I flew up to Glasgow one weekend towards the end of the run of Bent to shoot this segment for a BBC show Comedy Map of Britain which took people back to the places where they had derived their comedy material from. Forbes Masson and I revisited the lovely Prestwick Airport, where we'd shot scenes from The High Life.
As I was nearing the end of the Broadway run of The Threepenny Opera, I was asked to play Max in Bent at the Trafalgar Studios in London's West End. I had actually decided I didn't want to do any theatre for a while, but opportunities like this don't come along very often.
Bent is one of the most amazing plays I have ever been in. It tells the story of a gay man, Max, who is living with his boyfriend Rudy in Berlin in the 1930s. The play begins the morning after the Night of the Long Knives - a Nazi purge against Ernst Rohm and his SA - which effectively ended the decadent world of the Weimar era.
Max and Rudy are forced to go on the run and are eventually captured. On the train to Dachau Max is forced to beat Rudy to death to prove to the guards he is not a homosexual. Later in the camp he falls in love with fellow prisoner Horst, whose ultimate death makes Max accept himself and his homosexuality as never before.
The reason I think the play is so great is that audiences have a visceral reaction to it. It is a very rare thing in the theatre. It is of course a harrowing thing to play someone who is going through what Max goes through, but I used to feel sorry for the unsuspecting audience who had to go down the road to hell with him and are spat out at the end.
The play was first performed in 1979 at the Royal Court in London and Ian McKellen played Max. It subsequently moved to Broadway where Richard Gere played him. Ian came to see a preview with Micheal Cashman (who had played Horst in the last London production) and ended up coming with me and the rest of the boys to make an appearance at the club G.A.Y. and exhorting the throngsto come and see us.
When Bent was first performed it did a great deal to highlight the treatment of gays under the Third Reich, a topic that had been swept under the carpet for generations. It still is very shocking and because of the intense nature of its subject matter in all aspects, it is able to evoke very violent reactions in people. As much as it was ardous and exhausting, I loved every minute of it.
The cast were amazing. Maybe because of what we had to do onstage every night, off stage we had an absolute blast. The Bent boyz regularly reunite in London to party on. The oldest bent boy but always the last to leave was Martin Sherman the playwright (we call him the Sherminator), an amazing man with stories that you will not believe!
Bent really challenged me. Physically I had to lose a lot of weight (annoyingly I had bulked up a bit to play Mac the Knife!) and Ann Yee the movement director put us through daily boot camp that gave me muscles in places I never wanted to get them, and Daniel Kramer the director pushed me to places that were not very pleasant to go to but utterly neccesary for the rawness and the pain that had to emanate from such a story. I will never forget it.
Talking Movies is a BBC Worldwide show and its host, Tom Brook, is really intelligent and nice - a rare combo, believe me.
And here I am in London, very early one Sunday morning discussing politics on The Sunday Edition.
Then I also appeared on the lovely Charlotte Church's talk show
And I made a return visit to the Tony Danza show, where I finally got to cook stovies on TV!!
and Conan, once more...
I played Mac the Knife in the Roundabout Theatre Company's production of The Threepenny Opera at Studio 54 on Broadway. Here I am talking to the American theatre Wing about the play and the production and my experience of doing it. I think it's better to listen to this instead of me droning on in print. Hey, we're living in the 21st century people! Click here for aural pleasure
I was sent a script by writer Tom Gallagher called Suffering Man's Charity in 2004 and I immediately wanted to do it.
I think I was in a bit of a funk about screenplays and movies, and the formulaic nature of them. Even those perceived as wacky still have a certain mandatory structure and tradition that I was beginning to feel very stifling. So I think that was one of the reasons I fell in love with Suffering Man's Charity. It is absolutely nuts and shifts between many genres and each time some new crazy thing happened I remember audibly gasping and marvelling about where the script was going to go.
So I directed and starred in Ghost Writer, as it came to be known. We shot it in LA in November and December 2006. It had its world premiere at the SXSW festival in Austin in March 2007. The film also stars David Boreanaz, Henry Thomas, Anne Heche, Karen Black, Jane Lynch and Carre Fisher.
Here's what Salon.com had to say about its opening...
Protean Scottish actor-director Alan Cumming has premiered his new film, an outrageous horror-comedy carefully designed to offend the entire population of the planet. Those who didn't show up missed seeing Cumming himself as a queeny, middle-aged music teacher who winds up imprisoning and torturing a young hustler played by David Boreanaz (of "Angel" and "Buffy" fame), who is wearing women's underwear and tied up with Christmas lights and duct tape (oh, and heavily medicated with sleeping pills). "Suffering Man's Charity" is just that kind of movie: It opens as if it's going to be a sad-sack gay comedy in a lesser Tennessee Williams mode. And then it goes completely insane. Even before we get to Boreanaz and the Christmas lighting, we've already had Anne Heche as a femme fatale New York editor and Karen Black (Karen Black!) as a drunken, slutty hag stumbling around in her underwear and making obscene promises to Boreanaz's rent-boy character. Later in the film, there's a significant splatter quotient, an appalling vehicular accident, a vindictive ghost and a truly horrible New York literary party. This film is all genres at once, and a few that don't yet exist. Given Cumming's far-reaching showbiz as a Shakespearean actor, kiddie-film villain (in "Garfield" and the "Spy Kids" series), novelist, indie director ("The Anniversary Party") and outspoken activist on gay issues, I have no doubt he can find a distributor for this willfully grotesque picture eventually. It's either a total disaster or a midnight movie cult hit in the making, and on first viewing I'm not sure which. As I told myself while I stumbled out into the steamy streets of Austin, for better or worse there was nothing like that at Sundance.
Here's the intoduction I did for this book of nude self-portraits by various photographers, edited by Reed Massengill......
I think everyone secretly wants to take nude self-portraits. To be able to see ourselves as others see us - either passive or in the throws of passion – is always illuminating, but isn’t it also erotic just to have in our possession an image that captured a moment in our lives when we were at our barest?
Baring it all has many connotations, of course. Sometimes the look in an eye is more revealing than an entire naked body. And sometimes a close-up of an erection speaks volumes about the subject, and what he wants us to think and/or think of him.
I have taken my clothes off for many photographers over the years, several times for some of those you will see in these pages. But I have never allowed (or indeed been asked) for a nude self-portrait to be published before.
Actors are asked to reveal a lot about ourselves all the time (if, like me, you believe letting parts of yourself be revealed through a character is what acting is all about). But when I am asked to pose nude for a photo I realize that I am allowing myself to be revealed in a more titillating way: here is Alan Cumming, that actor, with his arse out; here he is again, oops, we can nearly see his cock etc. In a way, the more I show in a photograph, the more I am throwing you off the scent.
These photographers are all choosing to see what it feels like being on the other side. The hunters are becoming the hunted - or at least pretending to be willing to be hunted. What I find fascinating is trying to guess how much they too are really revealing, or how much they – intentionally - are trying to throw us off the scent. It’s harder, of course, because we don’t know them, we haven’t seen their films or heard them on talk shows. We do not know the mask they are dropping. We only have these images to glean a very complex series of attributes, desires and foibles.
Unlike the nudes of me that have been published, my self-portraits are not beautifully lit, there is no powder brushed across my buttocks, and I am certainly showing a lot more than I would ever feel comfortable showing in a studio with a whole slew of crew present.
If I weren’t famous I think I would have shown you an altogether different picture. I initially cursed the internet and the gossip industry for denying me artistic freedom and complete inhibition. But then I looked through the artists’ work again and realized that what this book is really about is intimacy – and just like baring it all, intimacy can come in many forms.
This is a very intimate self-portrait, and I hope the route it took me to decide upon it will serve as a good prism for your enjoyment of the rest of this collection.
I have a cameo as a disgruntled ex-employer of a theme park in Florida in this movie, Full Grown Men, directed by David Munro, and I was also a co-producer.
I hitch a lift from two friends hang a reconciliation road trip, played by Matt McGrath and Judah Friedlander, and they get more than they bargained for. The movie also stars Amy Sedaris and Deborah Harry. It premiered at the Tribeca Film festival in 2006 and was released in 2007 after winning the 2007 indieWIRE: Undiscovered Gems audience award.
Sundance Channel asked me to take over as host of their film series Midnight Snack. The scenario was that I was at home talking about a film I was about to watch, with a midnight snack I was about to eat. So I suggested that, for reasons of accuracy, I should co-host with my dog, Honey
A star is born.....
I was asked to go into Showtime's hit series The L Word for half a season to play Billie Blaikie, a really fun character who worked for Pam Grier and generally caused havoc. It was fun to be in something that was so sexually provocative and ground-breaking.When you do a TV show in America they usually just have one script to show you and you have to sign on for the rest based purely on a conversation about your storyline. So I said I would do this part only if I could have a sex scene with a lesbian. I thought it would be really interesting to shake things up and confound people's expectations about the black and white notions of sexuality. (I belive things are more grey). I did finally have sex with a lesbian, but it wasn't really the scenario I had imagined! Daniela Sea who played Max is a sweetheart and a great kisser and it's great to have someone as sensitive and lovely as her to do scenes like this with. Here is a scene that was actually cut from one of the episodes. It's always really annoying to have a sex scene cut, because they are very embarassing and exposing to do - even though this one was with my very good friend Paul Anthony and so we were able to have a laugh about putting the hot hot dog in the bun.
I was asked to go into Showtime's hit series The L Word for half a season to play Billie Blaikie, a really fun character who worked for Pam Grier and generally caused havoc.
It was fun to be in something that was so sexually provocative and ground-breaking.When you do a TV show in America they usually just have one script to show you and you have to sign on for the rest based purely on a conversation about your storyline.
So I said I would do this part only if I could have a sex scene with a lesbian. I thought it would be really interesting to shake things up and confound people's expectations about the black and white notions of sexuality. (I belive things are more grey).
I did finally have sex with a lesbian, but it wasn't really the scenario I had imagined! Daniela Sea who played Max is a sweetheart and a great kisser and it's great to have someone as sensitive and lovely as her to do scenes like this with.
Here is a scene that was actually cut from one of the episodes. It's always really annoying to have a sex scene cut, because they are very embarassing and exposing to do - even though this one was with my very good friend Paul Anthony and so we were able to have a laugh about putting the hot hot dog in the bun.
Gray Matters was written and directed by my friend Sue Kramer. It stars Heather Graham, Tom Cavanagh, Bridget Moynihan, Molly Shannon, Sissy Spasek and me as a Scottish taxi driver in New York who falls for Heather, but she only has eyes for another...woman.
My character, Gordy, is the nicest man in the world: he falls in love with Heather, she rejects him, he tells her she's gay and it's ok, he takes her in when her brother chucks her out, he takes her to her first lesbian bar and when they won't let him in because he's male he goes home and gets into drag so he can still accompany her. He is pathologically nice! I want what he's having!