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    Rupert Everett Talks About Being Wilde and Directing The Happy Prince

    By Gary M. Kramer–

    Out gay writer and actor Rupert Everett delivers a fine directorial debut with The Happy Prince, a trenchant drama that has him playing Oscar Wilde in the last years of his life. The film, which opens in the Bay Area October 12, begins with Wilde being released from prison in 1897 after two years of hard labor for gross indecency with men. His literary executor, Robbie Ross (a terrific Edwin Thomas), and his friend, Reggie Turner (Colin Firth), meet him in France, where he will live out his days. However, Wilde will also reconnect with his lover, Alfred Bosie Douglas (Colin Morgan), whom he loves—despite Bosie’s father sending Wilde to prison.

    Everett excels at playing the playwright, dispensing witticisms and observations about his sorry state in life. The performance is matched by a care in the filmmaking. Everett dutifully crafts “The Happy Prince,” giving the film a burnished look that captures both the period and Wilde’s jaundiced, melancholic mood. The actor/writer/director recently chatted with me for the San Francisco Bay Times about playing Wilde and making The Happy Prince.

    Gary M. Kramer: Wilde seems a role you were born to play. How did you identify with Wilde in ways beyond the obvious parallels?

    Rupert Everett: I suppose really because I’ve been gay in this business, you look to other characters who are the same. They become inspiration. I was trying to write a film at 2007. My career was at a standstill, and I wasn’t getting parts. I felt in exile myself from my own business. There was a parallel that enabled me to put myself into the story.

    Gary M. Kramer: Can you talk about your approach to presenting Wilde in the way you do?

    Rupert Everett: For me, what is attractive about him is he’s the last great vagabond of the 19th century, shuffling around Paris and keeping his eye out for victims to catch drinks off of and saying hello to his petty, criminal friends. He used to be amazing, and the most celebrated, but fate has reduced him to being a tramp. I find that to be one of the most romantic stories of the 19th century: the riches to rags and fall of Wilde. It’s incredibly touching and partly because he’s an ordinary human as well as a genius. I love him for his bad qualities as well as his good ones. I think that he didn’t approach life as a victim. Today we worship victimhood. I find that depressing. I think Wilde was not a victim. He carved his own constitution on the street, he was curious about life, had crushes and was tragic and bitter at times, but maintained a sense of humor. It didn’t occur to him to be a victim of his fate. It’s valiant, courageous and very touching.

    Gary M. Kramer: What prompted you to take on this project as your directorial debut?

    Rupert Everett: I didn’t want to [direct] originally. I wrote it for Roger Michell and I approached him and other directors. But after 2½ years, I got a “no” from all of them, and so I decided, f— it. I’ll make it myself.

    The challenges were before the filming, mostly. Raising the money took so long, and I got to so many dead ends, and that was demoralizing. Making the film once it had all been put together was tough, but I knew how I wanted it to be, so I wasn’t unsure, and that was very lucky. There wasn’t anything I didn’t think I could achieve. A good half of a director’s job is done before you start filming, choosing the people: the director of photography, whom I couldn’t make the film without, the production designer, the costumer, the editor, etc., and the actors.

    Gary M. Kramer: The Happy Prince is your sixth collaboration with Colin Firth. You both had feature film debuts in Another Country back in 1984. What can you say working with him?

    Rupert Everett: One of the nice things about getting older is knowing folks for a long time and working together. We had a great laugh doing the St. Trinians films together. I adore Colin. He’s been supportive to me over the making of my film.

    Gary M. Kramer: What are your observations on Wilde’s relationship with Bosie as seen in the film after jail as well as his friendship with Robbie, who truly loves him.

    Rupert Everett: I think Bosie regretted going to Naples. In the film I have them going straight away. In reality, Bosie went on holiday with his mother first. It was halfhearted. Bosie wanted money and didn’t like Wilde without money. The real love is between Robbie and Oscar. Robbie loved him unconditionally, and Oscar didn’t want that, but he realized it too late.

    © 2018 Gary M. Kramer

    Gary M. Kramer is the author of “Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews,” and the co-editor of “Directory of World Cinema: Argentina.” Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer