The Happy Prince, the admired biopic of Oscar Wilde, is more than a career-reviving film for the actor and director, it is an avowal of an enduring literary love
Rupert Everett as Oscar Wilde in his film The Happy Prince, which premiered in the UK on 5 June. Photograph: Allstar/Lionsgate
The surprised delight that met Rupert Everett’s second volume of memoir, Vanished Years, six years ago was a hint of what might be to come. The calibre of the writing matched any living diarist, according to a broad cross-section of reviewers, from Julie Burchill in the Guardian to the Telegraph’s Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, who awarded five stars and revelled in the way the author “repeatedly slips the gears of genre, moving between scenes of farce, elegy and melodrama”. He predicted more “seriously good books” ahead, if only Everett would take himself “seriously enough”.
Well, now we know exactly what Rupert wrote next – a screenplay. And his new film biography of Oscar Wilde, The Happy Prince, has wowed film critics in much the same way. To add to his triumph, Everett also produces, stars and directs, appearing alongside Colin Firth and Julian Wadham, two of his oldest theatrical buddies. “I loved working with me as an actor,” Everett quipped to red carpet reporters at the film’s London premiere last Tuesday.
Yet the real love affair here is not between Everett and himself, as he regularly teases. The truly enduring relationship is with Wilde, whose plays Everett has now appeared in on stage and whom he has played in productions, and whose tragic personal story the actor has struggled for years to bring to the screen.