I’ve never met my previous Têtes à claques, but I knew Rupert Everett when he was a young boy. These photos were taken in Stratford-upon-Avon, in 1977: Rupert was 18.
He was tall and thin as a beanpole (an asperge in French – we’re a little more refined in our choice of vegetables). He was gangly, not quite coordinated; he could be bitchy and waspish, but also very very cute.
I first saw him in Stratford in 1976; he used to hang around the theatre day and night and , as I was on holiday, I used to hang around the theatre day and night. That year the RSC had decided to transform the theatre into a replica of Shakespeare's Globe and there were seats at the back of the stage. This young man was annoying me a lot by pacing up and down at the back of the seating area; I kept wondering why he was allowed to disturb the paying public in that way. Then, one morning I saw him with Ian McKellen outside my B&B. They looked very ‘friendly’ with each other. That was ten years before Sir Ian came out of the closet; he was a matinee idol rather than a gay icon and female fans used to mob him at the Stage Door (one of them even threw herself into the Avon to attract his attention). Anyway, who was courting whom, I couldn’t possibly say.
The following year I bumped into Rupert again in London: he was working as an usher at the Warehouse (the RSC’s studio theatre) and already charming his way to fame. He recognized me and we started chatting. We met up a couple of weeks later in Stratford: we were both attending the Shakespeare Summer School and we had great fun together. He was always on the lookout for mischief and together we behaved outrageously (one night we were even thrown out of a very respectable Chinese restaurant). He returned to London at the end of the week and we didn’t see each other again for another year.
Then, one afternoon, in Paris, I got a phone call from him, “Please come and bail me out. I’ve crossed the Channel without a passport. I’m at the Hôtel Meurice, on the Rue de Rivoli. I'm hungry. I've got no money. I'm going back tonight. I don't know what's going to happen.” By chance another actor friend was staying with me. He knew Rupert too, by sight. He was extremely amused and agreed to go with me to rescue him. We found him lounging on a sofa in the beautiful lobby of that most luxurious of hotels, writing a letter with a pen and a pad lent to him by one of the commissioners. He stood up languidly to greet us and, on the way out, offered to return the writing implements, but the commissioner told him to keep them with a huge smile – totally under his spell. We took Rupert to Angelina (a very posh tearoom) next door and plied him with tea and cakes. We had a whale of a time. Later, he borrowed money from us (“Rupert, you still owe it!”) to pay for the fare to Gare du Nord, and he left as nonchalantly as he had appeared. No doubt he charmed passport control too, later that evening.
In 1981 I went to see him in Another Country, at the Greenwich Theatre (before the show transferred to the West End). He was the same old Rupert. He entertained me with stories of the other actors in the play (one of whom was Kenneth Branagh). That was the beginning of his rise and rise to stardom.
I’ve seen him a couple of times since then, but not recently and if I had I probably wouldn’t have recognized him. He’s had plastic surgery: a brow and eye lift, and cheek implants, they say. He doesn’t look like himself any longer.