Roundtable Interview with Rupert Everett

Writer, Director, & Star of “The Happy Prince”

Dallas, Texas, October 19, 2018

 

RS:  What led you to working on this project?

RE:  My feeling was that Wilde was not that grave, serious, intellectual.  The previous works have been more reverential, treating him more as an icon.  But he was more of a character.  I thought I had a good angle on making a new version.  Oscar Wilde was an entertainer; he loved performing, even in exile.

RS:  What about the deathbed conversion to Christianity?

RE:  Wilde flirted with Catholicism all his life.  But he never actually joined.  And of course it rejected him, along with the rest of society, when he was imprisoned for being a homosexual.  He even applied to stay in a Jesuit monastery after his release from prison, and they refused. 

RS:  So even though the priest says, “There's been many a repentance between the stirrup and the ground,” you don't think of Wilde as being an authentic convert?

RE:  That bit actually happened, as did the funny bit about Bosie falling into the grave.  There's nothing imagined in the whole story.  It's all referenced in some way, except for Oscar standing on the table and singing.  But I wanted to draw a parallel between his previous life of stage fame, and how he continued to perform after his exile.  But he's not a victim, he retains his fascination for life, and his curiosity.  He made the most of his life.  And that's what I find inspiring about him.  But once he went back to Bosie, it was all over for him.  No chance of rehabilitation after that.  And no more getting back with his wife or his sons. 

RS:  He can only imagine them on his deathbed.

RE:  Yes, and apologize to them.

RS:  Very poignant.

RE:  He said at the end “I wrote when I knew nothing of life.  Now that I have lived it, there's nothing to write.” But he was also incredibly lazy.  Depression and laziness go together.  Especially at the end. But he could still come up with these incredible quips, like “I'm dying beyond my means.”  And when someone else said of Bosie, “He doesn't know the value of anything,” Wilde responded, “Nor does he know the price, unfortunately.”

RS:  How do you convey brilliance, in a film?

RE:  Well, you can't really, and I decided not to try.  I thought I must concentrate on what's happening to him psychologically, and not obsess about it being clever enough or funny enough or witty enough.

RS:  As a Director, did you insist on literal adherence to your script?

RE:  Yes.

RS:  Nobody could really improvise?

RE:  No, I didn't want any improvisation.  Rather strict about that really.  Especially for this 19th century dialogue.

RS:  What was the most challenging thing about being both Director and actor?

RE:  The most important thing a Director can do is set the pace.  It's not about characterization, it's about pacing.  Go too slow and everybody in the audience loses patience.  Go too fast, and the audience gives up because they can't keep up.  So pacing is paramount.  The challenge was being the Director and keeping up the pace for all the other actors, but then I would have to jump into a scene, like on the deathbed, and I would have to make a difficult transition.

RS:  Who's the Oscar Wilde of our generation?

RE:  That's a difficult question.  He was so much a man of his time, but I'm not sure anyone today is anything like him, especially the pure genius of something like “The Importance of Being Earnest,” which was the top of his form.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association