NY Mirror

Rupert Everett isn't the title character in The Importance of Being Earnest—he's the friend—and it's really pip-pip-alicious to find out that he isn't that earnest in person either. At a reception at Calliope, the charm-drenched actor told me his character is "a dishonest sponge, cad, thief, and liar." A real stretch, right? Fortunately, Rupert laughed at that rather than punch me out, I think because at least I wasn't pummeling him with gay questions. (He used to be more Frank, I mean frank, about the queer stuff, but he never counted on being Hollywood's ultimate homo, so now he leaves the room when that's your main tack.) All righty, then, which other queen was fiercer—Oscar Wilde or Noël Coward? Wilde, he said, because "he had a real angle, before Freud, on duplicities, on the contradiction between the surface and the interior. He drew a lot from how the English upper classes are so dishonest." But their phoniness doesn't make Rupert want to vomit, he said, because "it's no phonier than anyone else's phoniness." "How true!" I chirped, all phony and shit.

But we both suddenly became alarmingly sincere when discussing animated films—don't ask—with Rupert declaring, "My emotional life stopped with Bambi, when the mother died. Also with Jungle Book, when Baloo yelled, 'Come back!' and the little slut is singing, 'I must go to fetch the water.' Mowgli's going to leave the animal kingdom forever!" I thought the bloke might break down sobbing, so we segued on to half-animated films, and Rupie declared, "Pete's Dragon and Bedknobs and Broomsticks are no classics, but Mary Poppins is a perfect film!" With that, I left him, all glazed over with happiness. Besides, I had to go to fetch the water.

But I'll leave the room, I swear, unless I can bring up something très gay right this minute! Did you notice that even Spider-Man, about an oppressed kid who develops special powers and fights back, throws in a gratuitous pinch of homophobia? When Tobey Maguire is about to kick a wrestler's ass, he unnecessarily quips, "That's a cute outfit. Did your husband give it to you?" (Asked about the remark at a junket, Maguire said they were desperate for a line there and everyone on the set was offering suggestions. That one got the biggest laugh, so they used it—but now he realizes maybe it wasn't the greatest idea.)

"I'm starting to think maybe it's me that's a little odd": actress Clea DuVall, star of Thirteen Conversations About One Thing.
photo: Richard Mitchell
"I'm starting to think maybe it's me that's a little odd": actress Clea DuVall, star of Thirteen Conversations About One Thing.

Spider-Man was even in the air at the Film Society of Lincoln Center tribute to Francis Ford Coppola, where the director said it's great that some movies can make over $100 million in a weekend, but "there's a lot more that the cinema was put here to do." (And I don't think he meant make $200 million.) The event could have fallen into the gooey trap inherent in having a helmsman toasted by actors who want to keep working for him. But the praise-heaping thesps weren't lying, and the clips proved Coppola to indeed be a man of vision, blah blah blah, with so much precision and sweep that even his stinkers—The Rain People, The Cotton Club—were starting to look good. (Maybe someone should serve up another peep at Pete's Dragon.) Among the speakers, sister Talia Shire made it clear how close my kinship is with Coppola. ("Francis is the first to be the first. He starts the trends," she said, adding that "as a child, he put himself in a box and wrapped himself in tin foil." Me too!) And Al Pacino was great, bravely admitting, "I didn't want to do The Godfather!"

More honors? At the Lucille Lortel Awards for Off-Broadway, sour grapes made for fizzy champagne when presenter Illeana Douglas said, "We're surviving Surviving Grace despite what [Times critic] Bruce Weber said. . . . Who is Bruce Weber anyway? I work in film too, Bruce. Ha ha ha."

More disgruntlement? Someone on the set of Six Feet Under insists that Rachel Griffiths is a bit of a diva and is rather unpopular with a lot of the cast and crew. She may be brilliant and nab awards, but some of her co-workers simply don't like her—though the one time I met Griffiths, I found her daft but winning.

Meanwhile, a certain talk-show host is adored by millions, but some folks on his set call him "the king of flatulence" and, even more damningly, "a pompous ass." Still, he does have a real angle on the contradiction between the surface and the interior.

Moving right along with whatever dignity I have left, Clea DuVall is a well-liked actress who shines in her niche of playing sympathetic oddballs and fringe characters. In The Faculty, they thought she was a lesbian, but she wasn't. In But I'm a Cheerleader, they thought she was a lesbian, and she was. And now, in Thirteen Conversations About One Thing—an arty, capital-M Meditation on fate versus chance versus choice—24-year-old Clea sings in a choir, almost drowns, is hit by Matthew McConaughey's car, and treasures a doll head. Over coffee at Essex House last week, the California actress told me, "I'm starting to think maybe it's me that's a little odd. I'm definitely attracted to characters that aren't the norm, that aren't girls you see every day."

Good news for her: DuVall's not a brooding outsider in everyday life too. "I was 19 when I made The Faculty, and I definitely had some teen angst in me," she admitted, "but now I feel very far from that. I do worry all the time, but I think I'm more comfortable now and not so unhappy with myself. It's a hard business, especially for a young girl. You get all kinds of weird body-image problems and social problems that I'd never experienced before. No one ever told me to lose weight until I started acting, and that doesn't ever feel good!"

The irony of her having to pretty up in order to play weirdo outcasts isn't lost on Clea at all. "You've got to be a skinny oddball," she said, wincing. "You've got to be a beautiful ugly girl." I only see the beauty—in fact, to me she looks spookily like a female Josh Hartnett. "I get that all the time," Clea said, lightening up. "I told Josh I wanted to have his baby so we could make little clones—the attack of the clones." Pint-sized beautiful oddballs—sounds good to me.

But let's head back—as everything must—to the Spider-Man generation, which is learning the importance of being more wild than earnest on the club scene. Kurfew, the weekly gay youth bash, has gone through so many changes it's well past puberty by now. The funsy event is almost grown up and happening on Fridays at Twirl, which seems the perfect backdrop for all the boppy energy and last-chance innocence. Walls of videos add a trippy touch as the gayettes dance to sped-up remixes of pop hits, though the organizers are striving for a teensy bit more maturity these days. As promoter Jeff Brenner told me, "I've heard 21-year-olds say, 'I'm too old for Kurfew now,' but that's crazy. We want 18 to 30." Unfortunately, that edges me out just by a hair. Shut up.

As for fully grown folks, Sexy Wednesdays at Eugene are thrown by about a dozen drag queens who nab a mix of club survivors, space aliens, straight couples, an asshole who drags you over to meet his friend from Rhode Island, and a casting director handing out flyers for a club-kid open call. I liked it, but then again I think Julia Roberts is imitating Sandra Bullock.

But I'm a little over Magnum at the Park. Everyone there is always saying, "The sex is in the next room," but then when you get there, it's moved on to the room after that. Or maybe it's when I get there.


musto@villagevoice.com

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