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May 2004
Shrek 2: An Interview with Rupert Everett

By Todd Gilchrist

Shrek 2: An Interview with Rupert Everett

After Rupert Everett stole Julia Roberts' "My Best Friend's Wedding" right from under her as the best friend's best friend, it seemed that a gay actor had finally crossed over into the mainstream and was building a career for himself alongside his straight counterparts, refuting decades of homophobia that persisted in mainstream culture. Sadly, his career didn't quite take off like many expected, and it's only with the upcoming film "Shrek 2" that the actor seems to be regaining footing in Hollywood as an A-list player. Everett talked to Blackfilm.com about the travails of his filmmaking career, and about continuing to work as an actor of merit in an industry that rewards financial rather than creative success.

What is it that attracts you to animated films, apart from the these characters?

Rupert: Well there's also kind of, for an actor, (a) good business to start with. They're, it's a tiny piece of work to do and if you're thinking about keeping your profile going - for that reason they're good things to do. Another reason that's great about them, for me, is that I love cartoons. I think in terms of cinema, when I die, the things (that) I will always remember is, you know, going to the theater when you're a little kid (in the 60s) and those curtains that were always orange. They'd lift from underneath and the thing came out from behind the curtain - anyway, the beginning of those Disney films with the book and the hand opening the book. I mean, I can still really access that feeling. You know, being in that huge open space, dark space and seeing that book opening and hearing that melodious voice going [whispering] "Once upon a time..." THAT, that was when it was really IT for me and once it was after that you'd become like a hooker that has been on a street corner for too long- it's like nothing really gets to you [laughter] in the same like, 100% way.

Why do you think you're usually or often cast as the villain?

Rupert: Because I'm English [laughter]

What did you think of how Prince Charming looked?

Rupert: Well, I didn't think that he looked like me that much but then-

but pretty handsome

Rupert: ...he was nice [laughter]. Laurie [I'm guessing his assistant] said he looked like me-

Would you fancy a character like that?

Rupert: but I didn't think he looked very (much) like me. Although, they filmed you you all the way through - when you're doing the the voices there, they film you. So I was guessing (that) they do take something from you but...

He's really egotistical. None of that is [presumably] coming from you? How much of that is coming from you?

Rupert: I had to build up a lot of ego. [laughter] Yeah, he's got a twist. He reminds me, really, of - I don't know if you (Americans) know of an actor called Terry Thomas. (He's) an old English character actor, he was kind of vocally my role model while I was doing it. You know, that guy who's very brash up until the moment that someone frightens him and then he turns into a whiney, bratty, spoiled child. So Terry Thomas was my, role model, although the character doesn't look like Terry Thomas (at all).

How difficult is it when you're not working with other actors? I mean you're there (in the sound booth) alone.

Rupert: It's very modern. It totally virtual, its like being a computer freak. Its like, you're on your own. You just read your lines and that's it. And that's fine it's nice, actually. You know, it's a different thing. There's no inter-reaction (between actors) coming into it, so I just figure (that) while I'm doing it: "This is it, this is modern, this is virtual. This is what the future is." I mean you're doing everything on your own and you don't even hear - (remembering) Oh yeah! Someone read the other lines to you but its not the real person (co-star).

Weren't you a bit sad that you didn't get the chance to work with Jennifer (Saunders, from Ab Fab)?

Rupert: Um, yeah. I wouldv'e loved to work with her. -

Have you met since?

Rupert: I mean, we were - I went to the same drama school as her and I don't know her very well but I'd see her (around) every once in a while.

Did you see the first Shrek before getting the offer and (if so) what did you think of it?

Rupert: I loved the first Shrek. I think in show business nowadays you can't [????] quite often the most profound reflections of society, really, you know like - you go in to something at the cinema, like I did (as a child) and you think it's about this (subject). Its changed, the whole nature of the cinema has changed so much now. I think, sometimes, that when you went, when I went, as a kid, you saw people on the screen that you identified with. Now you see people on screen whose life you want to have, so its a very different feeling when you go to see one now. Because its made live-action into a kind of empty void more or less. Then you get the cartoons and suddenly cartoons, the characters, have much more dimension(s), much more humanity and they reflect many more of the dilemmas that we have going on in our lives at the moment whereas the actual live-action movies are just selling us success. So, non e of the characters really have any...they're all totally surreal in live action, whereas these ones (cartoons), which are surreal, are much more realistic (emotionally)...

they have innner struggle...

Rupert: They reflect ideas in things, you know? The thing in Shrek about ugliness and beauty- and they actually do reflect things that are central to what's going on in the culture.

You weren't allowed - why was that?

Rupert: Because, I think in a trophy business, you can maybe be black but you can't, definitely not yet, be gay.

What would the "next step" be?

Rupert: The next step would be to play a major leading straight role in a movie.

You talked about playing James Bond- you'd like to play a gay James Bond?

Rupert: No, I'd like to play James Bond straight. -

They're still casting for that, you know? You seriously have no desire to pursue it?

Rupert: They (Bond fans) would burn down MGM if they (the studios) got a gay actor to play James Bond. [laughter]

So that was a misunderstood/ false rumor that you wanted to develop an alternative James Bond project?

Rupert: No, it wasn't. That never happened.

Getting back to what we were talking about earlier...

Rupert: NO! [joking]

Dealing with the fact that the first Shrek had inverted human expectations, how attracted were you to the idea that you'd be playing Prince Charming - the quintessence of.(pompousness)

Rupert: I don't think you should think of yourself as a gay man playing Prince Charming - you're an actor playing Prince Charming. The interesting thing about Prince Charming in this film is that he's NOT Prince Charming. He's a snake. So the thing that's interesting to an actor is, really, the fun you can have playing a character that is stereotypically one thing and then you're going to discover(that)there's another (facet to him). That gives you a lot of opportunities as an actor. In terms of being "a gay man" playing Prince Charming, the only reflection that you could possibly have about that would be that its not really worth commenting on. [*I think*]

But don't you think that Prince Charming is a closet case? A little too close to his mom...he would never (really) want Fiona

Rupert: He would never REALLY want her? Well let's hope, if you say nice things about me to everyone and all the focus people, I'll prove it in the third one (Shrek 3). [laughter]

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