Or perhaps discovering him early on affected the way he decided to lead his own life.'I didn't really know enough about Byron to end up trying to be like him,' he says.In his autobiography, he refers to this relationship as 'a strange love affair of utter misfits'.

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It's being whispered that his good looks owe everything now to the surgeon's knife and nothing any more to nature. You can protest as much as you like, but they just doctor the photos.' He says he won't rule out any cosmetic work if he felt that, as an actor, he needed it.

The speculation is fed by a crudely-doctored photograph in a celebrity magazine that not only airbrushed out his noble nose, but made him look rather more cherubic than is credible for a 50-year-old man. But at the moment he puts his looking better in the flesh than he has for years down to shaving off his beard and growing out last year's severe close-cropped hairstyle.

That was what was considered right and proper, and then things changed.

'But I loved all those dark Fifties Hollywood times. I'm not so interested in it at the moment.' The son of a former Army major, Everett moved to London as soon as he could to pursue dreams of being an actor, but he got expelled from the Central School of Speech And Drama.

He had early success playing British diplomat Guy Burgess, who spied for Russia, in the play and film Another Country.

Women were attracted to him as much as men and for six years there was an on-off romance with TV presenter Paula Yates, while she was with Bob Geldof.

It was only once President Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were in power that the whole idea was reversed, and we all became more positive.

'But before that, when we were kids, everyone just wanted to commit suicide by 25 or be killed in a car crash.

'My lasting image is that he was an extremely courageous character.

He was disabled by a withered foot, but he did not let that come between him and his determination to become a sex symbol, which is not only brave, but simply marvellous. 'You can see how, playing through his life, he had a great appetite for sex, which I loved, and he had huge issues with intimacy, which are all fascinating.' Everett's own life has certainly had its own colourful ingredients, with him creating many a drama about himself during an almost 30-year career.

Tragedy, I think, is deeply romantic and exciting.' Did he think that perhaps like Byron he was a worshipper of sex? 'I think they thought I was a bad influence - drugs.