Rupert Graves Online.
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1997 - Different For Rupert.

Author: Robert Ellsworth.
Publication: Genre Magazine.

Rupert Graves may have two movies being released this fall, but he still worries about his next paycheck. Strange, from an astute actor whose work has spanned just over a decade.

Well, if he's that seriously desperate for a job, he could probably pick up some extra work as a stripper.

He certainly has no qualms about disrobing for parts that call for it (we don't have a problem with him doing that either!), and his controversial new film, Different for Girls, offers ample opportunity for those interested in viewing his block and tackle.

But this isn't the first time. Most of us can't help but remember his steamy love scene in 1987's Maurice, the ne plus ultra of gay love stories.

Right now it's nearly noon, but the dishevelled, mischievously sexy 34-year-old looks like he just crawled out of bed. Maybe it's jet lag. Still, even with his stubble and droopy eyes, he's quite a knockout in person. His cool blue '60s-style cardigan opens to reveal a whit tank top and a frame which looks much smaller than it does on-screen. On our agenda is the sexual fluidity of Graves's Different for Girls character, Prentice, a working-class stud who finds himself falling in love with a transsexual...

You have a habit of stripping down in some of your films. Are you an exhibitionist?

Believe it or not, I do get nervous before I strip my clothes off. In England, we have a long history of TV films which deal with difficult sexual issues and contain nudity. Maybe we're just used to it here in Europe. It is so much more a part of European culture, it's not such a big deal to be naked. That might be aesthetically based. Look at the Italian's aesthetic for love and naked bodies. Americans seem to be much more point-driven. It becomes a central issue.

In Maurice, your second film, you performed an intense sex scene with another man. Was that difficult for you?

No, it wasn't difficult at all. I was playing a character in E.M. Forster's novel. It's a very romantic novel, and that was a very romantic scene. Essentially, E.M. was writing a gay love story, and that's what we made.

But so early in your career...

I liked working with Ismail Merchant. I had worked with him before. I took it because it was an interesting role.

Sexual fluidity is a salient issue in many of your films. Have you had to grapple with this issue yourself?

Yes. I think human sexuality, like all aspects of humanity, is fluid. I think people are naturally free.

And your sexuality?

I am intrigued by the issue of sexuality. Society doesn't give you a modus operandi to deal with that. In Different for Girls that is the central dilemma. My character is straight, but he's got these intense feelings for his old schoolmate, who was once a guy. I guess he first wonders if he's a freak or something, but then he deals with it and realized that his feelings are valid.

So you've never personally experience these issues?

After Maurice a lot of people said I was gay and although I've never hand any homophobia directed towards me, I did have some nasty comments made abut me in print. For the record, I'm not gay, but I don't care what anyone thinks about the issue. In fact, I don't give a fuck [laughs].

In Different for Girls you play a biker boy who likes to break the rules...

My character is quite moral. He's the only person in Kim/Karl's life who stands up and puts himself on the line for her/him. He won't let anyone treat her like shit. He's willing to get himself in trouble for her. He's quite obstreperous, but very morally grounded. There's something quite honest about it. A lot of people have problems with transsexualism--after all, it scares one thinking someone could cut their dick off.

If you found out the woman you were dating was actually transgendered, how would you react?

Good question. I don't think it's one I've resolved. I don't know. I think I may be a little uneasy thinking about the operations they have to endure. It's such a difficult subject--transsexualism. Society doesn't seem to have a place for it. Even though most transsexuals think of themselves now as heterosexual women. They are, but then they're not. Hmm.

The movie does a good job of gently gliding into the subject, making it palatable.

I don't think of the audience response when I'm doing a film. I just focus on the character and the situation while I play the part. Everything else is the director's job. Different forms of sexuality really interest me, so I try to do those types of films. I don't have any problems with doing love or sex [scenes] with a man. I just like situations which deal with the playing around with sexuality. Someone has to play around and deal with pushing the limits of what society likes to deal with. I always like stories which play around with what is acceptable to society.

Do you have any gay friends?

No. I have no gay friends, no Jewish friends, no black friends. I also have no Catholic friends. [Breaks into laughter] Of course I have gay friends--I'm in the theater.

What's the hardest thing about playing a factual character versus a fictional one?

If you do a film or drama based on a true story, it's still just a representation of the actual events. It's just an exploitation. Although I don't have a problem with it--I don't feel it's morally reprehensible.

Is it true you joined a circus?

I was a circus clown in a small English circus with very little money. I performed on the high wire. It was scary. I fell a lot. So I moved to London and did a lot of theater.

Do you have any plans to go back to your theatrical roots?

I continue to do plays. I just finished doing [taking on a dry, good American accent] Hurlyburly at the Old Vic Theatre. I was going to do it again, but I had to come here to do a movie which fell through.

Your first film role, A Room With a View, was an international hit. How were you cast in it?

I was doing a play and the casting director caught it. I really think I was cast for my eyebrows.

Tell us about Merchant-Ivory.

James Ivory as a director is not very vociferous. He just give body notes. He doesn't ever say anything. My first film was with him. I thought I did this terrible job and apologized, being neurotic like I am. He just looked at me and said, "You were all right." They definitely don't pay very much money; they give career-boosters instead of money. Now I haven't worked with them in over ten years. It was quite a good start, especially since I haven't been trained. It all seemed quite natural.

Why haven't you worked Stateside in Hollywood?

I haven't had the time or money to take time off from working in England to do it. I'd like to. You really need t take about six months off. I'm definitely not a snob about it. I'm just not a very good planner. I get distracted easily, so it's something I should really focus on.

Have you ever thought about directing?

Actually, I have. I've directed a few shorts on video and Super 8, and they were my pet projects. I write scripts, but I'm not very serious about it. I may do a 20-minute short film at the end of the year.

Are there any directors you'd like to work with?

God, I don't know. I love the old Joseph Losey films; Tarantino is interesting. I saw Another Girl, Another Planet, a small, New York film which was quite good. I like Terrence Malick. I loved Fellini--my first big filmmaker and I saw one of his first, big films, And the Ship Sails On. I like it so much more than his more populist films like La Dolce Vita.

What do you do for fun?

Oh, I run around the park with my dog. Chat to old ladies--and sometimes old men. [big grin].

©1997 Genre Magazine.