World-famous actor, writer and director Rupert Everett was in North Norfolk on Saturday 25th May where he accepted the invitation to be an Honorary Patron of Wells Maltings, the brand new arts, heritage and community centre which opened on Staithe Street in Wells-next-the-Sea last summer.
Commenting on the Maltings, he said:
“I think it’s amazing this theatre, the sound is very good and the screen’s very nice; it’s fantastic.”
The internationally-renowned film star was the guest of honour at a special fundraising event which raised around £3,000 for Burnham Overy Village Hall’s playground equipment and Wells Maltings’ community programmes.
Asked what Norfolk means to him, he said:
“Well, I was born in Brancaster, and there’s something about the place you were born that is very peculiar and through my childhood it was one of the constants in my life, being here, and I feel in a way that Norfolk is my home.”
After a drinks reception, guests moved to the auditorium where Simon Daykin, director of Wells Maltings, introduced Rupert Everett who, in turn, introduced his film The Happy Prince (15), the story of celebrated poet and playwright Oscar Wilde depicted in his final years. Rupert Everett wrote, starred in and directed the movie, which also stars Colin Firth, Colin Morgan, Edwin Thomas and Emily Watson.
Speaking to the audience again during a Q&A session after the screening, Rupert Everett, who will celebrate his 60th birthday later this month, confided: “I have to be most proud of this because it became a huge part of my life, 10 years of my life, and that’s a sixth of my life spent trying to make this portrait of Oscar Wilde and this has pushed me as far as I can go.”
Rupert Everett explained: “For me Wilde really is the Christ figure. The thing that’s exceptional about Oscar Wilde is that he was the first ‘out’ homosexual man in modern history, in that he was a very famous person, his scandal was enormous, he was known by everyone in the street… and you could look at him, in Paris, walking down the boulevard, and you could say: “that is a homosexual”… and so for me, as someone who’s negotiated show business and life and family as a homosexual, Wilde is really the beginning of the gay liberation movement.”
A prolific actor and advocate of gay rights, Rupert Everett became a household name after starring in the hit film Another Country in 1984 which tells the story of Guy Bennett (Rupert Everett) and Tommy Judd (Colin Firth), teenage friends at an elite English public school during the summer of 1931.
Rupert Everett won a BAFTA for the movie, which propelled him into the big time and he went on to star in a host of other films, including My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997) with Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz, and The Next Best Thing (2000) with Madonna.
He is currently working on Uncle Vanya, the Chekhov play in which he stars and directs, which will open at the Theatre Royal in Bath on 19th July before moving to London. Rupert Everett has starred in many other theatre productions, most notably David Hare’s play, The Judas Kiss, in which he played Oscar Wilde in both London and America.
On 25th May 1895, Oscar Wilde was taken to prison, having been put on trial for gross indecency and having been sentenced to two years’ hard labour. The Happy Prince – which is anything but happy – picks up the story after Wilde leaves prison and travels to Paris (France had decriminalised homosexuality during the French Revolution).
Rupert Everett said: “I don’t know how everyone else feels, but I’m very pro-Europe” and added: “I started going to Paris when I was about 16 or 17 and Paris had a great impact on me.”
The dark, moving movie shows Everett as a puffy-faced, ailing, long-haired Wilde looking back at his past, his body failing but his wit still sharp as he unsuccessfully tries to reconcile with his wife Constance (Emily Watson), and reprises his ill-fated love affair with Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas, which landed him in the dock.
Rupert Everett is convincing as Wilde, a shadow of his former self, but whose witty repartee and flashes of humour still shine through. And despite his shabby appearance as the penniless, later-life author, the film still contains hints of Rupert Everett’s famous good looks and irreverence, devil-may-care attitude, sense of fun and glint in his eye, which also came through loud and clear at the event at Wells Maltings on Saturday.
photos by Matthew Usher