Rupert Everett charmed his way into America's hearts by "saying a little prayer" in My Best Friend's Wedding — but no divine intervention could save his alterna-family film, The Next Best Thing. "In defense of its critics," he says, "it certainly wasn't how I wanted it to be."

The British wit signed on to Madonna's ill-reviewed flick with good intentions. In fact, he even attempted to work on it behind the scenes. "At one point, I was the writer and the producer," the 42-year-old explains. "I was barred from being both of them. It was a disappointing thing for me, because it was the first film that I had really started off being kind of in control of."

One of Everett's major complaints about Thing — the tale of a gay man and a straight woman co-parenting their child — was Paramount's marketing campaign. "It had the same campaign as Runaway Bride," he gripes. "The subject was not Julia Roberts and Richard Gere getting married. It was me and Madonna having an alternative family. It needed to be dealt with with much more of an angle. It was given this general kind of romantic comedy coverage... I can see how it could have been sickening to people."

Everett — who next co-stars with Reese Witherspoon in The Importance of Being Earnest (opening May 24) — does have some semi-sweet words for Thing. "It's quite a sweet watch, if you watched it," he adds reluctantly. "I don't think it was as bad as people say it was, but it wasn't that good either."