BRITISH actor Rupert Everett says he believes Irish literary giant Oscar Wilde was a “Christ-like” figure.
Everett, 58, was speaking at the premiere of his new film on Wilde’s life – The Happy Prince – at the Sundance Film Festival in the US.
In what marks his directional debut, the actor stars as the renowned poet and playwright in the lead-up to his death in exile in 1900.
“He’s an interesting person as a Christ figure, because the idea of Christ is that he’s half human and half God,” Everett told Vulture.
“In one sense, Oscar was a great genius but also in some periods of his life, he was an idiot.
“I think it was that mixture that is Christ-like about him and very touching.
“He was crucified in a way, in a similar way to Christ, and then was born again after his death thanks to the work of Robbie Ross played by Edwin [Thomas].
“He was resuscitated as a writing force.”
The Happy Prince, which also stars Colin Firth, depicts Wilde’s exile from England in Naples and Paris after his 1895 conviction for ‘gross indecency’.
The evidence against the Irishman – who was sentenced to two years of hard labour in Reading Prison – included claims he slept with male prostitutes.
“As a gay man, Oscar Wilde is really the beginning of the gay movement,” Everett continued.
“The road to gay liberation really started in 1900 when homosexuality, as a word, was invented because of Oscar Wilde”.
He added: “So I think it’s a very inspiring story for today in many respects.”
Everett’s new film isn’t the first time he’s played Wilde – having previously taken up the role in 2002’s The Importance of Being Earnest, and on stage in the 2012/2013 play The Judas Tree.
“Oscar’s death also in a way was Christ-like because he kind of stage-managed it himself,” he added.
“He always had a way of getting out of his fate to avoid his doom and he never did, he always drove straight in there.
“There’s a line in the film where he says, 'Why does one run toward ruin?' and it’s a line he actually said himself.
“So in a weird, kind of distorted way for me – he is a Christ figure.”