A Times, Telegraph and Guardian Book of the Year 2020 ‘Quivers with honesty, A-list gossip and sardonic prose’ The Times ‘Everett is a deliciously gifted writer. Nothing and no one escapes his attention’ Observer In his highly anticipated third memoir, Rupert Everett tells the story of how he set out to make a film of Oscar Wilde’s last days, and how that ten-year quest almost destroyed him. (And everyone else.) Travelling across Europe for the film, he weaves in extraordinary tales from his past, remembering wild times, freak encounters and lost friends. There are celebrities, of course. But we also meet glamorous but doomed Aunt Peta, who introduces Rupert (aged three) to the joys of make-up. In ’90s Paris, his great friend Lychee burns bright, and is gone. While in ’70s London, a ‘weirdly tall, beyond size zero’ teenage Rupert is expelled from the Central School of Speech and Drama. Unflinchingly honest and hugely entertaining, To the End of the World offers a unique insight into the ‘snakes and ladders’ of filmmaking. It is also a soulful and thought-provoking autobiography from one of our best-loved and most talented actors and writers.
Everett’s break came in 1981 at the Greenwich Theatre and later West End production of Another Country, playing a gay schoolboy opposite Kenneth Branagh. His first film was the Academy Award-winning short A Shocking Accident (1982), directed by James Scott and based on a Graham Greene story. This was followed by a film version of Another Country in 1984 with Cary Elwes and Colin Firth. Following on with Dance With a Stranger (1985), Everett began to develop a promising film career until he co-starred with Bob Dylan in the huge flop Hearts of Fire (1987). Around the same time, Everett recorded and released an album of pop songs entitled Generation of Loneliness. Despite being managed by Simon Napier-Bell (who had steered Wham! to prominence), the public didn’t take to his change in direction. The shift was short-lived, and he only returned to pop indirectly by providing backing vocals for Madonna many years later, on her cover of “American Pie” and on the track “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” on Robbie Williams’ Swing When You’re Winning in 2001.
In 1989, Everett moved to Paris, writing a novel, Hello, Darling, Are You Working?, and coming out as gay, a disclosure which he has said may well have damaged his career. Returning to the public eye in The Comfort of Strangers (1990), several films of variable success followed. The Italian comics character Dylan Dog, created by Tiziano Sclavi in 1986, is graphically inspired by him. Everett, in turn, appeared in Cemetery Man (1994), an adaptation of Sclavi’s novel Dellamorte Dellamore. In 1995 Everett published a second novel, The Hairdressers of St. Tropez. His career was revitalised by his award-winning performance in My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997), playing Julia Roberts’s character’s gay friend, followed by a role as Madonna’s character’s best friend in The Next Best Thing (2000). (Everett was a backup vocalist on her cover of “American Pie”, which is on the film’s soundtrack). Around the same time, he starred as the sadistic Sanford Scolex/Dr. Claw in Disney’s Inspector Gadget (also 1999) with Matthew Broderick.
For the 21st century, Everett has decided to write again. He has been a Vanity Fair contributing editor, written for The Guardian, and wrote a film screenplay on playwright Oscar Wilde’s final years, for which he sought funding. In 2006 Everett published a memoir, Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins, in which he reveals his six-year affair with British television presenter Paula Yates.Although he is sometimes described as bisexual, as opposed to gay, during a radio show with Jonathan Ross, he described his heterosexual affairs as the result of adventurousness: “I was basically adventurous, I think I wanted to try everything”. Since the revelation of his sexuality, Everett has participated in public activities (leading the 2007 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras), played a double role in the film St. Trinian’s, and has appeared on TV several times (as a contestant in the special Comic Relief Does The Apprentice; as a presenter for Live Earth; and as a guest host on the Channel 4 show The Friday Night Project, among others). He has also garnered media attention for his vitriolic quips and forthright opinions during interviews that have caused public outrage. In May 2007, he delivered one of the eulogies at the funeral of fashion director Isabella Blow, his friend since they were teenagers, who had died by suicide. He asked as part of his speech: “Have you gotten what you wanted, Issie? Life was a relationship that you rejected.” During this time he also voiced the nefarious, but handsome villain Prince Charming in the first two Shrek sequels. Everett’s documentary on Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821–1890) in which he retraces the travels of Burton through countries such as India and Egypt, aired on the BBC in 2008. In the documentary, titled The Victorian Sex Explorer, Everett explores the life of a man who investigated a male brothel frequented by British soldiers in Bombay in disguise; who introduced The Koran, One Thousand And One Nights and the Kama Sutra in their first English translations; who travelled to the city of Mecca, and kissed the Holy Stone of Kaaba in disguise as an Arab; and was able to converse in more than twenty languages. Everett explained in 2008: “I’ve been interested in him for years. So many contradictions. Such a riveting, show business character. The godfather of the sexual revolution.” In 2009, Everett told British newspaper The Observer that he wished he had never revealed his sexuality, as he feels that it hurt his career and advised younger actors against such candour:
“The fact is that you could not be, and still cannot be, a 25-year-old homosexual trying to make it in the British film business or the American film business or even the Italian film business. It just doesn’t work and you’re going to hit a brick wall at some point. You’re going to manage to make it roll for a certain amount of time, but at the first sign of failure they’ll cut you right off… Honestly, I would not advise any actor necessarily, if he was really thinking of his career, to come out.”
During the summer of 2010, Everett performed as Professor Henry Higgins, with English actress Honeysuckle Weeks and Stephanie Cole, in a revival of Pygmalion at the Chichester Festival Theatre. He reprised the role in May 2011 at the Garrick Theatre in London’s West End, starring alongside Diana Rigg and Kara Tointon. In July 2010, Everett was featured in the popular family history programme Who Do You Think You Are? Released in late 2010, the comedy film Wild Target featured Everett as an art-loving gangster, and also starred Bill Nighy and Emily Blunt. In 2012, Everett starred in the television adaptation of Parade’s End with Benedict Cumberbatch. The five-part drama was adapted by Sir Tom Stoppard from the novels of Ford Madox Ford, and Everett appears as the brother of protagonist Christopher Tietjens. Everett then starred as Oscar Wilde in The Judas Kiss, a stage play which was revived at London’s Hampstead Theatre beginning 6 September 2012, co-starring Freddie Fox as Bosie, and directed by Neil Armfield. It ran at the Hampstead through 13 October 2012, toured the UK and Dublin, then transferred to the West End at the Duke of York’s Theatre on 9 January 2013 in a limited run through 6 April 2013. Everett won the WhatsOnStage Award for Best Actor in a Play, and was nominated for the Olivier Award for Best Actor. In 2016 the production, still starring Everett and with Charlie Rowe as Bosie, ran in North America for seven weeks in Toronto and five weeks at BAM in New York City. In early 2013, Everett began working on a film portraying the final period of Wilde’s life, stating in the media that he has had a fascination with the playwright since he was a child, as his mother read him Wilde’s children’s story The Happy Prince before he slept. Everett explained in November 2013:
“The book made me feel mystical at a very early age, there’s a line in it which I didn’t really understand and I still don’t when the happy prince says to the swallow, “there is no mystery as great as suffering”, I certainly didn’t understand what it meant and I’m sure my mother reading it to me hadn’t got a clue what it meant, but that was interesting and mysterious and a deep thought.”