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 marveling 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.