Rupert Everett

Producers of 1997's My Best Friend's Wedding knew Rupert Everett was a hit when audiences cheered at preview screenings. He was such a success they shot nearly 20 more minutes of him. And a mystery man scripted to sweep [Julia Roberts] off her feet gave way to allow the handsome gay best friend to reappear instead.

Considered by many an overnight success when he gained worldwide fame with the role, Rupert had actually spent 20 years on the path to Hollywood. Born on May 29, 1959, in Norfolk, England, the son of an army officer-turned-businessman, Rupert attended boarding institutions from the age of seven, including a school in a Benedictine monastery, which he left aged 15. By then, he says, "I wanted to be a star. I would spend my whole time pretending I was being photographed by paparazzi and stuff, or bowing at curtain calls."

Within years he began studying at London's Central School For Speech And Drama, but he was thrown out at 19, he says, for reasons he can't quite recall. "I don't remember, to be honest," he says. "I just think they didn't think I was very good." He followed up touring with the Citizens Theatre Company of Glasgow, leaving formal education behind. "I think you get training all through your career," explains Rupert. "I don't think you get that much of it in drama school."

He was 25 when he had his first taste of fame, gaining rave reviews for his 1984 film debut in Another Country. But believing there was "really no place" for him in UK films, Rupert soon decided to look for opportunities elsewhere. He headed to the Continent, and, fluent in French and Italian, made nearly a dozen movies. "The thing is, none of these things were exported out of Europe," he reflects. "England doesn't recognise Europe. America doesn't even know about Europe. So in those terms, I disappeared."

While living in France and Italy he began to concentrate on writing (the results are two published novels, Hello Darling, Are You Working? and The Hairdressers Of St Tropez). And in 1994, the 6ft 4in green-eyed Brit got back into the film game with Pret-A-Porter and The Madness Of King George.

His re-emergence on the scene came five years after he told the world he was homosexual, in doing so becoming one of cinema's few openly gay stars. Of course, coming from a little-known actor, the announcement wasn't exactly front page news. "It's not being groundbreaking," he reasons, "when no-one's looking."

Eight years after coming out, he won the role in My Best Friend's Wedding without an audition, and became known as the scene stealer though he prefers the term "scene enhancer" of the comedy. His newfound popularity meant his much-discussed sexual past was once again a hot topic, but Rupert met questions with his usual frankness. "What's the point in lying?" he says. "I want to have a long career in America, and not find myself facing skeletons in the closet."

Addressing issues head on is something Rupert doesn't shy away from, answering questions about his homosexuality as easily as he talks about the three albums he's recorded. Which you can find, he advises, "in funny little shops in London where they have oddities".

Since then the actor has continued his winning career streak, landing a second Golden Globe nomination for An Ideal Husband and starring in 2002's The Importance Of Being Earnest. These days he combines TV offerings like 2004's Sherlock Holmes And The Case Of The Silk Stocking with big screen efforts such as The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, due out in December 2005.
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