Rupert Everett returns to the cinema in his directorial debut with The Happy Prince. Everett, who also wrote the script, describes the film as a different look at the life of Oscar Wilde and it recently opened TWIST: Seattle Queer Film Festival. The film opens everywhere on October 26th! Get more info here.
Rupert Everett has starred on screens large and small in Dorian Grey, The Importance of Being Earnest, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Dangerous Liaisons and more. He even starred as Oscar Wilde in the stage production of The Judas Kiss revived at London’s Hampstead Theatre.
Films description from TWIST: Seattle Queer Film Festival –
The Happy Prince focuses on the last years of the life of the infamous poet, author, and playwright Oscar Wilde (Dorian Grey, The Importance of Being Earnest). Now suffering from the effects of two years of hard labor, poverty stricken, and alienated from his wife Constance (Emma Watson) and children, Wilde (Rupert Everett, who also directed) finds his way back to his playboy love Lord Alfred Douglas, better known as Bosie (Colin Morgan); his devoted former lover Robbie (Edwin Thomas); and loyal friend Reggie (Colin Firth). Traveling from Dieppe to Naples to Paris, Wilde survives thanks to his wit and a bohemian, streetwise underground he entertains with panache. Still getting into trouble in his final days, Wilde is depicted with the affection and dark tragedy fitting of the gay king of nineteenth-century English literature.
Everett took some time to speak with us about the filmmaking process, the difficulty in funding independent cinema, being openly gay and life in general. Take a look at our interview below:
Earle Dutton (ED): What made you tackle to subject of Oscar Wilde as your directorial debut?
Rupert Everett (RE): In literary terms, he is a character that I adore. I suppose in terms of being a gay man, he is like a patron saint or Christ figure, almost. He seemed to me, while I was writing the script back in 2007, the obvious character for me to pour all of myself into in a way.
ED: I know that you have done a lot of work on the subject, but what makes this film different than the ones before it?
RE: Well, there are three other films about Oscar Wilde and they all deal with the period in his life when he was very successful and a huge star. I find the period in his life when he is a fallen star more interesting. My story is a lot about a kind of rock star on the skids. Wilde to me is a kind of vagabond, a fantastic kind of tinker character. I found this exciting and different from the other characterizations in the cinema.
ED: Have you been to Père Lachaise Cemetery to kiss the tombstone of Oscar Wilde as has become the custom?
RE: I have been to Père Lachaise several times. In fact, I was there also when the tombstone was covered in glass because too many people were kissing it and it was being worn away (laughter).
ED: How does it feel now that your directorial debut is under your belt?
RE: It feels exciting. It is great to be getting some good feedback about the film. That is amazing. I am now excited to try to get another film together.
ED: Do you have an idea about your next project?
RE: Yes, I have written a script and I am working on getting it set up right now.
ED: What was the biggest challenge of this project?
RE: Really, to be quite honest, it is raising the money. It is very difficult particularly in Europe. Independent cinema is an uphill struggle. It took me many years to finally pull it together. In one sense, the actual making of the film and the writing of the script, the creative parts were tiny little spaces at the beginning and the end of this gigantic process of raising money.
ED: What would you like people to take away from this film when they leave the theater?
RE: I think it is a wonderful story about bigotry, human nature, and cruelty. It is also a wonderful story about the first out-gay man in modern history. The thing about Wilde in exile is that everyone knew he was a homosexual. That changed the image of homosexuality to the world at large. To me, he is the start of the gay liberation movement. He is someone terribly important no matter who you, are as a matter of fact. He is a beacon of freedom fighting in a way.
ED: Was it challenging to act in and direct this film?
RE: It was easier in a way because of having so much time leading up to the actual making of the film. Over the 10 years of trying to raise the money, I got to know the story pretty well. Well, even backwards actually. Also during that period I performed as Oscar Wilde in the theater. I got to really know the character inside out by the time I started directing the movie. I didn’t really have to think about myself in the same I would have done if I had directed as soon as I wrote it.
ED: How does it feel to have this as such an important film at LGBTQ film fests right now?
RE: Great! It feels amazing. The thing that is most exciting for me is for it to play to younger people and to turn them on to our history. I think the context of history gives us a great deal of empowerment. I think it makes us feel our feet more firmly on the ground. It is one of the things that is more and more missing in the modern world. The exciting thing for me is to have the opportunity to show other people this story and hopefully infuse them with my own fascination and the inspiration I found in the character myself as a gay man.
ED: Are there any other LGBTQ historical figures that you think we should really learn more about?
RE: I think the more we know about our history, the more empowered we feel about now. We realize just how far we have come. We have moved giant gigantic strides in our community. Our current history is a blip on the trajectory of human growth. I think history gives us a wonderful opportunity to feel great and also vigilant. This story of Oscar Wilde represents only half across the spectrum of our global gay day by day experience. In three quarters of the world it is still a life and death challenge. Things could change in our own countries too. We have to be vigilant. History gives us a great deal of empowerment and offers us a lens through which to look at our oncoming problems in a different way.
ED: Do you see yourself reflected in the Oscar Wilde character or story?
RE: Up to a point, I guess. We are all reflected in the great historical characters. He is a biblical character in a way. He has all these human qualities that we all have. He has a lot of faults. Most of us have the same ones, I think. Most of us manage to wing it and get away with it. He didn’t.
ED: Do you feel empowered by being openly gay in your personal life?
RE: Yes definitely. I think for me it has been a fascinating journey, even if bumpy. I think the bumps are as interesting as the flat surfaces (laughter).
ED: In closing, do you have a message for LGBTQ youth?
RE: I don’t know that I am really capable of having a message except for I am dying to connect with them. I am dying for them to see this film. I hope that my enthusiasm and fascination about our history kind of goes across the footlights and into the hearts of the young people.
Connect With Rupert Everett’s The Happy Prince