Exclusive: Wave rider

Rupert Everett reveals career ups, downs in juicy memoir

By Chris Azzopardi

Few pros emerged for Rupert Everett after co-starring with Madonna in the box-office bomb "The Next Best Thing." It fizzled faster than an ice cube in boiling water and halted the English actor's career. And Everett won't deny that.

"It was a kind of," he starts and hesitantly continues, "a slow motion car crash."

Yet, after also playing gay alongside Julia Roberts in 1997's "My Best Friend's Wedding," the aftermath of "The Next Best Thing" served as Everett's wake-up call to venture outside of typecast roles. Unfortunately, for the actor who chronicles his bumpy career in the juicy memoir "Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins," it took a dud to realize that.

"How long can you go on playing that role?" says Everett, 47, from his Miami home. "That's the trouble."

Running the gay gamut

Perhaps filmmakers thought that Everett, one of few out actors in the late '80s, fit a niche that straight actors couldn't - or didn't - touch. But there's more to it, Everett insists. The actor knows that's just how Hollywood works. Once he ran the gay gamut, filmmakers wanted him to repeat the part again and again and again.

"Playing the gay guy in films is short-lived because people get bored of it - and you get bored of it," he says.

In fact, the actor was offered Stanley Tucci's queeny fashionista role in last year's dramedy "The Devil Wears Prada." But he turned it down. Critics praised the flick. Meryl Streep garnered an Oscar nod. And Everett thought it was lousy.

"I was really pleased not to be in it," he admits. "(But) there are some movies I wish I had been in but I never got the opportunity." Everett wanted to be cast in "The Mission," a mid-'80s film set in South America where two Jesuit missionaries save an Indian tribe from slavery.

"It's a lovely movie and I would've loved to be in that," he says. "(But) I try not to kind of dwell too much on things. No point really."

But it's hard not to dwell on the fate of Everett's career, with several professional peaks (a budding Versace and Valentino modeling career) and some damaging dives (shooting a blank as a rock star), had he remained a closet case. After all, the actor isn't coy about admitting the homophobia in Hollywood (a feeling he emphasizes in his memoir), where male stars are publicized because of links to fetching actresses, or brutal break-ups, or nonsensically named children.

"It's a trophy business," Everett reveals.

Calm seas ahead

Everett's career has seesawed as much as his relationships. In "Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins" the former party boy - who once admitted to being a sex machine to both genders - reveals a six-year affair with British television presenter Paula Yates. He says his heterosexual affairs "mystified" him, but, then again, so do most of his ties.

"It's very complicated," he spills, "because you're never very sure if you're with the real person. You're looking at the person through two very complicated images: the image of yourself trying to second guess what they're going to think of you and the image you have of them and how they should be."

Along with Yates, Everett's been linked with Susan Sarandon and French actress Beatrice Dalle. But does Everett fancy both sexes? "My heterosexual relationships weren't really - ," he starts and backpedals: "I was pretty much gay during them, too."

Everett was young. He wanted to sail the seas - all of them. Ideally, this is living, he says. Labels? That's rubbish.

"It's part of life's tragedy," he says. "Now more than ever we're forced into categories and labels."

He says then, after being branded, we're nudged into subcategories: Top or bottom? Leather queen? Femme fairy?

"It's just an endless quest that the brain has for security and the brain thinks you're going to have security by categorizing yourself. I think that's a shame. I think I was being adventurous."

The seas have calmed for Everett, as his memoir gradually unravels his London callboy lifestyle to Hollywood madness to his more settled state. Now, Everett rides the non-gay wave, reprising his voice-over for Prince Charming in the spring release "Shrek The Third" and beginning work on another autobiography, a screenplay and his third novel.

"(My life's) not so party-ish. That's true," Everett admits and laughs. "I'm quite old now so I'd probably have a heart attack if I partied too much."

"Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins"

by Rupert Everett

Warner Books

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