I Imagined Hollywood Stars Would Be These Fabulous Creatures, but the Truth Is They Are All So Boring; His Brilliant Autobiography Was a Famously Irreverent Dissection of His Self-Obsessed Trade. Now, Despairing That No One Else Tells the Truth Any More, Rupert Everett Takes Apart a Few More of His Celebrity Cohorts
Byline: Louise Gannon
Rupert Everett is trying to behave himself. 'I am going to be very sensible today,' he says as we meet on the doorstep outside rehearsal rooms deep in the heart of smokechoked, traffic-clogged south London. Minutes later we enter a restaurant and the uniformed maitre d' asks to take his bag. Everett flashes his Hollywood smile and says, 'Do you mind if I keep it with me? I have my bomb in my bag.' So much for Mr Sensible.
Everett is a man with a reputation for being shocking. Blessed with perfect-10 good looks, a private-school education, a talent for acting, an appetite for utter destruction and a circle of friends that has encompassed Andy Warhol, David Bowie, Madonna and Sharon Stone, he has become better known for what he does offscreen than on. His background gave him every cause for rebellion. Hailing from an army family stuffed with majors (his father) and vice admirals (his grandfather), he was sent off to Catholic boarding school at the age of seven. He ran away to London aged 16 to become an actor and be as dissolute as possible, hanging out with artists, models and pop stars and getting thrown out of the Central School of Speech and Drama for insubordination. He did, however, get noticed.
After a slew of awards for his West End debut alongside Kenneth Branagh in Another Country, Everett appeared with Colin Firth in the 1984 film version, and ended up being asked to go to Hollywood by Orson Welles, who wanted him as his protege. 'It was a disaster,' he says bluntly. 'I've realised since that I have two different sides to my personality. One is shy, whiny, whingy and not terribly interesting, and the other is show-offy, wild and slightly unhinged. There's nothing in between. Nothing. It all depends on the people around me. In the company of Orson I was terrified to the point of hardly being able to speak. I was completely in awe of him. But he was in the last stages of his career -- nothing he said he was going to do ever took off, and he got very bored of me. I was just dropped.
'That's what happens in this business. One minute everyone loves you and everything you say is amazing, funny, brilliant, and the next minute they're looking through you with glazed eyes, desperate to get away from you. It can happen in a matter of moments.' Everett has experienced many such reversals -- some beyond his control (he says he was refused at least one major role because of his homosexuality), but many caused by Everett himself. He frowns. Everett is no fool, and he knows I'm about to bring up some of his many acerbic, hilarious comments, which have alienated him from such figures as Madonna. In his 2006 book Red Carpets And Other Banana Skins, he described her as smelling 'vaguely of sweat' and being an 'old, whiny barmaid'. Sharon Stone, he wrote, was definitely 'unhinged'.
He looks put out. 'When I say "unhinged" I mean it in the sweetest way. I love people who are unhinged, and Sharon is very definitely unhinged -- it really isn't an insult. I'm unhinged in a way. The greatest actors usually are. Beatrice Dalle was a great example [she's one of his former lovers, along with Paula Yates and Susan Sarandon; his sexual past is complicated to say the least] -- totally mad, devastatingly beautiful and at the height of her fame caught shoplifting. Wonderful. When you see her on screen, she can appear in a not-very-good movie and still she's brilliant, because she has that mesmerising quality that comes from being unhinged. It's what makes her truly fascinating.
'When I got to Hollywood I had this fantasy that all these huge stars would be these amazing, fabulous creatures. But you get to Hollywood and everybody's so boring. Being an actor in Hollywood is like joining the army or something. When you see them in a restaurant raising an arm, it's more likely to be to make a call to their banker than swig champagne. So many of these stars today are just boring, boring, boring. …