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Everett, Rupert (b. 1959)  
 
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Since 1989 when he came out in a press interview in Paris, Rupert Everett has defined and re-defined himself for the mass media as a gay male actor, being notably open about his homosexuality. While Everett's career has led to heightened attention and debate regarding Hollywood's acceptance of openly gay movie stars, it has deflected attention from his own considerable accomplishments as a screen and stage actor.

After a stunning box office and critical success in My Best Friend's Wedding (1997), Everett found it impossible to control Hollywood's publicity machine and he was swamped with queries from entertainment magazines about his homosexuality. In response, he succeeded in shattering stereotypes and helped advance public discourse about homosexuality, gay actors, and the film industry. Recently, however, he has charged that in the industry has cost him a number of roles.

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Everett was born into an upper-class British family on May 29, 1959. His parents sent him at age seven to a prestigious Roman Catholic school, Ampleforth, in York. Everett has commented that "The most lasting effect of my childhood is the rejection I felt by my mother." Growing up away from home, he added, "calcifies your heart."

He became involved in theater at Ampleforth. Then, at age 15, he transferred to the Central School for Speech and Drama in London. Two years later, the intensely individualistic and rebellious young man was expelled on grounds of "insubordination." When accounts of this incident surfaced in 1990s news reports about Everett's moodiness and difficulties on film sets, Everett, admitting bouts of insecurity and lapses of confidence, finally told the press that "neurosis and insecurity can appear as arrogance."

Everett completed his theatrical education as a member of the Glasgow Citizens' Company, which he joined at the age of seventeen.

Everett's first major success came in a London production of Julian Mitchell's play Another Country (1982) and in the film adaptation directed by Marek Kanievska (1984). He played David Blakeley, a young, gay Soviet spy modeled on the life of Guy Burgess. He also earned acclaim in the British film Dance with a Stranger (1985), directed by Mike Newell.

Despite these successes, however, Everett was unable to break into Hollywood films during the 1980s. After a fruitless period of seeking work in Hollywood, he returned to Britain to concentrate on his stage career and also to pursue roles in European films. He appeared in nine films that went unnoticed in the United States.

Among his most memorable stage roles was that of Flora Goforth, an old dying woman frantically recalling her life, in Tennessee Williams' The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Any More. He also performed in productions of Shaw's Heartbreak House, Coward's The Vortex and Private Lives, and an adaptation of Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Everett emerged as a film actor in the mid-1990s, first receiving attention for his performances in Nicholas Hytner's adaptation of Alan Bennet's The Madness of King George (1994) and Robert Altman's Ready to Wear (1994).

But J. P. Hogan's My Best Friend's Wedding (1997) shifted Everett on the path from character actor to movie star. Favorable audience responses to Everett at test screenings of the unfinished movie led to shooting and adding 17 minutes of on-screen time for the actor. Everett's character evolved from a friend of the character played by Julia Roberts to a closer, more appealing "gay confidante," with insight, charm, humor, and suavity, a distinctly different role from the gay comic sidekicks of earlier Hollywood films.

In John Schlesinger's The Next Best Thing, Everett attempted to focus attention on alternative families. He spent a year re-writing the original script, removing stereotypical elements. (In arbitration, Everett lost his demand for a scriptwriter credit.) In this film, he plays a gay man who fathers a child with the character played by co-star Madonna, then has to fight for custody of the child when another man enters her life.

Everett believes that he was able to give the character he played greater depth as a result of his sexuality in real life. According to the actor, he and Madonna intentionally blurred the division between their characters and themselves to allow the public "real access to our lives."

Everett's openness as a gay actor, coupled with his success playing gay roles, led to a great deal of discussion about whether openly gay actors could be accepted as movie stars. More specifically, the question was raised whether Everett could be convincing in a heterosexual love scene.

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Rupert Everett (left) at the 2007 Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Sydney, Australia.
  
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