ALAN CUMMING plays the arrogant intellectual Piers Cutherton-Smyth, a character whom Cumming describes as a "posh boy who is trying to peel back the facade of the Spice Girls" with "very little success." Piers spends his life being virtually mowed down by the Girls and bobbing hopelessly in their wake. Alan recently starred in the feature film Buddy following roles in Emma, Goldeneye and Circle of Friends. He has extensive theater experience, playing in "As You Like It" for the Royal Shakespeare Company and "Hamlet" at the Donmar Warehouse. He has also worked in numerous TV and radio productions. He was thrilled to be working with the Spice Girls: "I was too excited to think when I got this job. I was in a state of nervous flux for about two months!" Cumming reveled in the freedom he was given to mold his character and delighted in the Girls themselves: "I love the phenomena of them and how they have taken over."
ALAN CUMMING (Sandy Frink) is an award-winning actor whose eclectic career has included seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company, feature films, stand-up comedy, writing for his own television series and directing the acclaimed short film "Butter." This June Cumming stars opposite Renee Russo in "Buddy" for Sony Pictures. He recently completed "For My Baby," a European production filmed in Budapest, dealing with the Holocaust. He was most recently seen as the Reverend Elton opposite Gwyneth Paltrow in "Emma" for Miramax. Cumming played computer whiz Boris Grishenko in "Goldeneye," and appeared as the amorous yet conniving Sean Walsh in Pat O'Connor's "Circle of Friends." He was also heard as the title role in "Black Beauty." Other feature film credits include "Prague," for which he received Best Actor honors at the Atlantic Film Festival, and "Second Best" with William Hurt. Born in Perthshire, Scotland, Cumming grew up on a country estate near Dundee where his father was a forester. At 16, he left school and began writing for a magazine before moving to Glasgow to train at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. While still a student he made his professional debut in television and theatre projects, as well as in the feature film "Passing Glory." After three years of theatre and television work in Scotland, Cumming made his West End debut in 1988 at the Royal Court in "The Conquest of the South Pole," and was nominated Most Promising Newcomer for that year's Laurence Olivier Awards. He went on to win an Olivier Award for "Accidental Death of an Anarchist" at the Royal National Theatre in 1991, and was nominated again the following year for his performance in "La Bete" at the Lyric Hammersmith. He appeared as the Emcee in Kander and Ebb's "Cabaret," earning a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for Best Actor in a Musical. In total, Cumming has been nominated for a record four Olivier Awards. In 1993, Cumming won rave reviews for his performance as Hamlet in London's Donmar Warehouse production. For his performance he earned a Martini Rossi Best Actor Award as well as a Shakespeare Globe Award nomination. Mixing his film and theatre success with a diversity of other work, Cumming is also known on the stand-up circuit as the latter half of the comedy duo Victor and Barry. He has adapted plays for the Royal National Theatre and was the co-writer and star of the cult BBC sitcom "The High Life." Cumming's other television credits include the films "Bernard and the Genie," for which he received Top Television Newcomer at the 1992 British Comedy Awards, "The Last Romantics" and "Micky Love."
Lisa and Mira's Reunion: Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino recently wrapped starring roles in Buena Vista's comedy Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion. Co-star Alan Cumming--who knows a thing or two about charming female leads from his work on Emma--says both actresses made quite an impression on him. The Scottish thesp reveals, "I love Lisa; she's got a great sense of humor. But she doesn't want to dance with me at parties." As for Sorvino, he says, "Mira didn't bring her Oscar to the set, but she did talk about it quite a few times." When asked which actress was better to work with, Cumming opts for the easy way out: "Both of them are very funny, great people." No doubt about it, with lines like that, this guy's going to be a star himself before long. Romy and Michelle's should hit theatres next summer.
A real loving cup.
Citation: People Weekly. , v. 46 (Oct. 7 '96) p. 138
Brad Pitt isn't actually in Emma, but he might as well have been part of the cast. Scottish actor Alan Cumming, who plays Mr. Elton in the Jane Austen romance, says Pitt showed up "quite often" to visit girlfriend Gwyneth Paltrow, the star of the movie. The actress, he says, had her beau well in hand--even when he wasn't there. "I'd go into makeup in the morning, and she'd be drinking coffee out of a mug with a picture of Brad on it, one of those brooding, hunky ones," says Cumming, 31. "Very Freudian. I'd say, 'Stop that!' And she'd just laugh. If everyone went around drinking out of cups with pictures of their beloved on it, it would be a very strange world. You know, kind of getting oral gratification from something that reminds you of your boyfriend."
When we met at the hotel, I had to wonder why Cumming immediately drew his knees into his chest, sinking into the overstuffed chair like a child. But I suppose if I were confronted with seven eager journalists I'd be trying to protect myself as well. And even though we knew he was a Scot, his accent still took us by surprise because he was so very American as the geek-made-good in "Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion", and the very British Reverend Elton opposite Gwyneth Paltrow in "Emma".
By way of introduction, I told Cumming that I was with America Online, which got the following response: "I was trying to access you last night but I don't have the local access number! You have to get on to get the number and you can't get on without the number. I'm headed for Chicago next, so maybe you can get me the access number there! I only use it for e-mail; I just don't understand the chat rooms. I have a fellow who comes in who teaches me what I need to know about computers but so far, it isn't much."
Too bad his accent and voice don't show up on line, because he endears himself to all the journalists with them and his animation.
The following is from a round-table with journalists Boo Allen, Todd Jorgenson, Ricky Miller, Alice Reese, Frank Swietek, Theresa Zumwalt, and myself. - L.R.
Q: How did you manage with the accent in "Romy and Michelle"?
Alan Cumming: Well, first I'm not an American, hello. So we don't have proms and reunions and such. And I was just glad that someone else pronounced Tucson before I had to. I thought it was Tux-sun! But I'm glad I did it because now I'm through the accent thing in America. When I came from Scotland to London, they asked if I could do the accent thing, which I overcame. And now, I've overcome it in America as well.
Q: What kinds of challenges did you face making "Buddy" with assorted chimps and a gorilla?
AC: The chimps were grand. Although we all got chimp flu as we called it. They are like children, always putting things in their mouths and then giving you a kiss. So when one got sick, we all got sick. And my favorite Rene Russo story is when we went to meet the chimps for the first time. She looked stunning in a new white outfit and when we got close to the chimps, one stuck her finger in her diaper and wiped it on Rene. Needless to say, we wore old clothes from there on out. And working with the animals, well, they don't always do what you want them to. Which can be said of most actors! And I couldn't think about my acting. I had to be more concerned about the chimps or the dogs or the gorilla.
Q: Can you tell us about your work on Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut" with Tom Cruise?
AC: Well, I had heard all the rumors about Stanley being a shouter and about Tom being a recluse but none of it was true. I felt a little strange coming on to the set because I was only going to be there for four days and you feel a little the outsider. You don't know the jokes on the set. Well, with Stanley there are no jokes on the set. He is meticulous and will shoot in four days what a someone else would do in an afternoon. That is why he is Stanley Kubrick. But he heard I was coming off "Buddy" and wanted me to bring photos of the chimps. So there I am with the Stanley Kubrick looking at my chimp pictures when Tom Cruise comes over to look at them too. Very nice guy. But it was rather odd shooting in London on a set that is supposed to be New York, with me as an American. Stanley does a lot of rehearsals and a lot of takes. I don't actually know how many I did, and this is really quite clever, because he has the clap board, but only the sound man whispers the take number into the mic. That way you aren't hearing a downtrodden, "Take twenty-two" and you know the guy would rather be home. It does effect the actors, you know. Now here's a story for you. Stanley doesn't like make-up especially on men and I had used some to cover my blotches. The make-up man came over to touch me up because I was sweating between takes and Stanley gets upset. "What are you doing there?" he yells at the make-up man. I tried to explain, but the make-up man turns and says, "Stanley, it's the shining!" Well everyone cracked up because Stanley made "The Shining."
Q: How was the reunion with you and Robbie Coltrane and is it just coincidence that you and he and Minnie Driver seem to be showing up in all movies together, like "Goldeneye"?
AC: No, it is just that so few of us get through. Minnie and I worked on "Circle of Friends", and then we all worked on "Goldeneye", which I wanted to do because in the script I'm in all these exotic locations - Siberia, the Bahamas, and in reality I got no further than the studios south of London. Imagine my disappointment. But there are fewer reunions than you would imagine because we work on differnent parts of movie so we don't get to see much of each other.
Q: What is up for you next?
AC: I'm doing a movie with the Spice Girls! Guess you don't have to ask why I'm doing that. Even my seven-year-old nephew is impressed. Knows all of their names. It is going to be like "Help!", in that ilk. I'm a documentary filmmaker and they are getting ready to do their first song. And I'm doing "Caberet" in New York. I have to commit to nine months, but I did it in London.
Q: Is your family proud of you?
AC: My Mum has a shrine to me. If I die, it is all set. She gets on me about the things in the tabloids, though. "Mrs. Jones around the corner saw it in the Daily Word that you are dating so-and-so, why didn't you tell me?" But Mum, I'm not! She loved going to the "Goldeneye" premiere in London, but probably more in retrospect. She was a bit intimidated by all the people and the photographers all yelling your name trying to get a snap. But she liked the limo.
LONDON- In England, Alan Cumming is often touted as the next Olivier. But in Hollywood, he is just getting his feet wet, and he rates no higher than a slimy villian. That's what happens to British character actors in America: They have to kill first and kiss later. Earlier this year, Cumming played the creepy shop assistant who is Chris O'Donnell's rival in "Circle of Friends." Now in "GoldenEye," he faces off against James Bond, playing on of 007's mad-genius nemeses, a Russian computer hacker. "I'm the brains," Cumming says in his unalloyed Scottish brogue. "I'm very arrogant. Most of the time I'm in front of the computer screen, although at one point I handle the GoldenEye--a special thing that goes into the computer." When Cumming was asked to audition, he "got invited to go to a secret address," he recalls. "I wasn't allowed to see the script until after I got offered the part. They wanted to see a range of my work, so I did a scene from 'Cabaret' showing me being German and lewd." Sitting here in the Almeida Theater bar in North London, brown hair falling in his face, Cumming runs through a variety of accents, including a dead-on impression of "GoldenEye" director Martin Campbell, a salty New Zealander. "I'd never done an action film before," he says. "I never thought I'd enjoy explosives, but I did. Pierce Brosnan is quite witty. I enjoyed being on the set with him. He doesn't take himself seriously." Cumming tries to follow that principle himself but can't help noting, "People think I'm a bit of a boy wonder because I'm quite eclectic. I wrote and directed a short film[the award-winning "Butter"], I co-wrote a sitcom [the BBC's "The High Life"], I used to do stand-up comedy. I go out with Saffron Burrows [his statuesque "Circle of Friends co-star], who goes up for any script that says 'beautiful woman.' "What really brought him notice, however, was hi performance as Hamlet. British critics called him "the definitive Hamlet for the under 30s" (the Guardian) and "one of the best Hamlets you are likely to see" (the Financial Times)."Playing Hamlet was like playing myself," Cumming says. "He's very close to who I am--a young student, desperate to get away from home, angry, having a bit of a breakdown, crying a lot, longing not to be there. He's spoiled. He's a wee boy who never grew up. "I'm 30. I did him at 28, and it took me a long time to recover because I was so shurned up and maddened by it. With Hamlet, you can be angry at everyone and be sorry for yourself and know what a waste it is. He just pulls that plug and goes down the drain. I'm different now. I'd like to play a grown-up person." Cumming grew on a rural estate on the east coast of Scotland. "I had a weird upbringing," he says. "My father was a mad person. He ran the estate, and he was quite strict. I definitely wanted to get out and away." Having started school at age 4, Cumming was finished by 16--too young for drama school. So he spent a year writing for a teen magazine before enrolling at the Royal Scottish Academy for Music and Drama. In 1988, he came to London to do a play, was nominated most promising newcomer in that year's Olivier Awards and never left. He has worked regularly for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal National Theater and the Royal Court." I used to play naive boys, really nice boys," says Cumming, who at one point was "the Lee Jeans boy" in advertisements. "Sleazy boys are better fun. They're less naturalistic, more removed from you." He could conceivably be back in the next Bond film--'I'm only frozed alive," he points out--but his future may lie in more artistic films. He is currently playing Mr. Elton in Miramax's version of Jane Austen's "Emma," now before the cameras in England with Gwyneth Paltrow, Greta Scacchi and Juliet Stevenson. After that, he may do and English tour of "Romeo and Juliet."
The first feature film I did was called Prague, with Sandrine Bonnaire. I had to pretend to put on a condom, and it was so mortifying. The movie was the premiere of the Edinburgh film festival, and I remember that my mum was with me, and these journalist interviewed her, and said " I don't suppose you've seen Alan put a condom on before." She went, "No, no, I haven't" [on first love scene onscreen that can be hillarious and humiliating-just as in reallife]
Alan plays kind of a raging queen who comes on to Cruise in a hotel, says he saw his day or half on a normal schedule, expand into five days of fuck knows how many takes. But just those five days really made me interested in acting again. And because the sound technician kept track of the takes silently, you didn't go, oh take 48, my God, this is terrible, Cumming says.[about his new movie Eyes Wide Shut]Premiere Magazine June 1999
Dream Cruise For Cumming
Alan Cumming didn't get to first base - or any base - with Tom Cruise while filming "Eyes Wide Shut." But a guy can dream, can't he? Cumming says that, contrary to rumor, he and Cruise don't lock lips in Stanley Kubrick's hotly awaited film in which Cruise and wife Nicole Kidman play married shrinks who fool around with each other's patients. "I don't kiss Tom," Cumming told us Tuesday at the Sardi's fund-raiser for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. "I just chat him up. My character [a hotel clerk] is really into him - deeply. But he's not into me, really. He's trying to find out information about his friend, and I'm coming on to him." And how was it trying to score with Cruise? "Lovely," the Tony-winning "Cabaret" star said with a wistful grin. "I wouldn't kick him out of bed." Cumming gets lucky with Jessica Lange in Julie Taymor's upcoming adaptation of Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus." "We got naked together," Cumming said proudly.
Eyes Pried Open
Given the shady rumors about Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, I'd think they'd want to be rather open about their marriage. Alas, it seems the pair requires their staff to sign an outrageous nondisclosure contract, which would fine the person upwards of $50,000 for just telling one little soul any personal information about the couple. Info that makes it to television will cost you $5 million dollars; print, $250 per copy. Click here for the particulars of this rather unusual document, which proves once and for all that it my not be worth it to call yourself Tom Cruise's houseboy. They've recently practiced a more reasonable bid of marriage protection by successfully putting behind bars a reporter who taped one of their personal cellular phone conversations. Even I think that's a gross invasion of privacy, though, since he got punished for it, can't we all at least hear it? Apparently it's a "marriage squabble" and could disprove all those nasty rumors that have been following Cruise around forever. And it might dismantle comments made by "Eyes Wide Shut" costar Alan Cumming, who insists that he and Tommy do not get to kiss on screen as earlier believed, though Cumming's "wouldn't kick him out of bed." That's a $50,000 fine for you, Al! Ka-ching!
Alan Cumming (played the desk clerk)I think it's a huge myth about him that actors are puppets and he makes you do things millions of times for sadistic reasons. I loved the fact that you were able to work a scene again and again.
He was not very keen to have makeup used. And I was like, Hello? I like all my skin to be the same color at least. [The make-up man] came to powder me at one point, and Stanley said, "What are you doing?" The guy was a bit nervous around him, because [crew members] didn't get a chance to talk to him as much as actors did. And I said, "Oh it's all right; it's just the shining, Stanley"--'cause I was a bit shiny. And we all just howled with laughter.
The chimps also delighted the cast and crew with their antics and acting
abilities. In fact, Scotsman Alan Cumming who plays Dick Kroener, Gertrude
Lintz's assistant in Buddy was especially attached to Tonka who plays Joe in
the film. "I think Tonka has a big crush on me," says Cumming. "And the
embarrassing thing about it is that I'm flattered," he laughs.
Cumming also felt that working with the Lintz animal brigade helped his
acting. "I couldn't think about my acting; I just did it instinctually
because I was so concerned about the chimps or the dogs or the gorilla,"
Sept. 6, 1996 issue of “Entertainment Weekly”: "I am horrified of becoming a movie star because that means you play the same role all the time. That would be a bit dull." ~Emma's Alan Cumming on Prodigy
We pray Alan Cumming was exaggerating when he told of lip-locking apes.
"French kissing a monkey is very different than kissing a human because
they have gigantic, wet tongues," the "Titus" star told Webster Hall
curator Baird Jones at the premiere of Tim Roth's film "The War Zone." The
simian-smacking took place on the set of Cumming's movie "Buddy" which
features Rene Russo and several chimpanzees he claims he snogged. "I would
have monkey drool all over my face after just a few seconds," Cumming said.
"Chimps have such bad breath you can't stop wondering what part of their
body they might have just been licking, which certainly is not very
``I got so curious about what it would be like to French kiss a chimp that I
convinced one of the handlers to take me and a couple of the other actors
into the pen after hours and let us smooch with them. When we got into the
monkey compound the trainer started running after one of them. . . . So I
said, `There are a dozen chimps and only four of us, what is your big rush?'
He replied, `What! And get stuck with an ugly one?' ''
--Alan Cumming, a man known for his imagination, at the premiere party in
New York for ``Titus.'' Cumming was talking to Personals spy Baird Jones
about chimpanzees, his fellow actors in the forthcoming movie, ``Buddy.''
And speaking of animal magnetism, actor Alan Cumming has just gone public
with a story that makes that old Richard Gere and the gerbil rumor sound like
a PETA lover's bedtime story.
At the premiere party for the upcoming film "Titus," Cumming told tipster
Baird Jones that he dabbled in a little monkey business on the set of the
1997 film "Buddy," in which Rene Russo plays a woman who raises a gorilla as
While Russo was deathly afraid of the chimps on the set, he says, he was "so
curious about what it would be like to French kiss a chimp that I convinced
one of the handlers to take me and a couple of the other actors into the pen
after hours and let us smooch with them."
So what'd he find? "French kissing a monkey is very different than kissing a
human because they have gigantic wet tongues, which are also very rough. It's
like soggy sandpaper."
So much for "No animals were harmed in the making of this film."
``Titus'' co-star Alan Cumming admitted, ``It was a hard play to do -- we
had to maintain an amount of intensity for what seemed like five years.''
Hopkins and Lange, he said, ''were really a riot.''
Tinseltown's Wonder Years-
Today's top actors & directors pick their favorite film decades:
"The '50s, so I could have been in 'All About Eve.' I just saw it on DVD. They
don't make films like that anymore. People don't give speeches. It's like
mumble realistic and naturalistic things. In modern films, you have so much
more time to watch things and nobody speaks. I'd have loved to have been in
those sorts of films where people talked about things that weren't necessary to
the story. I love that declamatory. I'd like to do the Marilyn Monroe part in
'All About Eve'. It was great. I love all those men in suits standing around
her smoking and chatting and being kind of witty and biting."
The award for "Drama Queen" goes to Alan Cumming, who steals many scenes
with his petulant portrayl of Saturninus. Strutting around in leather jeans
and velvet jackets, he looks like he walked right out of a Helmet Lang ad.
His black lipstick and eyemakeup is so fierce, that it would put the boys
and girls at the MAC makeup counter to shame.
Security guards at the premiere party for Titus, a movie adaption of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, had to continually ask stars Jessica Lange and Alan Cumming to douse their cigarettes. The party was held at the Piermont Morgan Library and while they didn't have to stand around in silence, they couldn't smoke. The venue got Titus anything as guests outnumbered expectations and were forced to wait in the lobby for as long as 45 minutes to catch the night's stars. The lack of atmosphere got to Lange who, when the film's director Julie Taymor gushed that she looked luminous, responded: 'I'm sweating.'"
"Alan Cumming and I had just won Tony awards the day before he was to
audition for me in my loft. He'd just won his award and I had two, and he
came down and really auditioned. He's one of the greatest comic actors, but
he's also so vulnerable. Hopkins loved him-he thought he was a perfect foil
for Titus because he's so mercurial, one moment a baby and the next the most
terrifying fascist dictator. You don't know what he's going to do next. Is he
going to cry or rage? I think he really represents that era of the emperors
where every sex was okay for them. They'd do anything. I love his decadence
and the flamboyancy of his style. He's so sexual for all beings: men and
women love him, which is tremendous. "
The Devil. He's voiced by Alan Cumming, best known for the movie "Titus"
and a Tony-winning role in the "Cabaret" revival. "I seem to be on a run of
these evil, mad people," he says.
Cumming, a Scotsman, takes great delight in making Satan sound line an
upper-crust Englishman. "It's the best thing about the entire job," he says.