that changed.
You’ve reunited with Marek Kanievska, the director
of your breakthrough film, Another Country.
Another director you worked with who hasn’t
worked for many years, for 18 or 20 years, is
Russian director Sergei Bondarchuk.
He’s dead, so he’s not going to
You did make …And Quiet Flows the Don with
him, right? [It’s based on the novel by
Nobel Prize–winning author Mikhail Sholokhov.]
That was his last thing. I killed him. I’ve
killed quite a few.
We haven’t seen it yet.
The film is lost.
It was financed by…a builder in Naples. They
didn’t really care about it. The print was
locked in a safe in Naples for a few years. Now
apparently it’s got back to Russia and
[Bondarchuk’s] daughter—who I saw when I was
in Moscow the other day—is trying to get it
How did you kill him? The stress of the whole thing?
The stress of the whole thing. Also, he didn’t
realize I was gay at first. And the character I play
is one of the most popular characters in Russia. He
realized I was gay when I brought this tiny little
pixie queen to do my cooking, and this pixie collected
Barbie dolls. The first time I asked Sergei Bondarchuk
to dinner was when I had just moved into a new flat,
and the pixie queen was looking after things and
making dinner. I come in the door with Sergei, and hanging
from the chandelier is a Barbie doll. And I go into
the bathroom, and sitting by the toilet paper is
another one. Then I go into the sitting room, and
lying on the couch—everywhere—are Barbie
dolls, and they’re positioned and combing each
other’s hair. I’m picking them up and
hiding them behind things as Sergei comes in, and I
run into the kitchen and say, “What the hell are you
doing with these Barbie dolls?” And he says,
“Oh, relax! Just tell him they’re mine.”
How did he die? Heart attack?
Everyone died in our movie. We had four deaths, four
weddings, and three babies. The first person who died
was one of the Italian grips who had a heart attack
outside the hotel. The second person who died was the
guy organizing the wind machine, which was a propeller from
an old Russian plane. He was decapitated by it. His
head flew over the entire set and landed a little way
from where we were standing.
[Trying not to laugh and failing] Oh…
And then the cherry picker—
Did you stop for the day?
[Pauses to think] No, we didn’t.
You had to keep moving.
The guy driving the cherry picker ran over a couple with
their child and killed them. I know it’s funny,
but life is very cheap there.
Sergei’s death obviously brings up The Next
Best Thing. There were stories in the
London tabloids saying Madonna caused director John
Schlesinger’s stroke, and one even said she
killed him. [It’s all based on letters
Schlesinger donated to the British Film Institute, some
of which detailed his complaints about the film
and her behavior.]
You didn’t know this? They’ve pulled
out details from the upcoming biography by William Mann
[Edge of Midnight: The Life of John Schlesinger].
No! No, I think The Next Best Thing did
help to kill John Schlesinger. In that sense, if anyone has
the guilt, it’s me. Because, um…John
really shouldn’t have been working. I wanted to
make a film that had the same kind of tonal quality as
Shampoo and was more a slice of life and not
about a miniseries, which our film ended up being. Its tone
was just too general, and he was too old to understand
about specific tone, I think. But Madonna
didn’t kill him.
Some of your projects people always wonder about.
The secret agent who is bisexual. [A project called
P.S. I Love You.] It seemed like you’d
be able to make it happen. Was The Next Best
Thing what you rolled the dice on in Hollywood?
No, I think that was probably my fault too. I
don’t think I’ve ever been well
organized enough. Hollywood responds very well to
things if you’re right in there and right on the
case. I can’t blame…if I’d been
on the case better, if my writing partner had been on
the case better, we’d have got stuff done. But
we weren’t. And then The Next Best Thing
Same thing with Martha and Arthur? [His
proposed pairing with Julia Roberts about a
famous Hollywood couple, one gay and one straight, who
are filming a costume epic about Marie Antoinette
as their public lives unravel.]
Martha and Arthur, Julia did not like how the
script came out. And she’s probably right. The first
half of the script was good, and the second half
didn’t quite work.
I’m sure you’re always writing. Do
you keep a diary or journal?
That’ll make a good book someday.
I want to write my biography, actually.
You didn’t want to get too specific in an
interview, which I understand. But if you wanted to do
it right for a memoir, I assume, you’d have
to talk about who was homophobic and who was
supportive during your experiences in Hollywood.
I think it’s a bore when you’re a very
lucky performer, in one sense, to complain too much
about where in your terms things have not measured up
to what you think you deserve. In one sense, I feel very
much like my career has been totally fucking blessed.
Because I have fairly seamlessly—fairly
seamlessly, not altogether, not all the
time—kept going and lived and really lived and been
to all sorts of different places. That is all good.
That is really the best thing. The rest is fine print.
One good thing about The Next Best Thing was
that your dog, who has since passed away, had a
starring role. I know you can’t replace him, but
have you found someone else, another dog?
No, I want a human being next.
But I can’t hold one down.
No, not that, but I would like to have a human being.
So you’re not in a relationship?
That’s depressing. I don’t mind if you
don’t have a really big Hollywood career
because you came out. But you should at least have
I never stay long enough in one place to have one.
It’s very difficult to have a boyfriend when
you don’t live anywhere. Something happened. I
stopped living anywhere, and now I can’t start
living somewhere. I don’t know. Once it happened and
once you get into that rhythm of moving all the time,
then you’re moving all the time, and
it’s difficult to break it. And I want to break it,
because I’d definitely like to be in a relationship.