The lovely Wayne Brady, the hilarious Caroline Rhea, and my first time sparring with the delightful Graham Norton. Then Conan. And giving an award away with Rachel Griffiths at the Independent Spirits
I played the role of Mr. Williams in Pits, the 8-minute Canadian comedy short about a young man who discovers that he has two large pit stains on his dress shirt as he's running late for an interview at a prestigious law firm.
I shot it whilst in Canada shooting X2, and it was directed by Gary Hawes who worked as an A.D. on the mutant extravaganza.
I shot two 'Painting With Light' promos for Turner Classic Movies. Here's the one for North by North West...
I was asked by Dori Berinstein if I'd like to do a talk show for the then new channel, Oxygen. I'd always loved chatting and the idea appealed to me, though I was wary of staying away from more conventional formats which I didn't think would suit me. So we came up with Eavesdropping with Alan Cumming.
The idea is that the audience would basically be voyeurs. I would meet up with someone, usually someone I alredy knew, and we would wander around together, get in a car and drive to a restaurant, and then eat. Pretty simple and not exactly ground-breaking but it actually made for some really interesting material.
On most talk shows, you are performing. I always say that when I come out and sit on the sofa I feel as though I am playing a version of myself: Alan Cumming, the chatty celebrity. I genuinely do enjoy most TV talk shows (the lack of ability for them to editorialise as well as the opportunity to counter any nonsense on the spot has a lot to do with it), but there is a format which you must adhere to: regurgitate the anecdotes you have been briefed to do per the pre-interview you have had with the show's producer. So there is a pressure to be funny and witty and brief - attributes that are usually incidental to why you are actually on the show on the first place! . Some hosts, of course, are confident and skilled enough to be spontaneous and to have a genuine conversation, but mostly it is a series of pre-arranged funny stories.
So the great thing about the Eavesdropping format, despite the fact that we were aware of being tailed by three camera teams and we had to stop occasionaly for technical reasons, was that there was no pressure to be funny or to tell anecdotes. It was quite rambly, and when it worked best, a genuine conversation between two friends.
For me the best bits are in the car. There we used two tiny cameras at either side of the front windshield (they're called lipstick cams) and although there was a cameraman out of sight in the back seat behind us, it really was the most self-conscious you could possibly get whilst being interviewed on a TV show! I think this section in the first show with Gwyneth Paltrow proves my point.
I also get Gwyneth to come off her macro-biotic diet and have french fries. Beat that, David Letterman.
In Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams, the sequel to Spy Kids, I reprised his role as the mad genius Fegan Floop. Carmen and Juni Cortez team up with two other spy kids, Gary and Gerti Giggles, and together they must save the world from the hands of an evil scientist named Romero, played by Steve Buscemi.
I only shot one day on this film, but it was a packed day! I learned the song then recorded it first thing in the morning, then rehearsed and shot the scene where Juni and Carmen call me up for advice, and then I lip-synched the song against blue screen in the afternoon! It was great to be back in Austin again to see everyone and to be part of the next Spy Kids installment.
Helen Mirren and I were interviewed for the NY Times Talks about the differences of performing on Broadway and the West End.
Zero Effect was a pilot made for NBC written and directed by Jake Kasdan, based on his feature film of the same name. I played Daryl Zero, the world's greatest private investigator and master of disguise.
It was never picked up, but here is a sneak peek....
Along with my fellow castmates I received a National Board of Review Award for Best Acting Ensemble for this version of the Charles Dickens novel, Nicholas Nickleby, adapted and directed by Douglas McGrath.
My character, Mr. Folair, is a member of the Crummles Theatre Company, always trying to do his speciality act - the highland fling – at every available opportunity. The cast also includes Charlie Hunnan, Jamie Bell, Anne Hathaway, Barry Humphries, Nathan Lane, Aileen Walsh, Christopher Plummer, Jim Broadbent, Juliet Stevenson, Timothy Spall and Tom Courtenay. I had previously been directed by Doug McGrath in the films Emma and Company Man.
I love Doug. And I loved being Mr. Folair because I got to work with Barry Humphries and Nathan Lane and Aileen Walsh, all of whom are absolutely hilarious. I was only on the film a few weeks but I had a great time. Oh, except for the first day when Aileen accidentally bashed me on the nose and I thought I’d broken it.
In my first role immortalised not only on film but also in an action figure, I played the new addition to the original X-Men family: Nightcrawler, a German former circus performer whose superpower is teleporting.
X2: X-Men United, directed by Bryan Singer, also starred Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore and Aaron Stanford.
I had never heard of the X-Men before I met Bryan to talk about doing this movie. I certainly had no idea who Nightcrawler was or how huge a thing being in this movie would be. The character is really interesting, the message of the film (tolerance of others who are different from us) was very timely and unusual for a Hollywood blockbuster, but the real drag was having to spend over four hours a day having two men poke my face. Then there were the harnesses for the tail and for flying, the feet, the hands – which made going to the loo a group effort, the teeth, the lenses, oh God don’t get me started. When I got the press reel of all my X2 TV interviews I realized that I had gone 'round the world just moaning on every talk show.
This is my wobbly head toy. I also have two action figures, one 6" and one 12', both fully poseable. Thank you
In early 2002, I formed The Art Party with my then partner, the British director Nick Philippou. Elle was The Art Party's inaugural production. Sadly it was also its only production - the company folded in late 2003 (coincidentally so had our relationship!)
Elle was written by Jean Genet, and had never been performed in English before. I wrote a new adaptation of the play from a literal translation by Terri Gordon. Elle was directed by Nick, designed by Tim Hatley, projections were by Peter Negrini, and fashion legend Vivienne Westwood designed the costumes. The cast featured me as the Pope, Stephen Spinella, Anson Mount, Chad L. Coleman and Brian Duguay.
This was an amazing experience. Adapting the text was really intense, as the play is not only a debate about existence, but also has some very contemporary themes about our obsession with celebrity. It's also a sort of love story and a rites of passage...it's an unbelieveable play. Performing it was amazing too as I had to be on rollerskates and also had to hide from the audience that my costume had no back to it until a moment when it - and by it I mean my arse - was revealed, so that was a bit of a challenge. I played the Pope as a very weary and crabby Eastern European old man. The cast were great, the space at the Zipper was beautiful, the whole thing was really fulfilling, mostly because we had made it all happen ourselves.