Walking Rupert Everett's 'Red Carpet': Actor-turned-author claims "Hollywood is a mirage" and "not very relevant"

September 22nd, 2006

'The gay guy from that movie' tells all
Rupert Everett hates Hollywood.

The British actor, Rupert Everett whose sing-along sketch of “I Say a Little Prayer” in the comedy hit “My Best Friend's Wedding” was a classic scene-stealer, says he's sick of the movie industry's hypocrisy and homophobia.

He's even tired of celebrity — the whole glittering illusion deliciously evoked and eviscerated in his candid new autobiography, “Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins.” The book, just out in England, is scheduled to come out in the United States in January 2007.

“Hollywood is a mirage,” says Everett, 47, reclining in jeans and plaid shirt on the sofa of a London hotel suite. Movie stars are “blobs who don't say anything, aren't allowed to say anything. They are paid to shut up.” Fortunately, Everett can't help talking. The book, for which he reportedly received a seven-figure advance, is a string of glittering anecdotes with edge, bonbons with a bitter center.

Everett is a waspish observer of the A-list, from Madonna (“she oozed sex appeal”) to Julia Roberts (“beautiful and tinged with madness”) to Sharon Stone (“utterly unhinged”). The book is a sort of rough guide to late 20th-century high life — and low life — that moves from London to Paris to New York, St. Tropez, L.A.'s Laurel Canyon and Miami's South Beach. There are walk-on parts for Andy Warhol, Elizabeth Taylor, Orson Welles, Bob Dylan, Donatella Versace and a host of other luminaries. Everett seems to have known everyone, remembered all and recounted everything. Almost everything. He skates quickly over his brief stint as a London hustler, although he cheerfully acknowledges that he stalked actor Ian McKellen. The openly gay actor also discloses his handful of heterosexual affairs — with Paula Yates, wife of Bob Geldof, French actress Beatrice Dalle and Hollywood star Susan Sarandon. The book is a feast for gossip fans, and Everett is an articulate and charming raconteur with a knack for a memorable image. At one point, a swimming pool is described as “shaped like a Xanax.”

“I think what people will be really surprised about is the writing,” said Antonia Hodgson, Everett's editor at British publisher Little, Brown. “It's not just another celebrity book. He's not so much interested in spilling the beans about a particular celebrity, but about showing what celebrity does to those people.” Everett says he was inspired by “The Moon's a Balloon,” David Niven's literate, witty memoir of Hollywood's golden age. “I also loved the prewar frenzy of Evelyn Waugh, that feeling of the end of the world coming,” says Everett. “Entertainment is becoming the great decoy — we are so entertained, it's almost impossible for us to think about anything else. The only thing that has continuity in the news is Jennifer Lopez's bottom.”

'[I] lied about everything'

The book is also the story of Everett's lifelong flight from the conformity of an upper-class English upbringing that saw him sent away to a Catholic boarding school at the age of 7. He recounts his early career as a youthful rebel and party animal, friend of prostitutes, addicts, divas and thieves. He says he has always been drawn to “the freaks, the overdoses and the suicides.” Everett has often complained of Hollywood's homophobia, arguing that his sexuality has stopped him from landing the leading-man roles offered to his countryman, Hugh Grant. But he's also highly self-critical. Everett emerges from the book as ruthless and driven, a bit of a monster who confesses he “lied about everything. My age. My name. My background.” For all his drive to be a star, Everett is ambivalent about success. The book recounts his highs — his breakthrough as an English schoolboy turned Soviet spy in “Another Country,” his Hollywood triumph as Julia Roberts' gay pal “My Best Friend's Wedding” — and the many lows. These include the disastrous rock 'n' roll saga “Hearts of Fire” and “The Next Best Thing,” a limp comedy-drama co-starring Madonna. At the height of his fame, after “My Best Friend's Wedding,” he is recognized on the street as “the gay guy from that movie.” He yearns to be taken seriously as an actor, laments the superficiality of Hollywood, yet has reportedly resorted to Botox injections to maintain his lean, unlined good looks. It's working. The sculpted cheekbones are intact, the big, dark eyes as luminous as ever.

These days, he travels the world on behalf of the Global Fund against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and declares show biz “not very relevant” — even though he's got a play, a movie and “a couple of TV things” in the works. “Life behind a velvet rope — I never enjoyed it,” he says. “I always thought an actor should be like a bodybuilder. His life should be like a muscle — it should be exercised and flexed and worked.” Those he admired included Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and James Dean, and actors like them. “You felt they had experienced everything,” he says. “Their eyes were shocked and dead and alive and glowing like coals at the same time. And I think that was through experience, using your life as a tool. That's the way I wanted to conduct myself.”

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