British screen actor Rupert Everett visited the Belgian coastal city of Ostend and its latest edition of the Ostend Film Festival to promote his latest feature, “The Happy Prince,” which he also wrote and directed. The title refers to a story author Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), published in 1888, and the film is an intimate and deeply felt, tremendously acted tribute to the writer during his final years in exile (mostly France), with Mr. Everett portraying Wilde in a command performance. Other leading roles are played by Colin Firth, Colin Morgan, Edwin Thomas, Emily Watson, and Tom Wilkinson. The film was shot in Germany, Belgium, France and Italy.
A passion project for Mr. Everett, who had already played the leading characters in “An Ideal Husband” (1999) and “The Importance of Being Earnest” (2002), two films based on Oscar Wilde plays. “The Happy Prince” was first announced in 2012, but turned out to be very difficult to finance.
Previously he had also performed in Wilde plays on the stage; it wasn’t until he did “An Ideal Husband” and “The Importance of Being Earnest,” Mr. Everett thought about making a film, focusing on Wilde in exile. The successful side of Oscar Wilde had been told already, but the injustice and the result of what society had done to him, a ‘slow-motion assassination’ as Mr. Everett once described it, that included a conviction for ‘gross indecency’—his indiscreet affair with Lord Alfred Douglas—followed by imprisonment from 1895 until 1897, and then his final three years of so-called freedom, when he was actually running away from the British who thought it was their right to attack him, was a crucial topic in Oscar Wilde’s life that Mr. Everett wanted to describe in detail.
Over the closing credits, you’re confronted with the infuriating information that Oscar Wilde has been posthumously ‘pardoned’ by the British authorities, as in 2017, he was among an estimated 50,000 men pardoned for homosexual acts that were no longer considered offences under the Policing and Crime Act 2017, a.k.a. the Alan Turing law.
Turing’s life story was told earlier in “The Imitation Game” (2014), starring Keira Knightley, and with Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing (1912-1954), the English mathematical genius who tried to crack the German Enigma code with the help from fellow mathematicians.
Due to his hectic schedule, Mr. Everett was not available for interviews at the Festival. Still, before introducing his latest film to the audience, he was honored with a star of his own at Ostend’s Walk of Fame.
Mr. Everett has been a highly appreciated leading actor for over three decades now. His long list of film credits includes “Another Country” (1984) with Colin Firth, “The Comfort of Strangers” (1990) co-starring Christopher Walken and Natasha Richardson, “My Best Friend’s Wedding” (1997) with Julia Roberts, and John Schlesinger’s final film “The Next Best Thing” (2000) with Madonna as his leading lady. He was nominated for two Golden Globes and two BAFTA Awards.
Film Festival Oostende, Ostend (Belgium)
September 11, 2018
“The Happy Prince” (2018, trailer)