'I really enjoyed being homosexual ... and was very lucky not to contract HIV in the 80s'
Rupert Everett has revealed how he lived in ‘terror’ of HIV while enjoying London’s gay scene in the 1980s, admitting he was very lucky not to contract the virus.
The fame he found starring in films such as Another Country and Dance With A Stranger was tempered by fear of catching the infection that can cause AIDS, he reveals in today’s edition of Desert Island Discs.
Everett, 60, tells the Radio 4 show’s host Lauren Laverne: ‘I felt under a lot of strain. I was very lucky not to contract the HIV virus.
‘I am not saying that, of course, the drama for me was anything like the drama for someone who did contract it, but for everyone involved it was a terrifying time.’
The star says the loss of friends to AIDS took its toll on professional relationships and led to irrational fears about the way the disease could affect his career. He goes on: ‘I was losing friends and... I think I did go a bit crazy... I became militant in my own world, I suppose. I was on a short fuse.
‘I kept thinking in the first few films I made, “My God, what happens if I suddenly find myself with this illness right in front of the camera?” I was a very jaggedly strange freak.’
Describing how he explored the gay scene in London from the age of 16, Everett says his experiences were a far cry from his upbringing in a strict military family.
‘I came from such a regimented militaristic background,’ he explains, saying that every time he had sex ‘I felt I was knocking that down and destroying it. I felt I had lost myself from my previous life.’ Everett – who played headmistress Camilla Fritton in the 2007 comedy St Trinian’s – reveals he spent most of his early childhood wishing he had been a girl.
‘I adored my mother, my aunt and my grandmother and I wanted to be a girl,’ he says. ‘I didn’t like men. I didn’t trust them. All the men in my family went sailing every weekend and they played golf: two things that I found unutterably grim.
‘I loved necklaces and bras and all those kinds of things – nestling up to my mum, my grandmum and my aunt. I didn’t ever learn when I was a child how to engage with other males, until I was 15 and I left my public school, and then I didn’t want to be a girl any more. I really enjoyed being a homosexual.’
Looking back on his boyhood at Ampleforth – ‘the Catholic Eton’ – in Yorkshire, he says he thinks being bundled off to boarding school by his parents may have affected his emotional development.
‘It’s a kind of heart-breaking experience that you never quite recover from,’ says Everett. ‘They [the pupils] would never be as hurt again as they were hurt by the abandonment of their parents.’
Everett recently directed and starred in The Happy Prince, an acclaimed Oscar Wilde biopic.Daily Mail