In the very first chapter of actor Rupert Everett’s autobiography, he tells you in lyrical, engaging prose, how his “giant and deranged ego was born”. He was six, sitting between his mother and nanny, enraptured by Mary Poppins. That was the first film he had watched, and he had found a profound inspiration in the heroine and in the magic of celluloid— “...and Mary Poppins sprang across the footlights and into my heart”.
Everett went on to become an acclaimed theatre actor of the British stage and the least successful in the triumvirate of quintessentially British heroes of the 21st century—Hugh Grant and Colin Firth being the other two. While Grant and Firth have enjoyed commercial success in the UK as well as in Hollywood, Everett has wandered off the track, even out of sight, but has remained an enigmatic movie star, largely because bits of his life are juicy tabloid lore.
It is a dazzling self-portrait. Candid, but unapologetic, Everett writes about his adolescent escapades of sex and drugs in Paris, his fruitful stint in theatre in Scotland and the pain of being gay in the 1980s. But much of Red Carpets is about his Hollywood adventures. Being in Hollywood finally made him believe that Mary Poppins lives, and that, being a movie star is more about fun than performance. He says of a Hollywood funeral, “These people were the symbols I adored, everything I loved about my job.”
Everett immersed himself in their worlds and let his film career take its own bumpy course. After compelling performances in Dance with a Stranger and The Right Hand Man, he played mostly forgettable roles, until his comeback in My Best Friend’s Wedding, also starring Julia Roberts. His last memorable appearance was in The Next Best Thing, along with Madonna, in 2000. The actor is not remorseful about his slender body of work. Instead, he is philosophical— “...the job of maintaining a profile in Hollywood is much more draining and demanding than making a film, and it is done at a thousand and one award shows, premieres and the magic red carpets that lead to them.”
His narrative is rich with such minute details that through it all, you wonder whether drawing-room conversations or midnight binges in Beverly Hills apartments of stars (a lot of pages are dedicated to those) are part of his memory or a romantic interpretation of it. Don’t look for Hollywood gossip in this book. The best parts are perceptive portraits of three Hollywood divas: Madonna, Julia Roberts and Sharon Stone. His admiration for Madonna is unequivocal, “When she fixed you with her regard, there was a tenderness and warmth that made your skin bump, but when she looked away, it was like sunbathing on a cold day and suddenly a cloud comes.”
Quite unlike what you would expect in a hedonistic actor’s memoir, Everett hooks you with his philosophical observations on the zany world of stardom and memories of his remarkable personal journey through drugs and failed relationships. The most poignant parts of the book are about the only abiding relationship in Everett’s life: with his black Labrador, Mo.