When’s the last time an image of a train entering a tunnel ended up being a metaphor for gay sex, and you laughed — just really laughed? Well, that won’t happen in The Happy Prince.
While the movie does have a scene in which a train plowing through a tunnel serves as a metaphor for Oscar Wilde boning a male human, this scene is not intended to make you laugh. Actually, the rest of the movie isn’t intended to make you laugh either.
In a new trailer for The Happy Prince, an Oscar Wilde biopic directed by Rupert Everett, the aforementioned train appears as just another image in a series of equally if not more arresting images. In addition to the train-penis, the trailer provides glimpses into Wilde’s early life — a happy playdate with his two sons, a romantic liaison with Sir Alfred “Bosie” Douglas — and a hint at the downward spiral of his later years. (The acclaimed author and playwright lost all of his standing in English society when Britain’s turn-of-the-century anti-homosexuality laws condemned him to prison and mandatory exile.)
But this is not just an update to the 1997 movie Wilde starring Stephen Fry and Jude Law. Instead of following Wilde’s life chronologically, The Happy Prince chooses to focus on the years of Wilde’s life in between his release from prison and his subsequent death. The rest is told through flashbacks, meaning The Happy Prince is more of an arty, experimental tone poem than a straightforward biopic. Interestingly, the title comes from a children’s fairy tale written by Wilde about a poor, downtrodden prince who finds happiness.
And judging by the generally favorable reviews The Happy Prince has earned since its debut at Sundance this year, the movies’ fresh take on Wilde’s life is mostly working with critics and audiences. Everett himself has earned positive reviews for his towering portrayal of Wilde as a sad-eyed, self-indulgent, wildly gesticulating font of pretension and decadence. And even with prosthetic jowls, slicked-down hair, and a pointy nose, Everett still manages to look like a dandy daddy. (But not as sexy as Colin Morgan, who plays Bosie.)
It may actually be the perfect role for Everett, who suffered his own exile from high society after Hollywood stopped hiring him in the ‘90s and ‘00s due to his reputation as a “gay actor.” A force of wit who just couldn’t seem to reclaim the love he’d once earned from a begrudging, homophobic public, Everett ended up a bitter old shell of himself who took to entertainment publications to rail against straight people. But The Happy Prince may just be the comeback that Everett needs.
For a glimpse at the trailer, which features dramatic piano music, dramatic fingertip touching, dramatic beach walking, and Colin Firth, see below. (P.S. Colin, if you’re listening: This is the second high-profile gay role of your career. If you’d like to try out the real thing, we’re more than happy to accommodate.)
The film opens in the U.K. this June and later this year in North America.