Hello darlings, I'm back

Rupert Everett has been an actor, a model, a pop star, a victim of his own fame. Now he's written a novel about hairdressers. By Michael Arditti

Actor, novelist, pop star, model... anyone trying to guess Rupert Everett's profession by counting plum stones would end up very confused. The actor who sprang to fame as everyone's favourite public schoolboy in Another Country, followed by memorable screen performances in Duet for One, Dance with a Stranger and The Comfort of Strangers, and a definitive stage performance as Nicky Lancaster in Nol Coward's The Vortex, became, in the late Eighties, a victim of his own celebrity. Prematurely written off as a name fit merely for mini-series and gossip columns, he is now back with leading roles in two major films, The Madness of King George and Prt--Porter, and his controversial second novel, The Hairdressers of St Tropez.

A Renaissance man with a Regency raffishness, he is one of the new breed of multi-faceted actors such as "painters" Tony Curtis and Michael Grandage and "writers" Simon Callow and Anthony Sher. He is disarmingly frank about his motivation. "I suppose it's because acting's not a full-time job. After a certain point in my particular, rather humdrum, position in the food chain, there simply isn't enough meat to sustain me for 24 hours a day, 12 months a year. I also thought that probably my only possibility in the cinema would be to find material for myself. So I wrote my first novel, fully intending to turn it into a screenplay, which I'm now halfway through."

He wrote that first novel, Hello Darling Are You Working?, at a time when he felt "bricked in emotionally", particularly by his profession. "When you say `I love you' into someone's eyes on screen, in a sense you're destroying the next `I love you' experience because it becomes a sense memory. I feel there's much more emotion for me in my writing than in my life. There are only three emotions that I can feel for myself now: anger, fear and panic, especially anger."

Described by one critic as "like Nancy Mitford on ecstasy", Hello Darling was a brittle, camp and charming comedy about a young actor, Rhys Waveral, who bears a noticeable resemblance to Everett himself. "I very much wanted to write a sort of What's Up Doc? alternative screwball story, with larger- than-life characters, about my teens in London and becoming an actor and everything." Rhys is also a part-time hustler, a profession of which he has had first-hand experience. "Although the hustling episodes in the book weren't mine, I did get my first offer outside Gloucester Road station when I was 16. And I was very pleased with the money!"

Despite sharing a central character, the transsexual Peach Delight, the humour of The Hairdressers of St Tropez is less screwball and more gallows. Shifting between the late Eighties and an apocalyptic future, it marries the threats of Aids, the National Front and ecological disaster to a Firbankian tale of rivalry beneath the dryers, sexual excess and substance abuse. The genesis of the book lay in characters whom he knew when he had a house in St Tropez and in the stories he invented around them to tell to an 80-year-old friend, whose own end was as grizzly as any in the book. "He disappeared and was found nine months later behind a tree, where he had been eaten by foxes."

Aids looms large in the novel, and Everett has already been savaged in the gay press for his irreverent treatment of the subject. He angrily rebuts his critics: "In the book, I didn't want to deal with the horror of Aids, because that's understood when you see the word written down. It didn't need to have a paragraph saying, `Isn't that shocking? Isn't that macabre?' I wanted to look at it in a different way."

He sees the Aids crisis as part of a wider breakdown. "I really think that it's the beginning of our bodies not tolerating the atmosphere that we live in. We're ruining the planet." In St Tropez, he was very aware of what he describes as "the slow fade to urbanity". "You'd go away for a month and be driving back from Toulon airport and find that a new roundabout had been built.

"Every year you'd come out in different rashes from the new algae in the sea. That, in the end, encouraged me to leave the area. It was too depressing to watch at close quarters how we're ruining the earth."

He originally moved to France out of a deep disillusion with the state of Britain and, in particular, its theatre. But beneath his graphically expressed contempt ("The British theatre sucks") lies a heartfelt attempt to analyse the problems inherent in the medium. "I don't think theatre works in this age of television, where you can see even bad actors being natural. It's so difficult now even to offer a cup of tea in a way that's both real and audible to the audience at the back of the upper circle. Theatre is film in long-shot. It is only meaningful to regular theatre- goers. Otherwise there's no connection with the way people see acting on TV."

He attempted to remedy this in his performance in The Vortex. "I tried to reinvent my acting... to make all that stagey dialogue real." His Nicky Lancaster was an extraordinary portrait of drug-debilitation and neurosis; but it drew complaints of inaudibility from that same upper circle. Everett believes that the problem lay elsewhere; it was not so much that they could not hear, but that they could only hear what they wanted to.

"My criticism of the West End audience is that they only want to hear a lot of perfectly modulated sounds."

So he has pursued his stage career at the Glasgow Citizens, "a theatre whose politics I very much admire", most recently as Flora Goforth (treading in the heels of Tallulah Bankhead and Elizabeth Taylor) in Tennessee Williams's The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Any More. The unusual casting, an attempt to draw parallels with Aids ("We played it basically as a queen with dementia who thought he was a famous old actress on the side of a mountain"), was highly acclaimed; and Everett is keen to take it elsewhere. "But only if I could play to people who are under 25, who buy records or go to movies... not 50-year-old stockbrokers whom I wouldn't use my saliva to spit on if they were on fire in the street."

He aimed more directly at the youth market in the mid-1980s with an ill- fated attempt to launch himself as a pop-singer. "I made three records. The last one was the `Hooray Rap'. It was the time of the Summer of Love, raves and house music and my manager, Simon Napier Bell, said I should make a record based on The Vortex. So I used lines from the play over my own music; and I sang the story of a junkie who could not stop taking drugs. It should have taken off... it could have if I'd been stronger; but I was so terrorised by the reaction to everything I did that I became as pathetic as everyone thought I was. That was when I went to live in France.

Eight years on, he would like to return to England but is prevented by the quarantine laws for his dog. "Even if I smuggled it in, I'd be denounced by some do-gooding neighbour. Nothing better illustrates our insular mentality than this obsession with rabies."

In the meantime, he continues a globetrotting existence, hoping for a part in Bertolucci's new film in Italy and planning a trip to Hollywood to research his new novel. For the days when he wrote simply to provide himself with material are gone; his ambitions are now far larger. "I think we're living in a fascinating time; there's so much extraordinary stuff happening. All I want is to improve as a writer so that, one day, I may be a really good witness."

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own