Oscar Wilde: The first out gay man in history, as told by Rupert Everett in “The Happy Prince”


Over the course of his career, Rupert Everett has played the King of England, Prince Charming, Sherlock Holmes and Julia Roberts’ wingman. When the actor appeared on “Salon Talks,” to discuss his newest film, “The Happy Prince,” in theaters now, it was clear that it is one of his most personal performances yet.

For “The Happy Prince,” Everett wrote, directed, and stars as Oscar Wilde, the Irish playwright whose life was upended when he was imprisoned for the “gross indecency” of a relationship with another man. But, Everett says, that Wilde, who died in self-imposed exile in Paris at just 46, ”was not a victim.”

Everett told SalonTV’s Mary Elizabeth Williams that Wilde “challenged the world even when he was down low. I think he’s very inspiring for that.”

While the film may have the all trappings of an English period piece, Wilde’s story has timely resonance as a notorious example of the price of fame. It’s an experience Everett himself knows firsthand.

“Like everyone, I’m fascinated with celebrity,” he says. “One of the things that is so interesting about it is how blinding it can be. You’re surrounded by a gang of your own ghouls who just tell you yes. This is what happened to Oscar Wilde. He was called the most famous man in London. He was so famous he thought the whole of the world revolved around him. That’s why he made these terrible, terrible mistakes.”

And yet in his later years as “the first out man in history,” Wilde, like the happy prince of his famous children’s story, found a new life and new identity. “He managed to carve his own constitution. He was humorous, he was fun, curious,” says Everett. “And he kept going.”

Watch the full interview above to hear more about Everett’s transformation into Wilde, how he teamed up with his favorite actors Colin Firth and Emily Watson for the project, and why he can’t stand modern technologies.

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About “Salon Talks”: Hosted by Salon journalists, “Salon Talks” episodes offer a fresh take on the long-form interview format, and a much-needed break from the partisan political talking heads that have come to dominate the genre. “Salon Talks” is a destination for information through conversation. Viewers can expect discussions with A-list actors, artists, authors, thinkers, and newsmakers as we explore the full range of the human condition. The show streams live on YouTube and Salon.com.

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