Rupert Everett on Oscar Wilde, The Happy Prince and why government pardons of gay ‘offences’ are pathetic

Rupert Everett has rebuked the government’s decision to posthumously pardon thousands of gay and bisexual men, convicted under old homophobic laws, describing it as “rubbish,” and “pathetic and tragic.”

Speaking to PinkNews while promoting his new movie The Happy Prince, the actor and writer also suggested that there needs to be a global movement to support LGBT people working in showbusiness – and that his sexuality “boxed [him] in” when he first came out.

Asked what he thought of the government’s decision to issue posthumous pardons last year, Everett responded: “I think it’s rubbish because a pardon intimates a crime.

“And the fact of the matter is we’ve got beyond the point that we think of homosexual acts as criminal, so something far more radical was needed than a pardon.

“It’s pathetic and tragic.”

Watch the interview below:

The government pardoned 49,000 men convicted for gross indecency in January 2017, including Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde.

Wilde’s later years spent in exile in France – following his imprisonment for committing homosexual acts – serve as the premise for The Happy Prince. Everett wrote, directed, and stars as Wilde in the movie.

The actor also denied that he had advised gay actors not to come out, which he was quoted as saying in a 2009 interview in the Observer

He responded: “I never did that, no.”

Everett added: “I think about actors coming out it’s everybody’s own choice to do exactly what they think is right for them…I never advised anybody to do anything.

“I think advice is one of the most innocuous, toxic things that anyone can inflict on anybody, because we’ve got to all live in our own light.

“In terms of a business like showbusiness you have to know what the risks are and you have to make the decision for yourself.”

Everett said that the needle is being moved for young gay actors in the film industry today, whereas previous generations may have been restricted to the roles they play.

The Happy Prince poster (Lionsgate)

“I think it’s on the move. Certainly if we look across the spectrum of our own world, the Anglo-American world, there’s a gay action star,” he said.”There’s some amazingly talented young gay actors, there are some lesbians and so things are definitely on a kind of move.

“Plus with the #MeToo movement, I think this is going to be a re-evaluation of many things.”

Everett added that “we will need to have ‘Him and Her Too’ movement” for the LGBT community, which he said had already begun.

But he said: “If you go to Germany, for example, there’s not a single out German actor, nor really in France, nor really in Italy. Not really in America either.

“And even the people who we all know are gay here [in the UK], we still don’t really want to make too much out of it so that they can keep doing really good jobs.

Rupert Everett as Oscar Wilde (Lionsgate)

“I think the thing that happened to me was it became – because I was one of the first people out and working in the cinema – it became my identity, my complete identity. So that boxed me in slightly as an actor at that point.

“It was fine. I don’t regret it at all. But I think there’s still obviously chapters to be written in other words.”

Everett discussed his decision to focus on the final years of Wilde’s life in his new film, which he described as a “passion project” dating as far back as 2008.

“All the films made about him all stop the moment when he goes into prison. So I thought, well, the virgin territory is his exile,” he said.

Everett went on to talk about the importance of Wilde’s life to him as an out gay man.

“It’s the story for me to tell, if I was ever going to tell another story,” he added.

“This one is central to me and my life as much as anything else. Because, being gay and working in a fairly aggressively heterosexual world like showbusiness … you can’t fail to find some kind of parallel between that and Oscar Wilde.

“I’m not saying that I’ve suffered and been killed and been imprisoned. I haven’t, and I’m very happy with the way things have gone.

“But it’s certainly always been an inspiration for me, so I feel that my blood is on the tracks, in a way, of the story. And it’s a story that’s very close to me.”

The Happy Prince is out in UK cinemas on June 15