Edinburgh International Book Festival
On 18 August 2013
Review by David Chadderton
Actor Rupert Everett spoke to a packed Main Theatre at the Edinburgh International Book Festival about his latest memoir, Vanished Years, a follow-up to his frank, candid first volume Red Carpets and Banana Skins, published in 2007.
The session was chaired by Guardian chief arts writer Charlotte Higgins, who, it has to be said, didn't just encourage him to be a bit naughty but deliberately pushed him towards the ruder (in both senses) anecdotes and stories. She introduced his new book as dishing the dirt on the world of celebrity and gave some examples, including where he says that Richard Curtis is to Blair's Britain what Leni Riefenstahl was to Hitler's Germany.
Everett spoke very warmly of his early acting years with the Glasgow Citizens Theatre. This was at a time when the notorious Gorbals estate was still standing with its "brilliant, beautiful architecture". He said it was "run by highbrow queers" who put on the most challenging plays and didn't talk down to their audience, but the plays had to finish by 10:20 or the audience would leave to catch the last bus.
He said his acting career has always been up and down with long gaps between work and so he took up writing to fill the time (he said much like a woman may take up knitting) and now writes more than he acts. Ideally he would like to write pieces to act himself. He believes his career in Hollywood at the moment to be non-existent; for the last ten years, every job he has had he made for himself.
His most acclaimed role in recent years is on stage as Oscar Wilde iin David Hare's The Judas Kiss, which he originally took as he had been seeking finance for a film about Wilde and financers had asked him how on earth Everett could play him. Since the play's success, the same people say he was born to play Wilde. He said he may continue to perform Hare's play as he doesn't think he will get a better part.
Everett spoke of his military, disciplined background and upbringing, to which he thought show business would provide an antidote but it is also militarist and organised. He said that public schools existed to prepare its students for Empire, however when asked whether it was difficult growing up gay in a Catholic boarding school, he said it was Heaven, "like being in Club Med".
Amongst all of his cheeky celebrity anecdotes (the reason that Madonna no longer speaks to him became a running gag) there were more serious moments. The piece that he read from his new book was a very moving and shocking story, nicely written and read, about his visit to an AIDS hospital in Russia. In response to an audience question, he said he agrees with Stephen Fry about the need to protest about Russian treatment of lesbians and gay men, and possibly also to boycott the Winter Olympics.
He said of the job of an actor, "we're only happy hookers". He said he is too scared to read his reviews, and the ideal situation is for other people to read them and ring him up. However he said he feels sorry for theatre critics in Britain as, unlike opera and dance critics, they only see "Cambridge English Lit" fare and not a range of work from around the world. He barely acknowledged Higgins's mention of the Edinburgh International Festival, and she could perhaps have added the Manchester International Festival.
Vanished Years by Rupert Everett was released by Abacus on 2 May 2013.