John Humphrys has been criticised by some Radio 4 listeners for ‘relentlessly grilling’ Rupert Everett about being gay on the Today programme.
Everett appeared on the show on Monday morning to discuss The Happy Prince, a film about Oscar Wilde, which he not only wrote and directed but also stars in as the Irish poet and playwright.
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In the interview, Humphrys asked Everett if he ever regrets going public with his homosexuality: “You came out as gay, what, nearly 30 years ago? Do you ever regret that? Or was it the right timing? What effect has it had on you, on your career I mean?”
“Um, I think, I don’t regret it, it wasn’t really a choice for me,” replied Everett. “I was very into the whole scene of being gay, going out clubbing, bars, so it wasn’t a possibility for me to have lived a double life.
“In terms of regret, in terms of career, I think yes of course to be gay in a quite aggressively heterosexual business, a kind of boys club, is certainly not ideal and I think eventually, certainly during the 80s and 90s, the beginning of this century you, at a certain point, normally hit a brick wall.
“However, I think struggle has been, for me, one of the great fertilisers. Every time things have gone wrong is when I’ve been forced upon myself to be more creative.
“So in one sense, I don’t regret it at all. I think things are changing as well. We have, in this country certainly, some fantastic, young, openly gay actors. When you get older I don’t think it’s so much of an issue to be honest.”
Some listeners denounced Humphrys’ question, with one calling it “absolutely woeful”.
John Humphry’s interview on #r4today with Rupert Everett was absolutely woeful as he asked him if he regretted coming out as gay.
Alternatively John, do you regret being an absolute idiot?
— Shahil Parmar (@shahil95) June 11, 2018
John Humphrys just asked Rupert Everett if he 'regretted' coming out as gay…
— Tom Coult (@tomcoult) June 11, 2018
Dear God, what an awful interview — John Humphrys given the chance to talk to Rupert Everett about his new film about Oscar Wilde, but confines himself almost entirely to RE’s sexuality. Even asked if he “regretted” coming out. Atrocious stuff. @BBCr4today
— Ian Goodyer (@justified_left) June 11, 2018
Of course, the subject matter of the film – which details Wilde’s life after he was released from jail following his arrest in connection with his gay affair with Lord Alfred Douglas – together with comments by Everett in a previous interview, to some extent contextualise Humphrys’ question about regret. In 2009, Everett told The Observer: “I would not advise any actor necessarily, if he was really thinking of his career, to come out.”
But after an interview that had focused far more on Everett’s sexuality than it had the film, Today listeners found Humphrys’ closing question ironic, to say the least.
“Do you think they’ll ever get to the stage where we’ll do an interview like this and it won’t even be mentioned that you happen to be gay? In other words, it’ll be irrelevant.”
Rupert Everett appears on @BBCr4today to discuss his new film. John Humphrys relentlessly grills Everett about being gay, and then ends the interview with “Do you think there will ever come a time when you can do an interview and being gay doesn’t even come up?” The year is 2018.
— Nicholas Pegg (@NicholasPegg) June 11, 2018
Humphrys asks Rupert Everett if there will ever be a time when he’ll be able to do an interview and not have to talk about being gay. After questioning him about being gay #r4today
— Menissa (@MenissaS) June 11, 2018
John Humphrys asks Rupert Everett whether he thinks there will ever be a time when he does an interview without being asked about being gay…. as if Humphrys had no ability to bring about this state of affairs. #r4today
— Jack Blackburn (@HackBlackburn) June 11, 2018
The questioning in this interview with Rupert Everett which doesn’t really focus on Wilde or his film is more than a little odd – and what an ironic final question @BBCr4today
— Samantha Fiander (@sfiandercomms) June 11, 2018
A BBC spokesperson said: “Since this interview centred around Rupert Everett’s portrayal of, and long-standing interest in, Oscar Wilde, it was not inappropriate to draw parallels between the two men and their experiences of being gay at different points in history.”
The Happy Prince is released in UK cinemas on 15th June.