Did you know that Rupert Everett once got Colin Firth stoned while making The Importance of Being Earnest? That Sharon Stone is as mad as a hatter? Or that the Hollywood studios are more comfortable casting straight actors in serious gay roles than gay actors?
These are just some of the tidbits that Everett delivers in his chatty and insightful autobiography, Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins, which highlights Rupert's life from his childhood in rural England to the height of his fame as a sort of gossipmonger and best friend to some of the world's greatest actors.
Throughout the memoir, we follow Rupert on his journey as an actor, party boy and thespian. His journey starts when as a boy,
he views the biggest pair of curtains in the world when his mother takes him to the cinema to see Mary Poppins.
Almost at once, he falls in love with Julie Andrews, but he also realizes that something has changed: "a giant and deranged ego has been born." Onto Farleigh House he goes, an upper-class boarding school where, as a vulnerable child, he endures the "bullying and beatings" and where he gets his first major role as an actor, playing Titania, Queen of the Fairies.
Drama school in London follows, synonymous with his first glimmerings of gay life as he stumbles upon a leather bar in Earls Court, with its "smoky haze of construction workers, cowboys, and other clanking, squeaking leather-clad men."
This is followed by a three-month sojourn in Paris where at a nightclub he stumbles into Yves Saint Laurent sitting with Rudolf Nureyev, Andy Warhol and Catherine Deneuve, "all of them polished and beautiful and in the peak of their form, lighting the club with their worship."
The actor also talks a lot about gay life in his early years, and about his boyfriends and tricks. But he also talks about the affairs he had with the actresses Beatrice Dalle, Susan Sarandon, and the startlingly attractive Paula Yates, whom he still obviously holds a candle for; "she had a fragility and she could break if you squeezed her too hard."
When he's not getting stoned on his arrival in India to shoot the mini-series The Far Pavilions or worrying about AIDS with his friend Ian Charleston – who later died of the disease – Rupert is more than happy to hold a mirror up the facile celebrity world and the image of stardom, which he sees as feeding frenzies of self-interest.
With a type of revelry he charts his early successes in Another Country and Dance With a Stranger, then the hard times in the late 1980s when he couldn't even pay his mortgage and had to take on roles in clunkers like Hearts of Fire.
His credibility ended up being shredded, his "character sucked up in the tornado, ripped apart and scattered."
The one criticism of this book is that the Everett seems to shortchange his talent, seemingly more concerned with detailing his failed movies than his successes. He mentions An Ideal Husband, but only in passing, and he doesn't even talk about Separate Lies – perhaps the best of his most recent films.
Tonally, his style is often a little too florid for the type of story he's trying to tell.
Overall, though, Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins is an incisive portrait of a witty, droll rebel who is also a bit of a hedonist – he loves to drink and smoke dope – and is an avid observer of those who, over the years, have orbited around him, both the famous and the ordinary.
Rupert indeed manages to give us a fascinating and complex picture of a man who still seems to be growing as a person and as an actor, always on the endless quest to "be someone more than one."