Where the Wilde things are: ‘The Happy Prince’

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Be yourself; everyone else is already taken – unless you’re Everett that is.

What could well be Rupert Everett’s magnum opus premiered in London at the end of last month.

Screened as part of the BFI Flare: London LGBTQ+ Film Festival following success at Sundance and Berlin, Everett’s The Happy Prince looks at the final years of Victorian poet (and arguably founding father of modern queer identity) Oscar Wilde.

The film is also Everett’s directorial debut and of course he’s also in the starring role, one he was born to play.

In fact, The Happy Prince stems from his own portrayal of Wilde in David Hare’s acclaimed play The Judas Kiss back in 2012.

Everett totally embodies the poet, both physically and emotionally, as though channelling Wilde’s very spirit. Critics have described his performance as “flawless” and “the best thing Everett has done”. High praise indeed for an actor whose recent career highlights include St Trinians and the BBC drama The Musketeers.

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We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

But don’t get me wrong. I have always rated Everett as an actor and he deserves a place among Britain’s national treasures. When I first heard he was planning a Wilde film back in late 2012 it was as though my dreams had been answered. So, I have very high expectations indeed for The Happy Prince.

Everett is joined by a stellar supporting cast including Colin Firth (Kingsman), Emily Watson (Gosford Park) and Colin Morgan (Merlin).

The film opens in Paris, where Wilde now in his forties and a career and public image in tatters, tries to eke out his last years in exile.

Penniless and in poor health, he is still reeling from the trial and subsequent imprisonment in England for his affair with Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas (Morgan). He swings between grief and a determination to extract whatever pleasure and beauty he can from the time he has left. He may be a shadow of his former self, but he survives by falling back on the flamboyance and razor-sharp wit that made him the immortal icon he remains to this day.

The Happy Prince will be released in UK cinemas on 15 June.

Watch the official trailer here.

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