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And baby makes three

Rupert Everett unveils his 'Next Best Thing'

Madonna and Everett
Madonna and Everett have been friends off-screen for years  

March 7, 2000
Web posted at: 12:07 p.m. EST (1707 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Everyone has a blah day. Chalk one up for Rupert Everett.

On this chilly Saturday morning, Everett seems like he's just rolled out of bed and jumped headfirst into the shower. Or maybe he simply craves a jolt of caffeine before facing reporters at 10 a.m. in a Big Apple hotel room.

Whatever the extenuating circumstances, life is not imitating art for the gifted British actor who's carved his niche by playing sharply funny, extremely likable and smoothly debonair characters on the big screen.

 VIDEO
Theatrical preview for 'The Next Best Thing'
Windows Media 28K 80K
 

In person, Everett is quite serious, perfectly nice and utterly pleasant -- but his famous wit, this morning, seems nearly as hidden as the natural hair color of his friend and co-star in his latest movie, Madonna.

Maybe that's because he has serious work to do. Everett is promoting "The Next Best Thing," in which he plays Madonna's gay best friend and the accidental father of her baby. The film, which opened March 3, deals with the touchy subject of gay parenting, but Everett denies any intentional social commentary or fist-pounding political messages.

"I'm not a huge kind of nut banner-waver," says Everett. "I took the story, really, because I think it's a good story."

"One of the great things about having Madonna in the movie is that most gay men probably would want to have sex with her."

— Rupert Everett on starring with the pop diva in "The Next Best Thing"

In the film, Madonna plays the unlucky-in-love Abbie. Everett is her witty, sardonic, unfailingly loyal and just as unlucky-in-love gay best friend Robert. Could this be shades of Everett's breakthrough performance in the 1997 comedy "My Best Friend's Wedding," in which he played the witty, sardonic and gay best pal of Julia Roberts?

"I don't want to just play gay characters," says Everett. "I think it would get boring to play the same thing again and again and again."

Nevertheless, he does it again in his latest outing. This time around, Abbie (Madonna) and Robert (Everett), both facing middle age as singles, get blazing drunk, dance around, end up in bed, and wind up in the delivery room, with Abbie giving birth to Robert's son. They form an unconventional family unit, until Abbie's fortunes in love turn for the better with the rapturously gorgeous Ben (Benjamin Bratt).

Roberts and Everett
Everett gained attention in Hollywood with his winning portrayal of a loyal, gay best friend to Julia Roberts' character, left, in "My Best Friend's Wedding"  

"As an audience member, I like watching Rupert as an actor when he's most playful," says Bratt. "I think Rupert is really adept at comedy; I think that's where his strength lies. "

Thanks to his affinity for stealing every scene he's in, as well as his chiseled and classically handsome good looks (and that irresistible British accent), Everett is largely accepted as a leading man -- though we may have trouble picturing him playing a grimy small-town Texas auto mechanic, for example. To wit, last year he played a meddling bachelor in the period piece "An Ideal Husband" and a villain in the kiddie comedy "Inspector Gadget."

So before revisiting familiar gay-friend film territory, Everett and his writing partner heavily revised the original script. Everett says they worked on the script to make it more personal, though Thomas Ropelewski, who penned the original, is still listed as screenplay's writer.

Ropelowski, says Everett, took the revised script to the writers' guild, asking for sole credit for the work. "And he got it."

But the final product features Everett's personal touch. For example: In the original script, the impregnation was meant to be more clinical, with Madonna's character asking Everett to father her baby; he was supposed to be incapable of performing, so the two were to go the plastic-cup insemination route. In the altered version, Abbie and Robert do end up between the sheets.

"It was more dignified than ... seeing a gay man not being able to f--k a woman," says Everett. "I thought that was a little bit lame, because one of the great things about having Madonna in the movie is that most gay men probably would want to have sex with her."

The film also has parallels to the real world. Madonna, a yoga devotee in real life, plays a character who is a yoga instructor. She's also a mother on film and in fact -- Lourdes, her daughter, is 3. And, in real life, she and Everett are fast friends who met years ago through Sean Penn, to whom Madonna was married at the time.

So the next question is fairly obvious: Could Everett ever see himself in a situation identical to the one depicted in "The Next Best Thing"?

"Personally, no," he says. "I'm too old and too set in my ways."



RELATED STORIES:
Review: Madonna plays Madonna in 'Next Best Thing'
March 3, 2000
Rupert Everett's dream realized -- 'overnight success' in 20 years
May 10, 1999
Rupert Everett in 'Wedding:' Here comes the star
June 24, 1997

RELATED SITES:
Official 'The Next Best Thing' site
Paramount Pictures

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