mon 15/07/2024

Who Do You Think You Are? - Rupert Everett, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

Who Do You Think You Are? - Rupert Everett, BBC One

Who Do You Think You Are? - Rupert Everett, BBC One

Rupert Everett is the latest celeb to be invited on a moving genealogical 'journey'

'Concerned not to give the producers the money shot:, we would not be witnessing a lachrymose Everett'

Rupert Everett knows who he is: he is English, he’s a toff and he’s a poof, thank you very much. And that’s just about all you need to know to tell you that, as a breed, they’re pretty damned sure of themselves, these English toffs, poofs or not. But he’s also a pretty memorable actor. Yes, really. Let me try to convince you.

I once saw him – and this must have been just before Another Country hit the big screen, for his name didn’t mean much to me then  – on stage in Webster’s The White Devil. He looked cute enough in his period costume, but his energy was a thunderbolt. Not only did he bound and skid across the small stage of the Greenwich Theatre while declaiming his lines with convincing flourish, but he was also given to the odd rock star knee-slide. I wouldn’t say I’m susceptible to such a manoeuvre, but I couldn’t take my eyes off him. The boy had presence.

All that charm, coupled with that arrestingly beautiful face, packed with the dangerous, high wattage energy of youth. Though his looks haven’t faded that much – his face did look suitably crumpled for his 51 years, however, unlike previous appearances where he’d evidently succumbed to the waxen LA visage of the Botox over-enthusiast – and he’s still got that wiry, toned physique, it’s hard now to reconcile that memory with the somewhat lugubrious, somewhat arch character that we’ve come to know, if not love. And last night, he seemed especially, not lugubrious exactly, nor especially arch, but kind of distracted, not really that emotionally invested in the dark secrets held within the family vaults. Apparently, he’d been concerned not to give the producers of Who Do you Think You Are? the money shot: we would not be witnessing a lachrymose Everett. This may have been a good thing, for apart from that ever-ready curl of the lip, his facial muscle memory couldn’t have had much of a workout these latter years.

Still, a tale was spun that was, indeed, very sad. It was a tale of family fortunes gained and lost, and contained the usual line-up of characters necessary to any pot-boiling family saga: adventurers, rebels and fraudsters, bigamists and heartbreakers, innocent children orphaned and abandoned. Where necessary, the Beeb expanded upon the personal with a bit of interesting social history, but really, it was the usual stuff – which isn’t to say it was any less compelling.

If you do your own bit of research into his genealogical roots (just type him into Wikipedia) you’ll learn that Everett has a maternal blood line that goes back to Charles II. But that wasn’t our concern last night. We followed the male line, from Everett’s stiffly correct, stockbroker father, who’d died just six months earlier, to Everett’s grandfather, Cyril, and two generations beyond that. Cyril had risen in the ranks to become one of the most senior figures in the colonial service, serving in Nigeria from 1916 to 1940, with neither his much-missed wife (an effusive and touching love letter is produced) nor children by his side. It was thought that Cyril had been bought up by two maiden aunts in Hammersmith. In fact, abandoned at the age of three, he’d been bought up in an orphanage.

The shocking truth was that Cyril’s old man had run off to sea, and by the time Cyril was three, the father, Frederick, was probably enjoying the odd opium pipe in Hong Kong. Eyes widening, as if he’d chanced upon pure gold, Everett seemed delighted that his great grandfather had been no more than a common navvy. He looked at the records documenting the tattoos decorating Frederick’s arms - a crucifix on the right arm, an anchor on the left – and concluded, with a soupçon of excitement, that his great grandfather, who had sired at least one child, been married three times and had hooked up in his later years with an ageing former actress, was a “proper Jean Genet character”.

Needless to say, not all, once again, was as it appeared; as family sagas go this one was suitably embellished with a number of satisfying twists. Frederick was not some lowly commoner, after all, but had been born, like his great grandson, with a silver spoon in his mouth. But just as civilisations decline and fall, so it is with families. Frederick’s stockbroker father, Frederick senior, had, in his turn, been a bit of a rogue. He’d defrauded some investors. He had gone on trial for it, lost his job and was declared a bankrupt, with a wife and six kids in tow. He died of TB aged 47. It was left to the next generation but one to rebuild the family fortunes.

Everett mused about how sad it all was. But it was also evident that he was quite pleased to inherit the family’s roguish streak.


Are you kidding me? He has presence, but he's a terrible actor (though not even he can out-awful Minnie Driver in An Ideal Husband). I was shocked by how he'd aged. Wouldn't recognise him if he walked past me in the street. Apart from the obviously phoney surprise at certain points, though, he does have charm. And we like his gossipy book, no?

Everett is one of the most handsome and undervalued actors of his generation. He should have made more movies. He should have been given bigger roles. But he's still got a lot to offer at age 51. And contrary to what Alice said, I think he still looks terrific. Sure he's aged but he seems to have aged naturally without the help of surgeons, which is a very rare and wonderful thing in this day and age.

On second thought, maybe we can blame plastic surgery for ruining his looks?

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