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Alan Cumming

  • Scottish actor
  • Born June 20, 1965

Alan Cumming (born 27 January 1965) is a Scottish-American actor, singer, writer, producer, director, and activist who has appeared in numerous films, television shows, and plays. His London stage appearances include Hamlet, the Maniac in Accidental Death of an Anarchist (for which he received an Olivier Award), the lead in Bent, and the National Theatre of Scotland's The Bacchae. On Broadway, he has appeared in The Threepenny Opera, as the master of ceremonies in Cabaret (for which he won a Tony Award), Design for Living and a one-man adaptation of Macbeth.


I like the tragedies way more than the comedies because they're so universal.




You'll see Dame Judi Dench in a Bond film, in Shakespeare and then starring in her own sitcom. You never see that here with Meryl Streep.




I'm Scottish first, and it's odd to hear that I'm a Scottish-American.




With 'Urban Secrets,' I just really liked the idea of wandering around chatting to people.




I love a film where I get squished by two dumpsters or I fly through the air.




I come more to Scotland than I ever used to, so I feel more connected to it, more part of the zeitgeist. You know when you realize you have a choice and I'm choosing my homeland. It's funny: when you get older these things creep up to you.




Nowadays people don't know how to handle it if all the ends aren't tied up and they're not told what to think in films. And if they're challenged, they think it's something wrong with the film.




I started to itch to do a play again and 'Macbeth' came to the surface in my mind. I never thought I would do it in a conventional way. A sweaty Macbeth with blood on his arms coming in fresh from the battle doesn't interest me.




Once in a while it's good to challenge yourself in a way that's really daunting.




Sometimes with people I know, they're playing the hunky action guy and there's resistance to them coming out because it's so connected to straight masculinity. There's a plastic kind of movie star who has a very short shelf with very small kind of ambition. I see that but I still don't agree with it.




I had to be a grown-up when I should have been a little boy, and now that I'm a grown-up my little-boyness has exploded out of me. I've lived my life backwards.




When you're on TV, you come into people's homes. In theater and film, they go to you - to the temple of the cinema or theater. And it's very different.




So the experts think we could have an AIDS-free generation in Africa by 2015, even if the mothers are positive.




It's about how you exist as a person in the world, and the idea that your work is more important than you as a person is a horrible, horrible message. I always think about a little gay boy in Wisconsin or a little lesbian in Arkansas seeing someone like me, and if I cannot be open in my life, how on earth can they?




I think directing in a team is a really good idea because it stops the cult of the director as God straight away, and also you're discussing things on set so it opens it out to everyone and it becomes a totally collaborative thing. And you have someone who supports you when you're feeling a bit insecure.




I was horrified when Richard Chamberlain and Rupert Everett said gay actors should stay in the closet. They were saying to people that they should live a lie and not be liberated, to live in fear of being found out.




Pantomime is a big thing in the cultural calendar of my country, you know. So subtlety's not my forte.




The thing with film and theater is that you always know the story so you can play certain cues in each scene with the knowledge that you know where the story's going to end and how it's going to go. But on television nobody knows what's going to happen, even the writers.




I think you can be as big as you like as long as you mean it. I really do.




Kids are more genuine. When they come up and want to talk to you, they don't have an agenda. It's more endearing and less piercing to your aura.




My mum always told me I was precious, while my dad always told me I was worthless. I think that's a good grounding for a balanced life.




'Macbeth' was the first play I ever read. In fact, I remember my brother Tom, who is six years older than me, coming home from school and telling me about it. He was the one that really got me going.




It's really rare for film directors to be that interested in things other than themselves.




Romeo is the most misunderstood character in literature, I think. He's hardcore to play because he's displaying the characteristics of Hamlet at the beginning, and, well, then everything else happens.




Performing a one-man Macbeth feels like the greatest challenge.




My feeling about work is it's much more about the experience of doing it than the end product. Sometimes things that are really great and make lots of money are miserable to make, and vice versa.




When there's an adult person who's scaring you, you grow up pretty quickly.




In my first year at drama school, I did this kids' show called 'Let's See.'




I don't avoid anyone but I always think some people hate me.




You do get really exhausted doing films. You work such long hours, and after a while, things can get out of perspective, just like if anyone's tired, things get on top of them.




Actors aren't stupid, mostly, and if there's a sensibility and an aesthetic that a director's going for, if you're aware of that too, you can do things to help that.




For example, Americans seem reluctant to take on Shakespeare because you don't think you're very good at it - which is rubbish. You're missing out here.




There are some days when you don't feel like being Alan Cumming.




I like working on things that are very different and that involve different disguises.




A sweaty Macbeth with blood on his arms coming in fresh from the battle doesn't interest me.




Sometimes people get really sniffy about the films you choose if you've done more dramatic projects or you're classically trained.



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