I forgot to mention that I am going to be performing my cabaret show in New York again, at Feinsteins at the Regency from June 15 -26th. I have been to Feinstein's only twice (both times to see Lynda Carter!) and it really is one of those amazing, peculiarly New York experiences. I loved it. So I'm looking forward to doing my show there, and especially as we'll be doing the more chamber version that we did in Australia at the end of last year, with just me, Lance Horne on the piano and Yair Evnine on the cello. I just love that combo of sounds and also the way it dictates the choice of songs. I think it will be amazing to be that intimate (and vulnerable) with an audience so close to you, and who are hopefully already a few sheets to the wind and more prone to getting emotional. You can buy tickets here.
I'll also be doing some dates in Los Angeles and San Francisco in June, and details will be announced soon.
On Tuesday my first episode as Eli Gold in CBS' The Good Wife will air at 10pm. Check it out, y'all.
I am in San Francisco today. There was even a tsunami warning here yesterday. The very first time I came here was in 1996 to visit a friend who was making a film. I stayed the night on a little boat moored to one of the peers that you could rent, and they brought you breakfast in the morning. It was magical. I like the feeling of sleeping in boats and this one was so small (in bed you could touch the ceiling with your hands, and the sides of the walls with your feet) that it meant that every little wave lap went through your body. I was staggering when I got off and returned to terra firma.
Last night I was flipping through channels on TV and came across Titanic. Maybe it was because so much of yesterday I was thinking about water and natural disasters, but I was instantly hooked and watched it till the bitter end. I had fogotten how there is a section about twenty minutes long when the only dialogue is either 'Jack' or 'Rose', repeated and repeated and repeated. It was like a Philip Glass piece. I also remembered that I had gone to see this film when it came out in the cinema in 1998 with my firend Sam Mendes, who I was working with at the time on Cabaret. And he is now married to Kate Winslett. Funny old world, innit?
I've been online a lot today reading and watching the reports of the earthquake and the tsunami.
It's made me feel so strangely vulnerable. Well, not just me personally, but all of us, inhabitants of this planet. The Earth seems in such flux this past week. And I can't imagine anything worse than waiting for a tsunami to hit you. Earlier I spoke to my friend Michael, who lives in Honolulu, and he was doing just that. Of course it seems that, luckily, the damage was minimal there, but all I could think of is thank goodness he lives in a tower block. It reminded me of something I read about all these tower blocks that nobody wants to buy anymore in Miami, especially as, wth the gloomy projections of climate change, the first few floors will be underwater ere too long.
I have been in a couple of earthquakes. Nothing like the 8.8 one that Chile just endured, but a couple of big-ish ones, the worst with an epicentre in the California desert near to where I was staying at my friend's ranch in Ojai, so it was pretty intense, with floorboards rippling and this awful gurning noise. It was about 3am and I had been enjoying the relaxing properties of all that California's rich soil has to offer, plus I was in the middle of a marathon viewing session of Pee Wee's Playhouse, so - and I feel very guilty saying this - I actually enjoyed the experience. At least I wasn't gripped with fear, more with wonder. Of course I wouldn't feel the same if the house had fallen down on my head or I was about to be swept away by a huge curtan of water.
The other thing I was thinking about today is how I hope that our attention is not turned away from the devastation in Haiti because of these new horrors. I didn't know this, but Chile has earthquakes quite regularly, and has what one article called 'earthquake consciousness'. It also has better standard of building than in Haiti, and so the devastation, and certainly the numbers of dead, will be less dramatic, though no less tragic of course. The awful thing about Haiti was the terrible poverty that already existed before this huge catastrophe came along just compounded the woes of the poorest country in the western hemisphere. So once again, I'm asking you to go to Maria's Tupperware page and buy some cool plastic, and if you do before next friday ALL the proceeds will go to the Haiti relief effort. (I think I may have been putting the Tupperware home page address up rather than this specific one for our money raising plan together, so if you went there and didn't understand, I apologise. On this page there is a message from Maria about me.) So come one, buy some cool plastic and save lives!!
Last night I went to a swanky Hollywood party, a sort of warm up for this coming week of Oscar mania. I ran into Greg Shapiro, one of the producers of The Hurt Locker, who is hotly tipped to be taking the stage at the Kodak Theatre next Sunday to pick up the Best Picture Oscar. He reminded me that the two films we made together never got released, so I am glad his fortunes have changed with this film!! I went back to my hotel and filled out my Oscar ballot - which of course I cannot discuss with you - though I will say that I think this new rule of having ten contenders for Best Picture is not only a very tawdry attempt to earn more cash by being able to add the Best Picture cachet to more films, but it is also really disturbing in that, due to the complicated system for voting, the winning film will probably win mostly because of the votes of people that didn't name it as their number one choice. I liked the old way better.
Here, to cheer us all up, on this sad and upsetting day, is Honey's latest publicity still...
I can hear a dog crying somewhere in the hills above my hotel. It has a little wail for a minute and then presumably feels so desperate and sad that it can't summon up the energy to wail any more and so it stops, then after about ten minutes it will start again. It's very distressing. I wish its owner would come home and give it a cuddle.
Last night I attended the Costume Designers' Guild Awards in LA. I gave the Swarovski award to the lovely Emily Blunt. It was a really nice night. We remembered a friend no longer with us (the designer Robert Turturice) and I also ran into a slew of old chums. Here I am with the director Rob Mashall and the actress Anna Kendrick from Up In The Air, and also, as I realised last night, Camp, a hilarious film about one of those rather scary summer camps where kids go and do nothing but sing Broadway musicals.
You may not realise it but in this picture I am committing a cardinal sin in celebrity culture: I am holding a glass of wine in a photograph!! It's true. You never see celebs with booze in any of these party pics. This is because publicists snatch anything resembling a liquid from our hands as soon as a photographer comes near us. I have never understood this. What message are we sending to the world? Famous people don't drink? We are even more plastic than you might have suspected and in fact need no sustenance of any sort whatsoever? We never relax? We go to parties but merely hug each other in straight lines and smile into lenses? I think it's weird. And publicists never want their client to be the one that breaks this mould, so they insist on grabbing your booze away just at the moment the first flash goes off so you are discombobulated and cannot argue with them. Last night I was publicist-free and look what happened!!
I was wondering with Rob and Anna about why this weird habit exists, and Rob said that maybe it's because pictures like this one could be used as proof in the future of my licentious nature, were I ever to be fired or go to rehab or have a sex tape or get a DUI and call the police officer 'sugar lips' or something. I suppose that could be right, but I think we should all rebel and get our photos taken whilst throwing back shots and eating french fries.
It was lovely to see Rob. He directed and choreographed me in Cabaret on Broadway and Annie on TV. He is one of the nicest people on the planet, and has a remarkable and rare gift for making you feel really confident about things that you aren't very good at. He is also a real laugh and can dish. My kinda guy. He got an award from Nicole Kidman for collaboration with the costume designer Collen Atwood. You may wonder why, at a costume designers' award ceremony, an actress and a director are getting gongs, but rest assured that there were lots of other awards that were purely for designers. These two were sort of costume designer allies awards.
I said in my speech that costume designers help me form my character (or caricature in some cases) because they are usually the first people from the production you actually interact with artistically - in your fitting - and often I have no idea what I am going to do and then I am bombarded with their ideas of not just how my character should look, but how the film or play or TV show as a whole should feel. So I don't just rely on them, I depend on them. And they sometimes give you free clothes. So hurrah!
The other evening in New York, my friends Robert and Matthew held an evening to raise money and awareness about the plight of gay people in Iraq. It really is so shocking and frightening. Basically gangs are going around torturing and killing gay people, and these crimes are largely being ignored by the authorities. If you'd like to find out more or see what you can do to help, go to the Human Rights Watch website. You'll also find out about other human rights violations in other countries. It's actually quite overwhelming how ugly the world can be, but please try and help out.
And please remember to buy Tupperware for Haiti!! Apparently quite a few if you have visitied the page below, but the sales have been a bit disappointing, so please, stock up for Chritsmas gifts, it's for a really needy cause.....Until Thursday 4th March, if you go to Maria's Tupperware page, ALL the proceeds of what you buy will go directly to Haiti Relief. Isn't that great? No commission or anything! Every cent goes straight to Haiti!! So please, please get buying some cool plastic and help the earthquake victims at the same time. And tell your friends! forwrd them the link! And stop press! If you order by Friday 26th, you'll get a free gift on top of whatever you order!! Woo Hoo!
Today I did yoga and hung upside down on some ropes for about five minutes. It's amazing what that can do for a boy. Obviously the blood rushes to your brain so you feel giddy afterwards,s but you're also giving you organs a rest and I always have some of my most interesting thoughts upside down. I have been known to do handstands when I am out in bars (see the song Next To Me for evidence of this) and I realise that I want to go upside down because my body knows it will feel more awake and invigorated after doing so. Try it! But be careful!
Last night I was in the garden bar of my hotel with a couple of friends and we were playing a game called Two Truths And A Lie. Have you ever played it? It's great. Basically you say three things about yourself, two of which are true and one of which is a lie, and the other players have to guess which is the lie. My standard three for the opening round are: I've been stranded on a desert island; I was a Lee Jeans model; I was an ambassador for Martini Rossi. Can you guess?
The last one is the lie. I was actually once an ambassador for Grand Marnier (don't ask), but never Martini Rossi. Good game, huh? It's amazing what you discover about your friends. Last week I played it in Boston and discovered that my assistant has saved two people from drowning, met Obama twice, and been arrested twice! He kept mum about the latter in his interview for the job.
Anyway, last night we played it and one of my truths was that I had played someone in a movie who was also in the garden. How crazy is that? That's LA for you. He is actually a very nice man from the art world and my character in the film Ripley Under Ground was based on him. The character even had an assistant with the same name as his.
Talking of the art world, I am very pleased to tell you that Boogie Woogie is being released by IFC films in the US on April 23rd and in the UK the week before. Boogie Woogie is all about a group of artists, collectors and those who love and hate them in the London art scene. I shot it absolutely ages ago and honestly thought it would never see the light of day, so I am especially pleased that it is finally coming out because I really like it. It has a great cast: Gillian Anderson, Charlotte Rampling (I still can't believe I am in a movie with her. She is a goddess), Stellan Skarsgaard (the hot vampire's dad), Heather Graham (who I have snogged in front of the New Yorker sign), Danny Huston, Jack Huston, Amanda Seyfried, Jamie Winston, Christopher Lee, Joanna Lumley, it goes on and on. Anyway, thought I'd give you a heads up so you can rush out and buy your tickets. I play a little curator called Dewey Dalamanatousis (the palest Greek man ever captured on celluloid) and I am one of the few nice people in the story. You can tell in this photo, can't you?
I just had a look at the traffic to my website and I have to say thank you all so much!!! Since I started blogging every day at the beginning of the year the number of people visiting the site has rocketed by over 100%!!! If I were my boss I would give myself a huge raise! But seriously, thanks, it's very gratifying that people are interested and enjoying my ramblings.
My friend Eddie, he of the Chic report, sent me this video of Vivienne Westwood. She is such an amazing artist and I thought I would share it with you. Vivienne designed the costumes for a play I did years ago called Elle. I played the Pope, naturally. She really is a legend and it was amazing to work with her. I had met her many years before because my ex-girlfriend had modelled for her in a series of ads in which she wore dresses and outfits made of carpet (again, don't ask!), and there was a party to celebrate. I was introduced to Vivienne and I told her I really liked the dress she was wearing. 'That's the great thing about being a designer', she said in her Northern drawl. 'You get to wear really nice clothes'.
Talking of clothes - wow, I am on a seamless roll here - I am off in a bit to the Costume Designers' Guild awards. I shall be giving, not receiving. I think it will be a real hoot and I am going to be there with my friend Christopher. He was the costume designer of The Anniversary Party and Ghost Writer (my version, not Polanski's!!) and we met on the Flinstones movie. The costume designer of that film, Robert Turturice, who was Christopher's great friend and mentor, died recently and he is being honoured tonight. I will tell you all about it tomorrow.
I have just had one of those awful LA conversations, where I talk to people who live here and they say that basically they hate the experience that they have each day in this city, but then they have to find things that help them justify why they continue to live here, otherwise there would be chaos. It's very weird and very frightening.
I always say that a) I don't like the fact that this is a work town. People only come here and remain here because they want to be in the world of show. No judgements about that, I am in that world myself, but I don't think it is healthy to live in an environment where everyone is obsessed about work. I think LA must be very similar to Hershey in Pennsylvania, where they make the chocolate. I bet there everyone talks about chocolate all the time. And that would be very boring. Here they just talk about movies, or scripts or box office grosses. And that, to me, is very boring too. I don't want to live in a vaccum from the rest of the world. I don't want my work to be the most important thing about me. And b) I need to live in cities where I can walk out of my apartment and experience humanity: people, shops, restaurants. I want to be able to talk to people and listen and feel other people's lives. I don't want to have to get into a car and drive to one particular area of town to do that. But then someone said tonight that maybe that is a more common American experience. Maybe living in New York gives one a false expectation of what is possible from other US cities. I know NYC is a very different ball game, but I really hope that the rest of US city living is not on a par with Los Angeles: sprawling suburbs with no central area for people to congregate, and, if they finally manage to find a place that will allow them to do so they will only be able to talk about their work with other people who are in the same industry as them!! Too depressing.
Also too late and I need to get off my high horse.
So instead, let's play Ask Alan !!!
Marjolein from the Netherlands asks: How did you have become an actor? I went to drama scool and trained. It was the only thing I had ever been any good at so I thought I should stick with it And why did you want to do something with theatre? The connection with an audience is the thing that made me the most thrilled I have ever been , and still am, in my life. I wanted to make sure I could always have access to that feeling. What is the best thing you have ever done with your job? I have moved and provoked and made people think.
Alan, I love Love LOVE The Anniversary Party. The relationships between the characters are so sincere, complex and palpable that I feel like a voyeur whenever I watch it - like I'm hiding in the bushes or under furniture eavesdropping on all of these intimate and often awkward moments. Did you have particular actors in mind as you developed the characterization? Was much of it improvised? What a fabulous achievement! Thanks so much. We did indeed write it for specific people, most of whom ended up playing the roles. So we used their lives, their speech patterns, their history. Hardly any of it was improvised, but I think because of the ease of the relationships between the actors, and the fact that we wrote in their voices and often about their lives it felt like it was. The scene when they toast Jennifer and I was sort of improvised, in that we guided them into an area that we thought would be good for their characters to talk about and then let them make up their own speeches.
Jane says: You inspire me and are an inspiration to others. Who has inspired you? I am inspired by people who are confident and comfortable with themselves and who want to make a difference in the world. I find inspiration everywhere from so many different sources, but mostly it's always about people who are standing up and being selfless and saying what they think is true and kind and hoping that they can change the world for the better.
Anastasia: How do you feel about Canada? Would you ever want to live here? And next time you are here do you want to go out to dinner? I really like Canada. I have made more films in Vancouver than anywhere else in the world. But I detect a little inferiority complex that I relate to being Scottish and living in the shadow of England in the same way Canada lives in the shadow of the USA. But please Canada, let it go, you have so much more to be proud of. Don't feel you need to be validated so much by others' opinions. And as for dinner, sure, if you have good veggie options.
Hi! I'm writing from Russia! I really like your movies and I can't wait to see you in Burlesque! Can you tell is there any promotional picture, I mean have you shot some promotional photoshoot for the movie? Sorry, my English must be horrible =) Your English is a million times better than my Russian! I don't have any pictures from the movie yet. As soon as there are, I will post them. But I have a lot of eye make-up and a lot of big hats.
Jessica writes: Hello! I was listening to your cd ' I brought a blue car today' (which i love) and was wondering if you'd ever release another album?maybe of your own material?your a good writer and i'm sure it would be amazing. Bless you Jessica. I am writing away. In the last show I did at Joe's Pub in NYC I premiered a new song I wrote about plastic surgery called I Want To See You, so I would really like to release an album of my own songs one day. Watch this space !
Linda asks: What was it like to work with Chris Noth? Tune into The Good Wife on CBS on March 2nd and find out!! It is episode 14 of the first season for those of you who see the show in other countries. Chris is really nice and I like working with him.
Finally.... Tanya from Seattle has these pearls of wisdom: I noticed one of your other blog readers was having trouble finding 'For My Baby.' I've looked for it myself and the only copy you can still get your hands on is the Region 2 version. Most computers can be set up to watch Region 2 movies, but there's also a cool little trick I learned how to do. There's a company called Slysoft that sells two programs, AnyDVD and CloneDVD and if you use these together you can make a copy of a Region 2 dvd that will play perfectly on Region 1 dvd players. It doesn't breach copyright infringement because it's legal to make a personal back up of a movie you already own. You have to pay for the programs, but I believe they still offer a very descent trial period. This trick also works for 'Plunkett and Macleane' and 'The High Life' as well. Just thought I'd pass on the info =). Thanks so much Tanya. But, eh, geek alert! Geek alert!
And please remember to buy Tupperware for Haiti!! Until Thursday 4th March, if you go to Maria's Tupperware page, ALL the proceeds of what you buy will go directly to Haiti Relief. Isn't that great? No commission or anything! Every cent goes straight to Haiti!! So please, please get buying some cool plastic and help the earthquake victims at the same time. And tell your friends! forwrd them the link! And stop press! If you order by Friday 26th, you'll get a free gift on top of whatever you order!! Woo Hoo!
I just saw this amazing commercial to encourage seat belt use from Sussex in England. It is really really beautiful. When i was a little boy I remember the first seat belt campaign was Jimmy Saville saying 'Clunk click, every trip'.
And talking of beautiful, here is a picture of my dogs Honey and Leon, taken in our bathroom in NYC by my man Grant. I miss them all very much right now.
LA has gone a bit cray today with scripts to read, and meetings and arrangements for the parties and awards and swag next week, to say nothing of the actual work that I have to squeeze in. AND tonight my lovely friend Whitney is coming round and I am cooking her a tofurkey roast so I must away and prepare. But first, read a script.
Sorry for radio silence. I have been working my butt off, literally. Yesterday I had the craziest day of filming on Burlesque. The morning consisted of me dancing around and on top of the bar in the club where the story is set. That meant a lot of jumping and leaping and spinning, and all the while lip-synching to myself singing That's Life - not the version I do on my album, I Bought A Blue Car Today, but one that I recorded one rainy Saturday last December in a studio in Los Angeles, and on which I am backed by the actual original arrangement that Frank Sinatra used when he recorded the song in 1966.
Yes, the movie bought the original arrangement, took Frank's vocals off and put me on! No pressure, then! Also I found it really hard to get the version from my album out of my head, esecially as I went back to doing that in the gigs I've played since recording the Frank version. Aagh! But everything was fine. I came, lip-synced and therefore I am.
What was hilarious to me was that yesterday I was dancing around four boys who were playing barmen in the club. And these boys are actually dancers who have danced with Michael Jackson, Madonna, everyone, and here am I hauling my forty-five year old ass around, dancing up a storm whilst these amazing (and very young) movers looked on!! There is jangling in the spheres, as Shakespeare put it. That's no right, as we say in Scotland.
Then in the afternoon I did a number called Jungle Fever with the lovely and VERY flexible Victoria and Shannon. This included, for me, lifting, handstands and falling into Victoria's crotch. Nice work if you can get it, eh? And of course, as we all know, on movies, you have to do things again and again and again!
So today I am a little sore. I went and soaked and steamed my aching bod at the Bevely Hot Springs after filming. I keep forgetting I have black nail varnish for this role and then I look down and think I have died or have gangrene.
This is a picture of me by Craig Mckay that was recently in the National Museum of Scotland's exhibition Salt of the Earth. I like it.It makes me pine for longer hair. It also makes me long for piney hair. Ha ha. that reminds me of shampoo called Timotei that was huge in my youth.
Here's a trailer about my friend Andrew's new book....
I am in Los Angeles again. From my hotel room I can hear coyotes howling. I think they want out.
I just did a very crazy thing: I walked to a restaurant. I know it's cliched to say that when you walk on the streets of LA everyone thinks you're a homeless or crazy person, or both, but there's a reason for that. I encountered three people in about ten minutes on the way back here. Two of them were straight out of Central Casting's down and out department, complete with shuffling gait, incoherent mumbling, crazy hair, bottle of liquor in a paper bag, the works. The third person asked me for a dollar and then recognised me. It's always a little hard to refuse someone money when they have seen you on TV, but then again I always wonder how a homeless person has access to a TV. That's a bit of a cover blower, don't you think?
And then I wondered if people in Los Angeles don't walk anywhere because there are only crazy people and beggars on the streets, or are there only crazy people and beggars because everybody else is in a car? Maybe it's the coyote issue.
I saw a billboard for Kirsty Alley's new show about being big. Hasn't she done this already? And then there was an advertisement for the fifty-sixth film Matt Damon has been in in the last fortnight. He really is prolific.
There are more coyotes.
I asked the front desk to have housekeeping come and clean when I was out but they must have forgotten, and so when I returned it felt like I was breaking into someone else's room. They're very messy.
James writes: Thank you for speaking up for the rights of all children to genital integrity. Too many people remain silent in an effort to maintain "cultural sensitivity" or some such nonsense but thankfully some people with ethics are speaking out against genital mutilation of children. I'm curious to know how and when this issue registered with you and what prompted you to speak out. When I came to live in America I realised how many men were circumcised and were so inured to the idea that they almost didnt know what it looked like to be intact. I just thought that was so weird, that mutilation of that kind should be so commonplace and accepted. Then I found out how often it can go wrong, how much sensitivity is lost, how traumatic it is and I really felt I should help people question why they put their children through this horrible experience.
and Ryan says: Hi, I found out about your Intactivism on Intact America's web site. Thank you for your support. I read that you were born in Scotland. You're lucky to not have been born here in the US. You were spared. I am just another victim. The rates are dropping here but that may change if the AAP/CDC gets their way. The tide is turning but the norms are still such that some of your more visible, i.e. famous friends might be afraid to speak out. Let's do our best to change that. Let's do our best to end this secret national tragedy that has continued too long. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help your efforts. I think the best thing to do is to keep talking about it, Ryan. Challenge people to question it. Spread awareness. Also point them in the direction of Intact America's website.
Eleanore says: Alan, why can't I find For My Baby anywhere? I've looked and I've looked and I've looked, and all I can find are trailers. But nowhere to get the DVD. It looks like such an amazing film, and I'm just stuck about what to do! Any ideas? Hmmm. You might want to try its other title, Goodnight Vienna.
Tom writes: My family are coming from Cumbernauld, Glasgow, Scotland this summer, June, to New York and Washington DC for our holiday. We booked tickets for the Spiderman Show but have now found out that it will be delayed. Is this true as we were looking forward to going to see this Broadway musical and would be gutted if we miss it? It is indeed true, Tom. The show has been delayed but the latest I hear is that it will be opening in the autumn of this year. But you're not going to see it on this trip, alas.
From Carlton: in the early 90's I was spending a great deal of time in the UK. I caught a hilarious parody of Oliver twist meets the Elephant Man with youand a comedy troupe. I believe it was called "Let's Twist Again". It was wicked genius. Where and how can I get a copy of it? I've searched and searched and met with no success. ( I've been telling my friends about this skit for years ). It was called Oliver 2: Let's twist Again, and written by Richard Curtis as part of Comic Relief night in 1995. Here's a picture of me as Oliver and Ron Moody as Fagin (He was the real Fagin in the original musical movie of Oliver!). The cast also included Oliver Reed, Jeremy Irons, Diana Rigg, Stephen Fry, Michael Palin to name but a few. I think I have a copy somewhere and will try and get it online soon.
Thanks for all your kind words about When Alan Cumming met Stanley Baxter. Isn't he amazing? To answer your questions about how we met and to find out more about him, here's an article that was in The Heraldnewspaper this past week. And if you live in the UK you can watch the show here.
Here is a video about my friend David Remfry. He is an amazing painter, and this shows his series of paintings of dancers. I have known David for years, and have sat for him several times. Sitting for him is great. You don't have to stay still all the time (at least I don't. I wonder if that's just me), and you get to chat and unleash whatever is going on in your mind. It's almost like being in therapy except the therapist is a really good friend and they're drawing you. I was very honoured that a painting he did of me was in his exhibitions at PS1 in New York and at the Royal Academy in London. Honey and Leon, my dogs, have been painted by him too, and indeed I have a work of David's in my study of Honey and I. I just love the way he captures spirit, and draws you to certain parts of a body with such details and then other bits he leaves very spare. And best of all, he is a lovely, kind and funny person.
I have been leaping on and off bars (sober) and having girls boobs and crotches shoved into my face all day (and it's been a while!). The reason is that on Monday I shoot not just one but two, count them, numbers for the movie Burlesque that I am working on right now. The schedule is slightly insane so I am rather scared of the state of mind I will be in come Monday evening, but hey ho. I am having a lot of fun, and that's the important thing.
I always think that about films. It's so much more important to enjoy the experience of them than to project about the outcome of them. These scenes may be cut from the film, the film may be a disaster, it may be a huge success, it may never be released. What matters is the now and I am enjoying working with the lovely dancers - many of the boys worked on Michael Jackson's This Is It show, and Victoria and Shannon the lovely contortionists.
It's always funny to hear about your life going on without you. My friend Eddie and a couple of other friends are round at our place in NYC tonight having dinner. My dog Honey is especially pleased about Eddie being there as he is her favourite. There is something so nice about knowing that people you love are all getting together, even though you can't be with them.
I was sent this first video below the other day from BarackObama.com. Please send it to as many people as you know, especially those who are anti this adminsitration and ask them to watch with an open heart. It is pretty amazing, and I think we all need to remember we are in the grip of a trend against anything hopeful, even from the left, right now.
Remember to buy Tupperware for Haiti (see below)
And did anyone watch my Stanley Baxter show? I forgot that it was on BBC2 Scotland and you had to find the special regional button on Sky to watch it in the rest of the UK. Woops. How was it, peeps?
I am off to a party. Tomorrow I must excercise and stretch and then rest up cos I have a 5.30am call on Monday. Can you imagine?
And here, after the Obama vid, is a little 50s musical condom commercial I made with my friend Ned, and was in with Ricki Lake. It also has an important message...
This blog entry is a little late. I am only saying it is Friday so that I don't break my New Year's resolution of doing an entry every single day. I did say that I would try and do an entry whenever possible and today was just not possible because I have been filming till 3am or so and had no way of getting online. So there. But sometimes I pre-empt days like today by writing an entry the night before but last night I was on a plane and just exhausted when I got to the hotel. Oh woe is me, alack a day, blah blah blah.
First of all I should say that the American Airlines flight attendants couldn't have been nicer! I am now wondering if the fact that I flew from Boston has anything to do with the unusual geniality. I think not. I think I just had a bad run. However, the food still left a lot to be desired. If like me, you're a vegetarian, and you tire of the cheese-drenched pasta that is normally offered on planes and so you try to be a clever clogs and order a vegan meal instead, don't waste your time doing so on AA. What you will get is a few oil-soaked slices of squash to start followed by a main course of white rice and some carrots and broccoli overcooked to the point of utter surrender. I had to blow my vegan cover and ask for some of the creamy salad dressing just to make the rice almost edible. But hey, I was given the dressing with a smile.
I was in Boston to shoot this year's introductions for Masterpiece Mystery. (I am the host of Masterpiece Mystery, y'all). For the past few years I have gone there on the train and spent a couple of days. This year the train journey was so beautiful because of the snow. It reminded me of the beginning of Valley of the Dolls. The people at WGBH are so nice and I really enjoy coming out of the shadows and doing my caustic and enigmatic intros. Also it's lovely to spend time with a couple of my friends who groom and style me and who I don't get to see as often as I'd like.
Oh, those of you who are in Edinburgh must be having a visual feast right now. Carry A Poem, the campaign I am fronting to encourage peeps to read more poetry and indeed to carry poems around with them, has started projecting lines of poetry on landmarks in Edinburgh, like the castle. Isn't it a great idea?
Tupperware for Haiti alert!! For two whole weeks until Thursday 4th March, if you go to Maria's Tupperware page, ALL the proceeds of what you buy will go directly to Haiti Relief. Isn't that great? No commission or anything! Every cent goes straight to Haiti. So please get buying some cool plastic and help the earthquake victims at the same time. And tell your friends! And stop press! If you order by Friday 26th, you'll get a free gift on top of whatever you order!! Woo Hoo! (Can you see now why my party was such a hit?!)
Finally, please remember to watch (if you live in Scotland) When Alan Cumming Met Stanley Baxter at 8.15 pm Saturday 20th on BBC2. It's fun. Okay, that's all folks. I am knackered. I have been luring Chrisina Aguilera into a Burlesque club all day. Life's a bitch.
Below is the latest Chic Report that my friend Eddie makes. I have a cursing cameo this week...
Also, I am flying on American Airlines this afternoon and so going to test my 'American Airlines are mean' theory. Thus far, I asked a man a question about the check-in location and he was monosyllabic, so check! Then the lady who checked me in was beyond grumpy, so check! However the lady who checked me in to the lounge was very nice although she said she was a fan and I feel that negates her niceness because of extentuating circumstances. The barman in the lounge who made my Bloody Mary was curt (I always have a Bloody Mary in an airline lounge. It's a ritual now, and also takes the edge off of any nerves about hurtling through the skies in a flimsy metal-fatigued cylinder), so check! I'm about to board so it's up to the flight attendants to turn it around. What do you think will happen?
Please don't forget to buy Tupperware for Haiti...
For two whole weeks until Thursday 4th March, if you go to Maria's Tupperware page, ALL the proceeds of what you buy will go directly to Haiti Relief. Isn't that great? No commission or anything! Every cent goes straight to Haiti. So please get buying some cool plastic and help the earthquake victims at the same time. And tell your friends! And stop press! If you order by Friday 26th, you'll get a free gift on top of whatever you order!! Woo Hoo! (Can you see now why my party was such a hit?!)
And I am still scared of that girl who won the gold medal for ski-ing last night. I think she is a robot.
Those of you who are regular readers of this blog will remember that I had a Tupperware party to celebrate my becoming 45. And it was the best fun! All my friends, even those who had been slightly sniffy about the idea beforehand, got really into it and one time I looked behind me and saw them all sitting cross-legged, enraptured by our Tupperware lady and her patter and games, looking for all the world like a class of infants.
Instead of getting presents I asked for donations for Haiti and we raised over $1400. When I reported this on my blog, the lovely Maria (who works with Anita) got in touch and said she and Tupperware wanted to raise some money too, as did quite a few of you, dear readers....
.....so now, taa raa, as of tomorrow (Thursday 18th) for two whole weeks until Thursday 4th March, if you go to Maria's Tupperware page, ALL the proceeds of what you buy will go directly to Haiti Relief. Isn't that great? No commission or anything! Every cent goes straight to Haiti. So please get buying some cool plastic and help the earthquake victims at the same time. And tell your friends! And stop press! If you order by Friday 26th, you'll get a free gift on top of whatever you order!! Woo Hoo! (Can you see now why my party was such a hit?!)
On a less happy note, my Facebook impostor is still at large. We haven't heard back from our contact at Facebook who removed the last impostor pretending to be me (or indeed the same person who has just relaunched himself). So please tell anyone you know that the Alan Cumming on Facebook is not, and never has been, me.
Also in my continuing campiagn of shaming hotels who make you pay unnnecesarily for internet use, I would like to say that the Ritz-Carlton in Boston is guilty as charged. I always say it's the mark of a classy hotel that it gives you free internet, and the Ritz-Carlton does not make the grade. Shame!
Finally, my friend Joey just sent me this video advertising petcare after The Rapture. For those of you who don't know, the Rapture is something that some Christians believe might happen in which they will all be flown up to heaven and the rest of us will remain on Earth and be turned into frogs (or something). Of course the dilemma lots of Christians are having is what to do with their pets if this happens? Apparently God's love only extends to Christians and not their furry friends. So luckily now there is an organisation that will dole out the pets to non-Christians who are left on stinky old Earth. Phew!
This coming Saturday night at 8.15pm, When Alan Met Stanley will be broadcast on BBC2 in the UK. I am the eponymous Alan of the title, and the Stanley is someone I have admired for as long as I can remember, the truly wonderful Stanley Baxter. Stanley is famous for his lavish variety shows on British television in which he transformed into characters of both sexes in parodies (and homages) of movies and television, and performed classic sketches like 'Parliamo Glasgow'. I grew up watching Stanley. His specials were the highlight of any holiday season, and as I have said before, very often I saw his parodies of films and genres of film before I had ever seen the real thing, and so I think he has a lot to do with the warped way I see the world. Several years ago I took part in a documentary about Stanley, and during my interview I said that I wished he hadn't retired so I could have worked with him. Well, Stanley sent me a postcard thanking me for taking part in the show and also saying that he wished he had worked with me! That postcard was one of my most prized possessions. At the time I had one of those shower curtains with pockets to put things in, and I kept it in one of those pockets so I could look at it every day. Eventually the postcard got wet and moldy, and I had to throw it away. But guess what?! Now I have a whole letter from Stanley that I have framed and hung on my wall! I met Stanley about a year ago through my friend Ashtar, who is friends with someone who had made yet another documentary about him. One evening Ashtar was at dinner at her friend's house and so was Stanley and my name came up, and he said he'd like to meet me. When Ashtar told me this, I was freaked out. Of course it was a great honour but I was also pretty intimidated to meet someone who I admired so much. The next time I was in London, a dinner was arranged and I met the great man. He was everything I had hoped for: witty, kind, interested and interesting, and, above all, full of great stories that he told with relish. When I came back to London in September to do I Bought A Blue Car Today at the Vaudeville Theatre, Stanley and I had dinner a deux and I was able to find out more about him and his journey from child actor on radio in Scotland, through the army, Scottish theatre and then variety in the 50s to TV success and eventual icon status. Little did I think that this dinner would be good research for a Tv show, but it was. The BBC had asked me to do one of their ArtWorks shows in which they get two artists together and just let them blether on (rather like the Into The Night Show I did for German/French TV with Ian Rankin), and I suggested I do it with Stanley. And so last November, the day before I went to Buckingham Palace to get my OBE, we sat down at London Studios on the South Bank (where Stanley had shot his big TV specials) and just chatted. I saw the end product last week and what I like most about it is seeing how much we like each other. We are two Scottish men, from different generations, but who share a common love of having a good natter and a laugh. Here are some examples of Stanley at his best...
I don't know if it is age, but I was appalled by the athletes streaming into the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Olympics. They all had their cameras and videos out, were filming away AND loads of them were chewing gum. It almost felt that there had been a camera and a gum sponsor handing out swag as the athletes passed, like a drug dealer in a schoolyard.
I just think marching into an arena representing your country would preclude you from behavng like a teenage girl at a Miley Cyrus concert. I also feel that our obsessive (and I say 'our' for I include myself in it) filming of everything about ourselves as it is happening to us is going to eventually make us incapable of having a real, genuine experience because we will only be able to do so by watching the experience being played back later. I know I sound like a grumpy grandad but I think it is a great honour to represent your country and one not to be disresepected or treated casually, and so I would like to advocate a camera and gum ban for the closing ceremony.
Thank you. And now random Youtube video of the day, in which Honey and Leon steal the show once more...
I'm in the bath reading the news from my computer, and wondering about why it has become okay to just spout figures and statements that have no basis in fact and yet, if you keep saying them enough, people will take them as gospel (which is ironic as the gospels are only 'according' to someone, so aren't exactly foolproof). In the last US election it was laughable but also terrifying how many blatant lies were flung around, lies that luckily were questioned by a sizeable portion of the population, but lies that only made the factions that they were aimed at all the more sure and unshakeable in their loyalty to them. And that's where the probelm lies. Who, until the next election, is going to make an effort to try and persuade these people that they are being fed propaganda to make them more angry and less informed? A lie upon a lie and a prejudce upon a prejudice makes for a pretty dense tapestry of ignorance and hate.
Today Joe Biden lashed back at Dick Cheney saying 'Dick Cheney's a fine fellow, but he is not entitled to rewrite history without it being challenged, on NBC's Meet the Press. 'I don't know where he has been. Where was he the last four years of the last administration?' Good for you, Joe. I know it will be exhausting, but I think we all have a duty to challenge every insidious lie and false accuation that comes out of anyone's lips, not just our politicians but everyone, more than ever. With the internet and the forest fire of new technology we have access to so much information, but also so much false information and so many lies. People should back up what they say with facts, and don't let them make you feel bad about asking them to do so. The truth is important.
And talking of truth, it's time for Ask Alan!!!
I'm Victoria from Canada, and I'm going to be in a production of Titus as Saturninus, so I was curious if you had any advice for an aspiring actress? Well Victoria, first of all, congratulations. Saturninus is a great role. He is very irrational, which is hard for an actor in terms of logic of a character's story but then again, most people at times in their lives are fairly irrational. There is one speech when he decides to marry Tamora that changes the whole course of the play and his life within a few lines. I just felt he was llike a little spolied boy, who acted on a whim and felt always that the world was against him. Often I think of characters in terms of how a child would play them. I don't know what that says about me, but I think it is useful in terms of getting to the nub of things. Kids, when they playact, are devastatingly truthful. (Truth again! It's the theme of the day!)
Sally writes: in one of your older post, Jan 2nd to be specific, you mentioned you were going to go see 'A Single Man'. You mentioned, "The movie seemed to me a crowning celebration to a great year then. Now as I go to watch it, it feels like a reminder that things haven't changed." After watching the film, what do you think? I really enjoyed the film. I thought Colin Firth, especially, was amazing. I guess I feel that thngs haven't changed as much as they should have in terms of a gay man being able to be open about his sexuality and who he loves. I know there are still many, many people who feel they have to hide those parts of their lives from their work colleagues and friends and family, despite the progress that has been made, and that's a terrible state of affairs. I really liked the way the film reminded me of people's perceptions of gayness and same-sex love. I think I have a very charmed life in that I am the person I want to be, and say the things I want, and it's good sometimes to be reminded of not only how rare my experience is, but how much farther we have to go and how much harder we all have to work.
Two similar questions: Alan, you inspire me! Im trying to be an actress, and having fun gaining experience, and am currently auditioning for drama schools over the next couple of years (until I get in! ha!), are there any tips that you'd recommend, or any particular thing about myself I should be working on or showing off? The thing about me is that I left drama school 25 years ago!! So I am a little out of touch with not only actual schools but also what is required and any tips that might help. From my own point of view, I would recommend just being yourself and remembering that acting isn't just about losing yourself in a character, it's also about letting some of your own person come through too. I would also recommend not showing off in any way. But, I might be completely wrong. Sorry. But you're sort of asking a plumber about the best kind of shower head and the plumber hasn't worked in showers for a quarter of a century!! I am sure the world of showers has changed a bit! Good luck, though. And may I recommend my alma mater, the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. I am working with RSAMD on their American foundation and I think it is a very exciting school! Hi i am moving to new york next year , i have been dancing and singing on stage since i was 2 years old I just turned 19 and was wondering how hard it is to get a good agent there. I want to be prepared . BROADWAY is my dream. eloise Again, Eloise, I have had the same agent for eons, and when I chnaged last it was because my main agent went to a different agency and so I followed her. So I'm not very au fait with different agents or how to get them. I would though recommend getting someone that you feel you connect with and can talk to. It's a very personal relationship and it should be with someone you like, and who you feel gets you.
Claire asks: What was that Maori-like make-up, briefly shown at the beginning of the "BBC America - Talking Movies" video? I did my homework but the imdb (etc.) yielded nothing obvious. That's from a campaign I did for a charity called Keep A Child Alive which was called I am African. It was a great campaign and keep A Child Alive does amazing work. Check it out. Also to see the color picture of me go to the Look At Alan section, above.
Finally I am sorry to tell you that we have been havng a lot of fraud problems at cummingthefragrance.com and so we've been advised to take down the site. So, in the meantime, if you or anyone you know wants to get some Cumming products, just order via Ask Alan and someone will get back to you with details.
One last thing! Sometimes I don't answer questions if they are similar or the same to one I have answered on the blog recently. So I would reccomend going back through the archive a bit to other Ask Alan posts before you send me a question. Thanks!
Last night I walked in the Haiti Relief fashion show at Bryant Park. It was insane. We made a little video to try and give you a feel of the frenzy that surrounds such events. It was also a surreal mix of people. I don't imagine Fran Liebowitz, David Lachapelle and the Duchess of York hang out together that often.
I had a fun time, and the best part is knowing that loads of cash is going to a really good place. The outifts that we wore are going to be auctioned off on netaporter.com soon so please go there, register and raise some much needed money for Haiti by bagging some fashion swag. I wore a kilt suit by 21st Century Kilts. I'm not wearing the jacket in this picture but it is included.
I also went to see my friend Cynthia Rowley's show yesterday at Gotham Hall which was amazing, all padded gloves and bouncy feathery things (I would never make a fashion journalist, would I?) I also got to say hello to my little god-daughter Gigi, and her sister Kit, Cynthia's kids. Then it was a photo shoot with lovely Frederic Aranda, in which my dogs Honey and Leon stole the show. After the Haiti fashion show I went downtown to the after-party for Christian Seriano's show, which was lots of fun and a chance to catch up with friends. Christian and I share the same publicist. His mum was there, beaming with pride.
Check out this video. It's pretty nuts. And just remember that about half an hour before I had been picking up dog poop.
I am currently playing Eli Gold, a politicial analyst in The Good Wife on CBS. (My episodes start airing on march 2nd). The show stars Julianna Margulies as Grace, whose politician husband, played by Chris Noth, has been involved in a sex scandal.
Playing Eli is fascinating for me because he is a grown-up. He is a man in a suit. They even put grey in my hair, which is quite funny considering my hair is colored, so they are actually putting grey on top of color on top of grey! Also he is Jewish. He is a million miles away from me. And also I am filming in gaps between shooting Burlesque with Cher and Christina Aguilera, in which I play a club door whore with black nail varnish and Comme des Garcons outfits, so the whole experience is a little schizophrenic.
But I think I have learned something. Initially I thought I didn't understand Eli, he seemd so far from me and I was unused to the process of TV series acting. But then I just altered my opinion of him and instead of thinking I don't relate to him because he has a life that I don't comprehend I think he is exotic like every human being and I can understand that.
Talking of exotic, someone just put up this performance I did from Cabaret on the Rosie O'Donnell show a million years ago. There's also an interview, in which I foolishly said my favourite American candy was Reece's Peanut Butter Cups. I was inundated with them for years after. Literally people would open a cupboard to get a glass in my apartment and bags of Reece's would fall on their heads. Ah memories.
Last night I attended the Amfar gala at Cipriani's in NYC. Amfar is a great organisation doing really amazing work to try to find a cure for AIDS, and educating and spreading awareness about HIV.
Last night's gala was really special for many reasons. The late Natasha Richardson was honoured, with an amazing, moving speech by her mum, Vanessa Redgrave, and then in song by the utterly brilliant Meryl Streep. There was not a dry eye in the house, nor a chin that was not dropped to the table. It really felt like we were at a wake in an Irish pub. It was a great way to remember Tasha.
Elton John and David Furnish were honoured too for their amazing work with the Elton John AIDS Foundation, as was Louis Vuitton's Yves Carcelle. Lady Gaga performed, wearing white pearls on her face and a white bikini on her body. She appeared on top of a white piano and spat out some pearls after drinking from a white cup, then sang Future Love. I love the fact that we have a pop star who is also a performance artist. The lovely Cyndi Lauper introduced her. And Rufus Wainwright sang two beautiful Judy Garland songs.
My cast-mate from Burlesque, Stanley Tucci, hosted the evening, and I sat next to my cast-mate from The Good Wife, Julianna Marguiles.
Kenneth Cole, the president of Amfar, and pun-mesiter extraordinaire, was there to greet everyone and also handed out pairs of his boots ('save a hide, wear a rubber' he quipped.) The boots were intended to help people deal with arriving at the event all poshed up in the middle of a snow storm, and to that I would like to channel Albert Finney in the movie The Dresser, and say...
Where was the storm?!!!!
I think this storm, or lack of it, is an example of how America is under the thrall, and the potentially malevolant influence, of the media. There was no big storm. It was a bit of snow, followed very quickly by a lot of slush. No big deal. But had you listened to or read the reports prior to this impending weather event, you'd think we were about to experience a second Ice Age. Seriously, it was no big deal, people. But the whole city of Manhattan was a maelstrom of closing and cancelling, all pretty much unneccesarily, and I think it is really scary to realise that so much weight was given to the frenzy the media induced. Was it just a slow news day or something? Or is it that now our news outlets have to outdo each other in terms of sensation and therefore can exaggerate and over-react to the extent that they make the population panic to such a degree? I think the answer is a big fat yes and I say shame on you, media.
How much did all those closures and cancellations cost? How inconvenient and utterly unnecesary? And how frightening to think that if we are fed information and act upon it in this way, what else could we be told or persuaded to do that was not based on reality, but merely a by-product of the dumbing down and influence of infotainment on what used to be called journalism, and the greed for viewers of an industry that is dying.
Ok, I'll stop now. But here is a picture of me pouting. I am pouting so hard at the media about its fake storm frenzy.
I forgot to tell you that last Saturday I went to the photography show opening in LA of my friend Traver Rains' new work. Traver is an old friend from New York, where he used to live and be one half of the Heatherette fashion line. His new photographs combine high fashion with his homeland of Montana, sometimes with dresses in the pictures made from the timber of a shed's roof, and sometimes with the frames being made from Montana wood. They are amazing. Click on his name to check out his website. Here we are having a laugh at the party.
From Kat: I just want to say I think Lady Gaga should be asking you to be in her videos - you'd be perfect for it, and that would be twice the awesome, if you forgive my grammar. So along those lines, my actual question: what other music do you like? Well, Kat, I am a flighty thing when it comes to music. My favourite thing is to leave my Ipod on shuffle and see what happens. When you are as old as me you tend to have collected a weird and wonderful music selection. I am very into The Wet Spots right now, and I got Paolo Nutini's album for my birthday form my brother and I am loving that.
Luba from Russia asks: What the Russian film do you like anymore? I wish you successes! I give regard your Honey! Hello Luba. Thanks foryour good wishes, and Honey sends you a regard back. My favourite Russian film that I have seen is Tarkovsky's Solaris.
Tina from Australia writes:I was just wondering if you think there are any plans of there being a 3rd Mask movie and if you might be in it again. It's my fave movie you've been in :) I haven't heard anything about a third Mask, Tina. Much as I enjoyed making the second one, it wasn't exactly a smash hit so I sense any plans to make a third wouldn't get very far. Did you know we shot the second one in Sydney?!
I know you are invested in a lot of important political issues, such as gay rights. Would you ever run for office? I have thought about it, well maybe not running for office, but having a more full-time activist role with an organisation. But then I realised that I have more power to be heard and to make a difference because I am well-known as an actor, and if I stopped being an actor I wouldn't have that anymore. So I sort of fell that it is best for me to stay as I am - a noisy arty type.
Hi Alan! I have heard rumours of Tin Man becoming a regular TV series, do you know anything about this? And would you reprise Glitch/Ambrose? I Loved your preformance of him very much. Thank you. I did hear rumours of there being a series, but not for some time. The version I heard they were working on was a sort of prequel, in which the Tin Man character was working as a policeman, before the whole overthrow of the O.Z., so that would mean that Glitch wouldn't be in it.
Any chance you could convince the people who did "Into the Night" ft. you and Ian Rankin to allow it to stream in the US? I had watched it up until the bit with you and Mr Rankin in the Scottish Parliament(lovely interior, all light and airy)... Then sleep ambushed me. The next day was a no-go on watching the rest ): Have you never heard of espresso? For those of you who don't know about Into the Night, it's a French/German TV show that gets two artists together and sort of follows them going off into the night in some city. I did it in Edinburgh with the novelist Ian Rankin. I'm not sure I can do very much about getting it streamed into the US!! But I do have advd of it so maybe I will look into getting it put online. Here is a trailer for it, below...
Can you speak German, or are you just good at doing the accent? My German is limited to phrases like 'that is very good' and 'how are you'. I have played a few Germans, notably the Emcee in Cabaret, and Nightcrawler in X2. When the latter was released they wanted me to go to Germany to promote it but I was too scared because I thought German people would scoff at my bad German speaking. I guess I was wrong.
It's said to be okay to be homosexual or bisexual in the army as long as you don't tell anyone, they don't want to know, but apparently what it is about is trust (yet soldiers lying about who they are keeps trust?). It tears at moral fibres, and somehow effects discipline and morale....but they insist this is not about homophobia or a persons sexuality. Do you think there is anything else that is adding to the issue - are those of us opposed to this policy blinkered as to how this policy could negatively effect the army and America? Or in other words are any of the arguments from the other side valid, or are the less homophobic arguments such as it costing America money, just there to cover up homophobia? Given as the army represents America, and certain stereotypes or ideals about men in particular (the world over, not just the US military), do you think getting rid of this policy or changing it would be a step forward in gay/bisexual/asexual/pansexual/hetrosexual/anythingsexual equality and rights? I think that equality means just that. I find it especially ironic that in America, a country that prides itself on justice for all and even calls itself the Land of the Free, there is still a large portion of the population that are treated as second-class citizens. I think that if you replace the word 'gay' withcthe word 'black' or 'women' (two sections of society that have also had to fight to be treated equally) you see just how iniquitous and wrong DADT is, as well as the lack of so many laws and protections that straught people take for granted. I don't think about what the other side thinks, because that in some way gives credence to their bigotry. Being gay is being prejudiced against and that must stop. No concessions, no negotiations
Claire sent me this limerick:
There was an actor from Carnoustie, Gifted, queer, free-thinking and feisty -- no angel, no villain -- Who'd dared us: "ask Alan!" But freaked out from a kinky Aussie.
Jane asks: In 'Ghost Writer' John Vandermark plays the cello ~ can you play the cello in real life? I did play the cello at hgh school for a short time. I found it a very anti-social instrument: I couldn't sit beside anyone on the school bus because I had to have my cello sitting beside me. So my cello career didn't last very long, but I did remember the basics so that when I played John in Ghost Writer, I was able to fake playing quite well. In one sequence when I am playing a really weird piece, just before the torture sequence, it's not actualy my hand that is on the strings! It's the cello adviser, Ira, squatting behind me and miming the fingering. Check it out!!
Jeff Arsenault wrote me from Ottowa in Canada recently about Project Greenman. This program was started to make people of all ages aware of issues affecting the environment and how we can all play a part to make a difference. Planting seeds and growing plants represents the continuation of life, a rebirth of our world and promise for tomorrow. Sharing seeds with one another symbolizes the growth of connections and friendships we have with others. In the classroom Jeff has focused on and promoted issues around the environment, taking care of the world, and peace. He feels that creating peace with the younger generation in schools will reach the most impressionable and create many memorable moments for students. Sending seed packets around the world displaying a peace symbol would assist in promoting their message of peace. His vision would be to have these seeds travel to countries throughout the world, including war-torn countries. If you wish to learn more about Project Greenman, please visit their website: www.projectgreenman.com
Finally, there's a big storm about to hit New York, apparently. Here's apicture of Leon and Honey from the last time it snowed. Keep warm, everyone!
I write this from the skies!! From an American Airlines flight. I normally studiously avoid AA, because I just don't like the smug/mean combo that emanates from their staff. I know that is a sweeping generalistaion but it has affected me to the point where, if I have a choice, I would rather give my money (or whoever is paying for me's money) to another airline that is more predisposed to being nice. Today, my prejudices were vindicated when at the check-in I encoutered a lady who was just plain mean. Usually when people are mean to me I try to understand why, and I can imagine that working for a company that is on the brink of bankruptcy and when you have the threat of redundancy hanging over your head at all times, you must find it harder to feel good about coming to work. But then again, screw you. We are all in this recession, there are other airlines that are in parlous financial states, so why is it that American Airlines' employees are, in my quite extensive experience as a world traveler, more likely to be bitchy, unhelpful and downright rude? Is there some sort of retreat in the Catskill mountains where staff are sent for intensive weekends and indoctrinated with anti-social behaviour?
Of course there is a lady working on this flight who is totally confounding this whole theory, rather annoyingly. She has used my name at least once in every sentence she has uttered to me, if not more, Alan. She is being so nice, I am starting to suspect she is a serial killer, Alan.
I always ask for vegan meals on planes, even though I am not a vegan. I'm a vegetarian and I have grown tired of the vegetarian options that most airlines offer: starchy pasta, drenched in horrid cheese. So my trick is to tell them I'm a vegan and so we bypass the cheese and tend to veer towards the cous cous or quinoa end of the market. It just tends to be a much safer and less cholesterolly-challenging way to fly. The American Airlines vegan meal, is, true to form, disastrous. White rice with a few slices of sauteed squash and carrot on top. (Haha, I nearly said Carrot Top). Even the smiley flight attendant was moritified, Alan. She very kindly asked if she could supplement my salad with things from the non-vegan trolley, Alan, so I had some sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes to make up for the dullness in front of me. As a sidebar, what is this weird American (country, not airline) obsession with melon? Everywhere you go there are slices of melon at the side of the plate. I HATE melon. I think it is like those awful flavoured waters but with bad texture. I also read that it is really hard for your body to digest melon and so you should only eat it on its own, not in conjunction with other foods. Yet melon is everywhere, it is pandemic. On film sets, if you ask for a fruit salad for breakfast, you get a plate of melon with a strawberry on top. I hate melon so much that I pretend to be allergic to melon so that I never encounter it.
Anyway, I digress. There is a really great piece by Frank Rich in the New York Times about 'Don't Ask, Dont Tell' this past Sunday. There was also a big ad in the Arts section for the forthcoming musical Promises, Promises starring Kristen Chenowith and Sean Hayes, and I have to say that the retouching of Sean Hayes makes him look like the double of John Edwards, and if there was ever a time when you wanted to look less like the former vice-presidential candidate , it is now.
Talking of failed vice-presidential candidates, Sarah Palin continues her odyssey of ignorance, banality and irrationality this weekend by saying it is not ok for Rahmn Emmanuel to use the word 'retarded' once, in private, referring to oppponents of the Health reform bill, but it is ok for Rush Limbaugh to use the word. Why do we think that is? Is it because Sarah is a mindless, unthinking bigot who will agree with anything anyone says if they are disagreeeing with anything vaguely left-wing, or indeed democratic? I think so. The only good thing about Sarah Palin's continuing presence on the US poltical landscape is that eventually she might polarise the right so much that they might break in two and form a more right-wing party. I think the creation of a viable, third political party is the next inevitable step in America's faltering politcial journey.
Lots of you have been very intrigued by the watch I wore in my videoblog about yesterday's performance of An Oak Tree. It is a Nautica watch with two clocks and a compass on it. And yes, once, when I got lost in the forest near my house in upstate New York, I used the compass to find my way home.
I saw Pee Wee Herman's show in LA on Saturday. It was astounding. Equally amazing was watching him interact with kids at the meet and greet thing afterwards. I am often mistaken for Paul Reubens, especially when my hair is short and spiky. (He told me he is mistaken for me too!!) At one point before the show I was standing by the box office waiting for my friends to arrive and there were long lines of audience members waiting to go through security. A lot of people were coming up to ask for a photograph with me, and I had an epiphany that this was probably the worst place on earth for me to be standing.
I have been reading about the winter Olympics athletes and I have to say they uniformly scare me. They all seem too obsessed and unhinged and always have some form of feud with people in their field. Why can't we just all get along? And finally and happily, perhaps the lack of snow in Vancouver will be the nail in the coffin of the 'global warming is a myth' theory that Ms Palin and her ilk like to propogate.
I'm still in LA, and about to go and be in a play. Yes, that's right. It's called An Oak Tree and is written by my friend Tim Crouch. He is in it, and at this afternoon's performance, so am I. I have purposely not found anything out about it, not read reviews. Each show he has a different actor with him and you have a thing in your ear, and apart from that I know nothing.
The fact that I don't have TV plumbed into my apartment (and the use of the word 'plumbed' is not accidental) means that being in a hotel, and especially being in a hotel in LA, makes this medium seem all the more insane, and inane, to me. A movie-set trailer is essentially a hotel room at work and yesterday I was in my trailer reading the New York Times at the same time as watching Good Day LA on TV. Now I know it is easy to mock the differences between one - the most trusted East Coast news tome - and the other, a morning infotainment show in a city where box office grosses and celebrity break-ups pass for the zeitgeist. And we all know California is a near bankrupt state whose most potent ethos is getting stoned and going surfing, but come on!! Today's leading stories were how to get your best orgasm after 40, bio terrorism and four silent killers in women. And those were the hard stories. The bulk of the show was taken up with the critical question of whether Howard Stern is going take over from Simon Cowell on American Idol.
I have long mocked the news when I come here, and I know I should get over it and accept things for what they are, but I just can't. Those stories like 'Is what you're eating right now killing you? Find out at 11pm' are so sensational, manipulative, fear-inducing and purely designed to avert the dial being changed and therefore any possible ad revenue disappearing that I feel the stations that use these techniques deserve everything they have coming to them.
Today it is raining in Los Angeles and people are freaking out. Of course we all freak out a bit at what we are not used to. About ten years ago I was here in January and the rains started and on the evening news the top story was a shot of a street drain with water going into it (surely what is supposed to happen to a drain?) and there was low, scary music and an ominous voice saying 'Storms Hit LA'!! Then another time I was shooting something here and it was windy. The morning news had a special wind report (yes, really) and the lovely lady behind the desk announced that they were going over live to Burbank to see some of the carnage. We then cut to an equally lovely and well-groomed man who told us that the winds had now subsided (so why go live to Burbank then, I remember asking the television) but he did have with him a woman who was going to tell us how these fearful gusts had ruined her morning. The camera panned to a little lady who told us that on her way to work that morning the wind had blown her hair and mussed it up so much that she had to go home and do it all over again! Well, hold the front page, people!
Pauline from Carnoustie writes: I've just read the article you wrote for The Lady, your life seems a million years away from the ordinary wee lad from Carnoustie. I've lived here for only 13 years bringing my kids up here and loving the place and the people. Do you ever come back and visit or reminisce? (Carnoustie is a little town in Angus in Scotland, near where I grew up, and where I went to school) I haven't been back to Carnoustie for many years. I used to go with my ex-wife to visit my in-laws who lived there, and when I come to Angus now I go to see my Mum in Monifieth. But I have fond memories of Carnoustie beach and the funfair every summer, and of wandering along the High Street during school lunch hour, and also of doing plays with the theatre club and the musical society. But yes, my life is very different from when I was a wee boy. I feel just the same though.
Will you be working with Jennifer Jason Leigh again any time soon? I really hope so. The Anniversary Party is one of my proudest achievements, and I love JJL dearly. I think these things are sort of organic and if they are going to happen they will. We obviously aren't full-time writer-directors and there are other things going on in our lives, especially hers right now as she is about to become a mum. But we talk about it whenever we have lunch together so I hope we do one day. But whatever, I am so happy to have her in my life and to have had such a great time together from our past.
While living in the UK for a short time, I was very fortunate to see your performances in Bent and The Bacchae. Your theatre work is so varied, those plays being perfect examples, and I wondered what elements you look for in a script that makes you say "I have to be a part of this!"? On a personal note, I have to say that Bent was the most poignant performance on stage I've ever seen. I admit that I initially went to see it because you were in it, however by the end of it, I was so overcome by the story you and the cast had told, it was difficult to walk out into the sunny London afternoon and not feel guilty that I could do so. I want to thank you for telling a story that is so often overlooked when we hear about the Holocaust, because the tragedy and loss endured by every community involved was significant. I honestly don't know how an actor finds the strength to put themselves through that experience day after day, because it was so emotional, but the passion, dedication and integrity with which you embark up upon these projects commands the most genuine respect from myself and your fans. I wish you all the best in success, happiness and love. Thanks so much! Bent is an amazing play but it was one of the most harrowing things I've ever had to do. My way of getting through it was by making sure that as soon as the curtain came down I had as much fun as possible with the rest of the cast! Sometimes audience members would be really traumatised and upset and want to talk to me but I really couldn't engage with them. I knew how they felt because I had just been through it onstage and I felt if I were to be able to continue to do my job I had to draw a line at the end of the play and leave that depsair onstage. But it really took it out of me. In terms of how I choose plays, it's on a very instinctive level, and there is usually something about the story as well as the character that I connect with and therefore want to be a part of. But as I say, it's instinctive and gut and sometimes it's a little irrational!
Jen asks I was just wondering if you had ever considered playing the phantom or Rouel in phantom of the opera? You know Jen, I have never considered either!! And I think that's for the best for all of us.
Why do you change your hairstyles so much? Have you always done this? I suppose I just like being able to look different and change both how I feel and how people perceive me. When I was a little boy my dad made me keep my hair really short, and he would even cut it himself sometimes if he thought it was too untidy, so I imagine in some way my changing my hair so often is in some way about exerting my independence and my personality in an area that was so prescribed to me in my formative years. Gosh, that felt like a therapy session. Your check is in the post, dear reader.
And finally here is a joke from Lynn Stuart who is a relocation specialist: A panda walks into a bar and orders a beer and a hamburger. After he eats he stands up stretches and pulls out a gun shooting everyone in the room but the bartender. The panda puts $20 on the bar and turns to leave. As he walks out the door the bartender asks why the panda shot everyone. The panda tells him to look in the encyclopedia. The bartender looks up panda and he reads "Panda: Large black and white mammal native to China. Eats shoots and leaves."!You know what, Lynn? I heard a slightly dirtier version of that joke!!
This is my other dog, Leon. He is a medium-haired chihuahua and is quite a big personality. Leon's hobbies include eating, eating and licking people in lieu of eating.
This picture brings back happy memories. It was taken a few years ago when we were driving in my VW Camper Van, Herb, to Toronto for the film festival. On the way we stopped and spent the night in a camp site and cooked dinner over an open fire and heard bears sniffing around as we slept in Herb's upstairs bunk. The next night I was walking the red carpet for the premiere of my movie. I remember thinking how horrified the paps and the press would be had they seen me the night before - covered in soot, twigs in my hair, crouched over a campfire on my knees, blowing till I was dizzy to keep the flames alive. Leon was not a fan of the camp site. He likes his comforts, and the great outdoors are not really his passion. Honey, on the other hand, whilst seemingly demure and ladylike in the city becomes a feral beast in the country, spending her evenings on the deck of our house staring off into the darkness like a native American chief, protecting us from who knows what.
Honey and Leon make cameo appearances in my friend David Raleigh's video of his songI Do, which is currently playing on LOGO channel. The other dog at the end of the video is Acteon, who belonged to my friends Josh and Lucio, but who sadly died not long after the video was shot. My friend Ned and I made this video last summer.
I just got home after a long day of rehearsals. I have been contorting with two lovely girls called Victoria and Shannon. It is so amazing to work with people so talented. I think any artist just wants to tell a story, and so how great it must be to be able to tell a story with your whole body. I also spent some time standing on a bar lip-synching to myself singing That's Life. It's a funny old world indeed. My old friend Joey Pizzi is choreographing this movie. I met Joey a long time ago when I first came to New York because we both had the same agent, and Joey was my first NY friend. Who would have thunk that when we first met we would wind up working together years later in Hollywood, trying to figure out how to get a tortilla chip into my mouth via a girl's foot ?! Uh, not me!!
Please witness democracy at work! The people speak and the people are listened to and action is taken! There is no partisan, negative nelly Senate here at alancumming.com deliberately blocking the wishes of you, the people.
You asked for a RSS feed. You now have it. It is up on the right, that little green radar thing. Click it, it's yours.
My work is done here. I am away to rehearse with two contortionists who previously worked on Britney's Circus tour. Oh yes, get me. Cher, Christina, Britney.
I just got back to my hotel from dinner with my lovely friend Christopher. We met 11 years ago on the set of The Flinstones in Viva Rock Vegas. He had to wrench my skin-tight spandex green leggings off me after a day of being flown around as The Great Gazoo. A friendship was born. Then he was the costume designer on both The Anniversary Party and Suffering Man's Charity. He is a darling and a hoot AND he used to be a dancer on American Bandstand.
In hotels I tend to watch much more TV than usual. This is because I don't have TV in my NYC apartment. Many years ago I made a decision to have the cable box taken away. I think it is for the best. It's actually amazing how easy it is to be totally au fait with popular TV culture without having to watch it. Everything of note is discussed, or even re-shown, on the internet. Hardly anything makes me wish I could have seen it as it was broadcast.
Tonight I discover that lovely little Lindsey Lohan is a hoarder. I guess we should be happy in that this seems less creepy than being paid to go half way round the globe to hang on the arm of a rich Austrian. But I mean, really. And Heidi Montag's mother looked at her like she was a farm animal after all her surgeries, and this made Heidi feel sad.
Wake and smell the coffee, Heidi. There are people dying in Haiti because they have no food or water. There are people dying all over the world because they are soldiers or gay (or both) or don't agree with someone else's opinion. That makes ME sad. No, your plastic surgeries do make me sad. And Lindsey's hoarding makes me sad. Sad that they are newsworthy. And sad that I am even writing about them now.
So I will stop. And instead let's have some showbiz trivia about me. It's Ask Alan time, everyone!!!
What kind of dog is Honey? She 's a mutt. A Collie/Shepherd mix (we think)
Jane asks: Have you ever had a paranormal experience?
Jane. I have never had a normal experience. But I think I do believe in left-over energy and the power of that energy to make things happen that can seem ghosty and spirity.
I remember you saying that when you became a nationalised American, the process was being filmed for the History Channel. What is the programme called as I keep going through on Sky to try & find it but I don't know the title of it. Also the programme where you interviewed Stanley Baxter ~ I keep looking out for that one as well, but again, I don't know the name of the programme.
I had forgotten about that naturalization documentary and so will endeavour to find out more. The Stanley Baxter show is called When Alan met Stanley and is on BBC on February 22nd
Catherine from Lowell, Massachusetts: I was wondering if you are planning on performing in Boston (or Lowell) at any time. I'm also wondering if you are going to ever write/direct another movie or if you are ever planning to turn Tommy's Tale into a film version?
Funny you should ask, Catherine, but I will be performing in Boston very soon at a gala. Watch this space. I am always thinking about writing or directing another movie, but right now I am happy doing little internet things (see What Alan's Done), and no, Tommy's Tale - the Movie is now officially dead, because I bought back the rights as I didn't like my own adaptation of my novel (I know, crazy!)
M writes: Hi, Alan, I've admired you for many years now. I know you've come to Australia a few times (most recently to do "I bought a Blue Car Today", but I was wondering; have you ever been to Western Australia, and if not, do you have any desire to go. More importantly, what do YOU think; If somebody were to clone themselves, then have sex with their clone, is it incest or masturbation?
Well M, I was looking forward to coming to Western Australia, but your misuse of the semi-colon combined with your crazy question has scared me off.
Claire from France writes: I have found myself daydreaming of a duet between you and Michael Stipe. I know you guys ooze very different energies, but still. Just because I love you both. Would you like that? I figure it's not entirely unconceivable -at a charity event/show maybe?- if only both of you fancied it...
I would love that, Claire. Let's ask the universe.
You'll be doing the sequel to Scott W's steampunk novel, right? Very enjoyable even though I'm only a young adult "at heart" by now.
I sincerely hope so. (Claire is referring to Leviathan, a novel I recently read on CD).
You'll continue on the (solo) musical route after Blue Car, right? Now that you've taken root so deeply in my inner musical landscape, I can think of so many songs you'd be great in! I find your range of expression, from sheer energy, lust for life, wit, all the way down to pure sensitivity, so invigorating, like a healthy vitamin mix.
Keep on taking me, Claire. And yes, I fully intend to keep on crooning!
A really unimportant one, but I'm curious. Any advice for miserable beings like me who have always felt sorely inadequate and frustrated at big parties?
I am writing this from my trailer on the set of Burlesque. So far I have done one tiny scene with Peter Gallagher and some extras, in which I wore a skin-tight shirt that made me look like I was tattooed, a sort of skirt with zips, boots with spats, a tweed vest and black gloves. Oh, and a lot of eye liner. It is quite the schizophrenic experience going between this character (he's called Alexis) and my political analyst in a suit with greying temples in the The Good Wife (he's called Eli Gold). I am now wearing Comme des Garcons pants that are so baggy they look like a skirt, a black and white stripy sweater, suspenders, boot and spats again, and a big long shiny black coat with a bowler hat with a little red feather in its brim perched on my head at a jaunty angle. I have christened the look Edwardian club kid. Just saw the lovely Stanley Tucci and was able to congratulate him on this morning's Oscar nomination. I think I meet Cher in this next scene!
It is so galling to hear this man blatantly lie. He was a terrible Mayor of New York City, he threw people out of their homes, very nearly ruined the entire fabric of the city and now, since his political career has disintegrated, why do we even have to hear the bilge this man spews? Joe Biden was so right when he said that Guiliani only ever mentioned a noun, a verb and 9/11. Now he can't even do that accurately.
Below Guiliani is today's random youtube video, which also answers a few questions that have come via Ask Alan...
I am fronting a campaign in Scotland, under Edinburgh's World City of Literature banner, called Carry A Poem which is encouraging people to read more poetry and also to carry poems around with them.
There are lots of events and talks coming up and also on the website you can see different people's favourite poems. I chose He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven by Yeats.
Why are you the only famous actor from the British Isles who hasn't been in a Harry Potter movie?
I know, right!! I actually was nearly going to be in one a long time ago but the deal just didn't work out.
Kathy from PA writes: I have a funny photo of you wearing a t-shirt that says "I'm with dough ball". The reason I tell you all of those details is...I was wondering how often you actually recognize your fans when we meet you several times? One more question...is there any way that you would do Cabaret again???
Yes, I totally recognise people, especially in New York because that's where I live and so I run into people at events. And I love that T-shirt! But no, I won't be doing Cabaret again. There was a move afoot a couple of years ago to remount it, but I'm sort of glad that it didn't happen. I think it's best to let things from the past stay in the past sometimes.
Susi writes: Hi Alan, I was always wondering if there's ever a possibility of you and Hugh Jackman singing a duet (maybe on stage)? I think it was a bit of a missed opportunity that Nightcrawler and Wolverine never decided to sing together.
Haha, X Men The Musical! I did sing at a gala thing last year in LA and Hugh was singing too. He did a duet with Amy Adams though, and I did one with Neil Patrick Harris. Maybe one day...
Buzika writes: When were you in Hungary? Don't you want intend to come again? We very love you.
I was in Hungary in 1997 to shoot a film called For My Baby, and I had an amazing time. We shot mostly in Budapest. I stayed in a hotel that had been Nai HQ during the Second World war. And I loved walking across the river to go to the Gellert Baths. I'd love to go back. Maybe I'll put that out to the universe and see what happens.
I just arrived in Los Angeles because I start shooting Burlesque tomorrow. I have a 6am call. Yikes.