Newsflash! Storms hit LA!!

Saturday 6 Feb 10

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!

Ask Alan

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!!