An Interview with Rupert Everett
...Let's have a series, just for Rupert.
Languid, superior, rude, camp: he was born to the role.
-- London Evening Standard
British actor Rupert Everett seems to have found his perfect role in Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking.
His performance has been described as "excellent," "arresting," and "especially convincing;" London's Sunday Times found Everett's Holmes " a compelling, brilliant, darkly original character, much closer to the original stories than to deerstalkers and meerschaums and Basil Rathbone. Everett was dangerously cerebral and on the edge. He had the uncomfortable feeling of being a man both out of time and place, awkward in his own skin, placating demons with the distraction of crime. It was all done with minimal business and dramatic movement, just a steady intensity."
The multitalented Everett -- actor on stage (Another Country, The Picture of Dorian Gray), film (An Ideal Husband, Shakespeare in Love, My Best Friend's Wedding) and television (he recently wrapped up a guest stint on ABC's Boston Legal) -- also writes seriously. His two novels -- Hello, Darling, Are You Working? and The Hairdressers of St. Tropez will be followed by an autobiography due to be published in 2006. He speaks three languages, has performed as a singer and worked as a model, and plays the piano. He was the voice of Prince Charming in Shrek 2 and also does a voiceover in the new Chronicles of Narnia, opening in December 2005.
While in New York on a press junket for Sherlock Holmes, Everett chatted with Masterpiece Theatre:
Did you read Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes stories when you were young?
A little bit. Not an enormous amount. I knew a few of them; you obviously can't not know about them. They're such stock stories -- particularly for the English -- but even for Russian people. You know, they make films about Sherlock Holmes in Russia, in Russian. He's English, it all takes place in England... Even through Communist times they made Sherlock Holmes films.
There seems to be a consensus that, at least physically, you are perfect for the role of Holmes. Had you ever entertained the notion that you'd like to play Holmes someday?
No, never. When this came along I thought, 'Oh, that's a really fun idea.' But it wasn't something I had ever thought about.
What was your reaction when you were offered the role?
I explained what I wanted to do with the part... I wanted it to have psychological development... I think one of the problems with stories like this is you spend a lot of time telling people about train times and when so-and-so was here and when this happened and when that happened... It can leave very little time actually, practically speaking, for psychological development of the characters... I very much liked the idea of the story -- being involved with class and wealth and sexual perversion -- all that was great.
How did you approach such an iconic role?
I think it's fun playing a part that lots of other people have played, in a way. You know, everybody's done Sherlock Holmes -- lots of weird freaks apart from just me.
How much of the Holmes that we see is your interpretation and how much is the director's or the screenwriters?
I think it's almost all theirs. It's a pretty obvious role, really. We talked a lot about it beforehand. It went on for a long time before we did the actual shoot, just getting the script together and all that kind of stuff... It's difficult being involved in the creation of something, actually... It is a great role. It's lovely and great to have done it... I don't know that I'd want to make a career out of Sherlock Holmes though.
What about the difference between doing period pieces and contemporary stuff? Do you have any preference?
To be honest, no. A good job is really my preference, yeah, if I'm going to work. Something that has a bit of meat to it and something that's playable -- period or modern. I've done a lot of period stuff but that's mostly because, in England, we get off on a lot of period stuff, but it's not any kind of particular choice. That's where a lot of the work is. I find there aren't that many options as an actor.
You started acting fairly young --
I went to drama school when I was 17, yes...
What are you going to be doing when you're not acting? You're writing...
I'm writing my book and I have to finish it by the end of January.
You have a publisher, who's waiting for it?
Yes. And then I'm actually going to do a play in London when my book comes out ... and then I'll see... I'm not sure...
When you do a period piece, do you make accommodations? Were people different one hundred years ago than they are now?
I've always wondered. Yes, I think they were different and -- they must have been, mustn't they? I always ask that question when I go to a place like Versailles -- you wonder what they were doing... I guess they were regular people; they just didn't have all the same issues. I think we're very much more blunted than they probably were. As every year goes by we're more and more dull. I think we've been dulled by capitalism. We're just blobs now -- we're so worried about how we can keep paying the lease on the car, the mortgage, the lease on the toaster and all that. You can't really think about much else. If you lose that, you lose the whole lot.
So I think someone like Sherlock Holmes -- privileged -- he wasn't rich but he didn't have to worry in terms of survival. I guess he was a different kind of person in a way. He's a different kind of character anyway. He's a criminal and a crime fighter, that's the thing that's interesting about him in a way -- equally affectionate toward a murderer or toward the victim... He doesn't really seem to have a judgmental side to him, I think that's what's interesting.
He's more of a scientist...
Yeah, he's observing the whole thing in a way, and that's how he's so successful at it.
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