Renowned for his infinitely quotable witticisms, Oscar Wilde, literary star of late 19th century London society, is in the midst of a resurgence at the end of the 20th century.
Wildes career crashed and burned in 1895 when he was sentenced to two years of hard labor for "the crime of sodomy." The writer who lampooned hypocrisy and advanced the idea of art for arts sake became a pariah after the notorious trial, and his work fell into obscurity. But nearly a century after his death come a film biography (Wilde), high-profile stagings of his plays and now a sparkling adaptation of An Ideal Husband from Oliver Parker (Othello), who has a few theories about the renewed interest.
"Hes always been ahead of his time," Parker explains in Los Angeles, "and because of the position hes taken flying in the face of convention, hes been held as a symbol of free thinking, independence and individuality. People are beginning to join the dots and realizing that hes a much bigger personality and artist than they thought before."
"I think with the sexual revolution, he gradually became more and more important," adds Rupert Everett, who has acted in numerous productions of Wilde, including The Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Windermeres Fan and The Picture of Dorian Gray.
"Im pleased to be doing a play a hundred years after he died as a mark of respect," the openly gay Everett continues, "and I do see him as a war hero. When youre looking at the state of things like homosexuality now, you automatically think about him because, first of all, he invented the term. Until Oscar Wilde framed the term, it was something that was never talked about."
Its not just Wilde himself, but An Ideal Husband, with its political scandal mixed with sexual roundelays, which seems eerily synchronous today.
"The more things change, the more they stay the same," quotes Julianne Moore, "and the timing of this movie couldnt be better because you see that this stuff has always occurred."
"Whats wonderful about Oscar Wilde," she continues, "is, for all his wit and the wonderful language, at the heart of it hes a humanist, and hes basically saying that we are human, were fallible, there is no perfection, theres no ideal and youre not to be so judgmental."
For Oliver Parker, the irony inherent in the plays title has to do with unrealistic expectations of perfection made by imperfect people.
"Wilde is just saying," he explains, "if youre judging these people, make sure youre judging yourself too and understand that forgiveness is as powerful a force as judgment."
It was this emotional side to Wilde, whose work is often portrayed as heartless, that Parker wanted to bring to the surface in An Ideal Husband.
"There was huge compassion and enormous heart there," he says, "that was just hidden behind this sort of glittering facade.
"For me, [Oscar Wildes] essence," Oliver Parker continues, "is something you find in virtually everything he does: a plea for tolerance. Its a challenge to take on the traditional values and discard them in favor of your own."