When they make the Rupert Everett biopic, the soundtrack will be all Edith Piaf. The triumph, the tears, the joy, the hurt, the humiliation he's crammed into his 20-odd years in showbusiness would provide material for a Diwali of onwards-and-upwards torch songs.
For every slap in the face that has reddened his cheek, a gorgeous bouquet has been lobbed in his direction. He made two of the best British films of the 1980s - Another Country (1984) and Dance with a Stranger (1985) - and some of the most horrible films from anywhere, ever - Dunston Checks In (1996), for instance, in which he played second banana to an orang- utan, or Hearts of Fire (1987), which teamed him with Bob Dylan, garnered some of the worst notices in the history of cinema criticism, and led Time Out to smirk that he had become "hilariously typecast as a talentless wanker". The press derided his attempts at novel-writing, but saluted his emerald-gilled performance as the Prince of Wales in The Madness of King George (1994). Nobody bought his 1987 soft-rock album Into the Vortex, but, 10 years later, the test audience for My Best Friend's Wedding adored him so much that the producers squeezed 17 extra minutes of Everett into their movie. "That's how showbusiness careers work," he reflects. "They peak and they fall. They're not really things that plateau."
The end of 2002, however, looks like being a pleasant little promontory for Everett. He has two films out next month: The Importance of Being Earnest, in which he presses Reese Witherspoon to a muffin and enjoys an Another Country school reunion with Colin Firth; and Unconditional Love, a snortingly funny comedy in which he plays the secret boyfriend of a closeted crooner (played by Jonathan Pryce) and gets a bed scene with Kathy Bates. So today, lounging on a sofa in his suite at London's Savoy hotel, he insists that he regrets nothing, not even the time he nearly blew the hard-won success of recent years by telling an American magazine that he'd spent some of his teens on the game.
"No, I don't regret that, actually," he says, with polite defiance. "I don't regret talking about anything, because I never want to be in a position with the media where I have to defend something that someone else has found out that I did. There's nothing anyone can say about me that I haven't said myself." This is Everett's rule: he won't dish the dirt on friends such as Madonna and Julia Roberts, but he's willing to be gobsmackingly candid about himself. Which is why, I suppose, that some of the more queer and outre aspects of his private life have found their way into the public domain. We know that he's dabbled with heroin, because he once claimed that it was only his vanity that saved him from irremediable addiction. We know that he snogged Madge Ritchie in the back of a limo, and that she batted him off with the memorable remonstrance, "God, Rupert, stop stroking me like a fucking dog!" We know that he had an affair with Beatrice Dalle. We also know that he's gay, and that he's the only above-the-title film star in the history of Hollywood who has ever been man enough to admit it.
"I don't ever think of myself as having come out," he says. "It wasn't a conscious decision. But if you're condoning someone else's view by lying about yourself, then you're in a state of self-hatred as well. I think that's a very difficult situation to live in. And it's an issue some people still face."
Not that he blames any of Hollywood's current gang of golden people for cowering in the closet. "As a gay actor in Hollywood, you don't have half the promotional tools available to a straight actor. You don't keep swapping girlfriends all the time. To get the real benefit of that flush of publicity you have to be seen slurping smoothies with someone else's girlfriend in a West Hollywood bar. If you really want the maximum benefit of moving the media frenzy along, you have to have Liz Hurley and her safety pins, you have to have affairs. …