Truth, red carpets and banana skins
Rupert Everett talks about his new autobiography
Rupert Everett, known for his rent-boy early years, his movies with Madonna and Julia Roberts and as the voice of Prince Charming in Shrek 2, strolled into a Chelsea restaurant looking like a man who had just finished his morning workout, unshaven and sans a stylish outfit, unexpected from a product of Hollywood.
Without handlers or public relations people fluttering about, he came to talk about his new autobiography, Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins. In the book, the well-known gay actor dishes about growing up, his boyfriends and his six-year on-off affair with the late Paula Yates, who was previously married to singer Bob Geldof and had a daughter with Michael Hutchence of INXS.
Mark Segal: Before we get into the fun stuff, what was the inspiration for the book?
Rupert Everett: There wasn�t really any. I didn�t mean to be a journalist. My friend Donatella Versace was supposed to do an interview with a journalist, but she didn�t want to, so she asked me to do it.
So I was in Africa, talking to the journalist for Donatella and the woman told me, �My god, you should write a book, you�re so descriptive.�
We ended up being friends and went to some agents and publishers and I got a deal. But it wasn�t something I ever really thought about, like, �Oh, now I want to write a book.�
MS: Do you want people to learn or get anything out of your book?
RE: Not really. I think that�s a dangerous way of looking at life. You can�t guess what�s going to happen like that.
I wrote the book because I find the passage of time very interesting. I�ve been around for so many things and it seems like time has sped up so much in years between 1961 and 2001.
And there�s also the idea that other people always get the chance to say what they think of you and call it truth. So this was my chance to say what I think and call it truth.
MS: One remarkable thing in the book is how you deal with the religious aspects of being gay and describe homosexuality, in the religious sense, of ruining you like a poisoned flower. How quickly did it take you to lose the poisonous part?
RE: I think the human brain is so conditioned that we need footprints everywhere. And to a certain extent, once you�re a Catholic, you�re always a Catholic. It�s so difficult to lose one�s conditioning. There�s no answer to that question. It�s always there in the background.
MS: How difficult is it to be openly gay in Hollywood?
RE: If you�re successful, it works. But it�s not an ideal job for a gay person. Being a Hollywood movie star is a trophy job.
MS: But you�ve had some choice roles.
RE: Yes, but I could never take it to the next step.
MS: And what�s the next step?
RE: It�s all about concepts and ideas and beliefs. And the belief that I should be on the next step is up for debate anyway.
What I can say is that Hollywood is not particularly friendly to the homosexual. There�s a lot of bigotry that stops people from being able to see clearly, but that�s the same across the board. We live in a very sick world and it�s full of bias in every direction. So the very lucky, rich wealthy homosexuals who are always whining are kind of missing the point.
MS: How do you feel about being a role model to young people?
RE: I don�t think there should be role models. The idea of role models is always a source of conflict in the end. Kate Moss is a role model, then she�s discovered doing cocaine and the people for whom she�s a role model are destroyed.
We�re all very caught up in measuring and comparing and creating authority figures and it�s all bullshit. You have to be a light for yourself and young gay people should not look to me as a role model. I�m as fucked up and twisted and freaked as they are.
You have to forge your own way and understand for yourself what�s going on, which means you have to keep your brain alive and open. As soon as you have a role model, you�re closing yourself off.
It�s all fucked, and it all has to do with money in the end. None of us are directly responsible. But it all revolves around money.
MS: One of the things I noticed in your book was that you didn�t out Neal Patrick Harris. You were polite enough to keep it quiet.
RE: I wouldn�t dream of pulling anyone out of the closet, I think it�s outrageous. I think if people want to be in the closet it�s a personal choice. It�s certainly not my responsibility.
MS: Tell me about the charity work you�re involved in.
RE: Gay people go on and on asking other people to support them, but do they support other gay people? No. Gay people are much too self-obsessed and much too paranoid to support anyone.
MS: So you�re not a big fan of the gay rights struggle?
RE: Well I am, but I don�t think many gay people are. If you put someone who worked at Stonewall in the Roxy, everyone will move to the other side of the room. They�ll hate them. They don�t want to seem like they�re doing the dirty work.
MS: So let�s look at some of the work they�ve done and see if you�d go along with it. Would you ever get married or sign up for domestic partnership?
RE: Not marriage, no. I think it�s pointless. But having civil rights as a couple for health and taxes and benefits, I�m totally into. Marriage, to me, is a waste of time whether you�re gay or straight.
MS: Because of your party boy nature?
RE: No, because you can�t put down on paper something that�s not quantified on paper. The last thing I want to do as a gay man is clone straight society.
MS: Brokeback Mountain was a breakthrough movie in many ways, and we haven�t seen anything else of that magnitude since. There�s a black cinema and a Hispanic cinema, but there really isn�t a gay cinema. Do you think there�s one coming?
RE: Yes, but at the same time, gay people aren�t like the Jews or the blacks. They�re not enough of a community, and I think they�re too self-hating to be a community. If they wanted to have their own cinema, they�d have it already. Right around the time my film The Next Best Thing was coming out, Paramount studios really thought I had a gay audience from My Best Friend�s Wedding. They thought they could get all of the gay community to come out to the film. But they weren�t going to budge because the movie wasn�t fast and chic enough for them. If the movie had been successful, it would have opened the doors for more gay cinema.
MS: Paramount didn�t promote that film within the gay community.
RE: That�s absolutely not true.
MS: I didn�t see any ads in any of the gay newspapers.
RE: One weekend we invited gay magazines from around the country to Miami to promote the movie. It was my idea, and it�s the first and last time that will ever happen.
I explained that it was my big opportunity. If the movie had brought in $100 million, I would have been made, but the gay community would also have carved themselves a niche. There would have been film after film in Hollywood after that, and they would have been seeking out gay actors.
MS: So, you are an activist.
RE: No, I�m not. I was doing my thing, which just so happened to coincide with the thing that everyone else was doing at the time. But after the wreckage of that film, I became another meaningless face. That was my moment and I blew it.
MS: You blew it, or the studio blew it or the community blew it?
RE: We all blew it. It was our moment together. My moment with the world.
MS: Do you feel burned or would you do another film in that vein?
RE: I�d do any film that was good. But it�s not in my world anymore.
MS: You sound sort of almost bitter about it.
RE: I�m not bitter, but to be honest, we�re being entertained out of our minds anyway. We can�t really look at anything else and there are so many more important things than whether the queens are happy or not in the world at the moment. We�re on the edge of an abyss. I don�t think it really matters at the moment whether there�s gay cinema or not.
MS: Do you still consider yourself to be a party boy?
MS: What�s your life like today?
RE: Life today is a lot quieter. I write a lot in the mornings. I get up early. I exercise a lot. I sometimes go out. I travel a lot, so if I pass by one of my favorite places and it�s a weekend, I might go out, but the term �party boy� in the American sense? No, I can�t stand it. It�s middle-class, it�s racist and everything I don�t like. The circuit is kind of terrifying to me.
MS: That comes across in the book. In the beginning, you talk a lot about partying and traveling and having nothing but fun, but then you get very serious about life in general and you start doing charity work, and that wasn�t even your idea, it was your publicist�s.
RE: I did a bit of charity before that, but yes.
MS: So what are you doing in regard to charity now?
RE: You know charity is another stupid word. It�s one of the most disgusting words I think on the planet because it�s really the politically correct word to describe our own vicious meanness.
I don�t do charity work. I sometimes go on trips and try to write stories about things that are happening, but I don�t really consider it charity. It�s what I just happen to be doing at the moment.
I think charity is an awful word. It�s sort of like tolerance, which is one of the nastiest words. It�s really only a shade paler than intolerance.
The fact that we accept all these words and don�t question any of them I find unbelievable.
Again, it�s because we�re entertained out of our minds, but we�re not thinking, no one�s questioning anything.
MS: Would you ever just settle down with one guy?
RE: Maybe. You never know what�s going to happen. Definitely I could settle down, but I�d have to stop moving around so much. Eventually I�d like to, yes.
MS: There are hundreds of gay men reading this, I�m sure they�ll be happy to know that. So what�s your idea of the perfect man for you?
RE: I like Latino or Arab men. I don�t have a type, necessarily.
MS: That�s fascinating. You just shocked half of America, probably.
RE: Well, I�m not into Abercrombie and Fitch or cherry deodorant and cinnamon-flavored lips. I like the smell of sweat. I don�t like fashion on men particularly.
MS: You write a lot in the book about how movie stars are prim and proper and how they tuck things in. Have you had any work done?
RE: No, not yet. I might do it. It�s difficult on guys, because you can�t wear makeup all the time so it tends to look weird, but I definitely might try it.
MS: You look great and you still could play any role that�s thrown your way. What do you think of the youth pushing in on Hollywood? Does that offend you?
RE: No, I think the thing that�s offensive isn�t the performers. It�s the writers and the plots that are offensive. It�s formulaic and unimaginative. It�s all about wannabe relationships, fantasy versions of humanity and violence.
And then there are all those awful sitcoms like Friends and Sex and the City, which I find really horrible.
MS: Would you ever do a sitcom?
RE: Not any more, no. It wouldn�t sustain my interest to work like that. Some of them are brilliant and really clever, but I couldn�t do it.
MS: If there�s a guy out there who thinks he�s perfect for you--
RE: How does he get a hold of me? Through you.
After the interview we sat and chatted about mutual friends and ambition, and what it takes to make it to the top. Commenting it could be lonely at the top, Everett said with a twinkle in his eye, �Lonely in the middle.�
Next up for Everett is a new film based on an old British movie series called Centurions, about a headmistress at a girl�s school. In the old films, the mistress was always played by a man in drag: Everett�s next role.
How will he play it? �Big boobs, gorgeous legs, but a Camilla look.�