He is a hoot on the absurdities of film-making (“I have just puked all over Colin, but my heart’s not really in it. No matter. It’s amazing what one can do with a bottle of Guinness”), as well as the indignity of his deflating ego. He never quite gains similar perspective over his devotion to Wilde or this film. “Is this a desperate last-ditch ego trip or divine intervention?” he wonders, and he doesn’t ever resolve this himself (others may have their own theory). Quite how seriously the reader takes Everett’s somewhat agonised relationship with Wilde probably depends on their tolerance for literary hero worship. Mine is fairly low, but every sentence Everett writes rings with his personality...
The Happy Prince is released in 2018, and despite high praise for Everett’s performance and generally respectful reviews (three stars from the Telegraph’s Tim Robey) for its other elements, it isn’t the big hit hoped for. Being no stranger to Kipling’s twin impostors triumph and disaster, Everett’s upper lip remains admirably stiff in the face of this damp squib and he feels richly rewarded when the film is shown at a festival in St Petersburg, where homosexuality remains legally problematic and the audience has “taken a risk just by showing up”. Here he, says, “the whole thing begins to make sense. THIS is the prize.” And of course, he is right – the standing ovation of young free-spirited Russians is an accolade worth far more than a Hollywood-tarnished gong.
Chasing after Oscar, and then hunting down locations for a film about Oscar, provides the framework for To the End of the World, the third volume of Everett’s memoirs. The guilty pleasure of his book lies — as always — in the shamelessly irrelevant detail. The story of Everett’s cherished and extraordinary friend Lychee, a transgender “courtesan” from Vietnam who lived in a welter of 500 franc notes, is embellished by his cool observation that at the time of her murder she was wearing a sable fur.
t goes without saying that To the End of the World is funny and scabrous. But since very few showbusiness denizens are prepared to be as honest as he is about all the ways in which it will never love you back, the book’s most powerful undertow is inevitably valedictory. Everett is old, he insists, and “the wrong kind of queen”; Hollywood has zipped itself up and turned its back on him. Does this mean that we worry for him? Do we picture him, just occasionally, as the leather Norma Desmond? No, never. However wasteful and capricious his first profession, we know that he is perfectly safe.
This is a charming and witty account of a largely horrible experience, interspersed with lovely recollections of a more debauched past. Everett escapes the danger of self-congratulatory name-dropping in this sort-of-memoir by devoting much the same loving care to the reclusive mother of a murdered trans woman as to Emily Watson. When the celebrated come in they are seen with a fresh and a penetrating eye. Reading about the terrifying trio of Nina Hagen, Rossy de Palma and Béatrice Dalle, it’s as if we have never seen them before — de Palma is ‘a tree goddess... a marvellous Mediterranean fishwife in couture’.
The whole thing is a big, sad riot. Everett clearly finds writing books a breeze compared with making films. Not to mention much cheaper. “Why hadn’t I realised I could write?” he asks of his younger self. The answer, probably, is simple. He needed those years of excess, hissy fits and humiliations to fuel his imagination. He needed to know what it’s like to have vomit dribbling down your chin.