The initial reason I was attracted to Boogie Woogie was Charlotte Rampling. I have admired her for a very long time. And so before I even read the script, the fact that the accompanying letter had her name attached as one of the actors made me quiver! When I read the script, I was hooked. It’s a really dark look at the London art world, a world that I’ve been fascinated by and have dipped my toe in from time to time as I know various people I know who are at the very heart of it.
It’s a true ensemble piece revolving around a painting by Mondrian called ‘Broadway Boogie Woogie,’ which is owned by the Rhinegolds, played by Christopher Lee and Joanna Lumley. Danny Huston’s character, art dealer Art Spindle, wants to buy it so he can sell it to a pair of avid collectors, the Maclestones, played by Stellen Skarsgard and Gillian Anderson. I play Dewey Dalamanotousis who is trying to set up a show at Art’s gallery of his friend Elaine’s (Jaime Winstone) work, and is being helped initially by Art’s associate Beth (Heather Graham). Other characters are played by Jack Huston, Amanda Seyfried, and Simon McBurney.
I play the nicest person in this film, in fact, the only nice person in the film. That’s really why I like the script so much – everyone is awful, there is no moral compass. I shot my last scene on the first day (which happens so often in film) and I’m really glad I did because it meant that I went through the shoot with a sense memory of where the character was going. I think that made him all the more poignant. I am sporting a geek-chic look too.
The film is based on a novel by Danny Moynihan who was around all the time on the set. It’s directed by Duncan Ward who I really liked and hope to work with again.
Jackboots on Whitehall is a stop animation film made with puppets about what the Nazis invading Britain. I do the voices of both Hitler (who is a cross-dresser) and Braveheart (who has a Scottish/Australian hybrid accent). I did the first bout of voicing for it in 2006 when I was doing Bent in the West End, and then some picks ups in October of 2009.
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 marvelling 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.
I have a cameo as a disgruntled ex-employer of a theme park in Florida in this movie, Full Grown Men, directed by David Munro, and I was also a co-producer.
I hitch a lift from two friends hang a reconciliation road trip, played by Matt McGrath and Judah Friedlander, and they get more than they bargained for. The movie also stars Amy Sedaris and Deborah Harry. It premiered at the Tribeca Film festival in 2006 and was released in 2007 after winning the 2007 indieWIRE: Undiscovered Gems audience award.
Gray Matters was written and directed by my friend Sue Kramer. It stars Heather Graham, Tom Cavanagh, Bridget Moynihan, Molly Shannon, Sissy Spasek and me as a Scottish taxi driver in New York who falls for Heather, but she only has eyes for another...woman.
My character, Gordy, is the nicest man in the world: he falls in love with Heather, she rejects him, he tells her she's gay and it's ok, he takes her in when her brother chucks her out, he takes her to her first lesbian bar and when they won't let him in because he's male he goes home and gets into drag so he can still accompany her. He is pathologically nice! I want what he's having!
I voice Gordon the goat, the sidekick to Sean Connery's Sir Billi in this animated Highland extravaganza from Glasgow Animation.
I play Margaret Cho's love interest, Eugene, in Bam Bam and Celeste, which Margaret also wrote. She and Bruce Daniels are the eponymous heroes, who leave their life in the sticks to make it in NYC on a make-over show where my character works as a producer (and a total English geek). The movie premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2005.
I shot the film in a week in Los Angeles at the beginning of 2005. The scene in which Margaret and I have a disastrous dinner is supposed to be at the Cloister Cafe in the East Village, near where I live, but was actually shot downtown LA in some apartment building courtyard. Showbiz!
Sweet Land is the story of a young German woman who is sent from Scandanavia to Minnesota in 1920 as a mail order bride. The film flashes forward to the present to throw light on the love story from the past.
It was directed by my friend Ali Selim and also stars Tim Guinee, Elizabeth Reiser, Alex Kingston, Ned Beatty and Lois Smith. I love this film. I love its pace and its heart. I love that it is undefinable. It is a simple tale about love and home, something everyone can relate to, but it is also a sweeping big story about a side of America we rarely see, especially in a low-budget independent film.
I also get to play a Minnesotan farmer with nine children. That was a first!
The film was shot in Minnesota in 2004 and premiered at the Hamptons Film Festival in October 2005, going on to be screened at many film festivals across America and Europe, before being released in the US in 2006. I was one of the producers of the film, and we won a 2007 Independent Spirit Award for Best first feature. The film was included in Leonard Maltin's 151 Best Movies You've Never Seen.
Neverwas was a really great script written and directed by Josh Stern. It's the story of Zach (played by Aaron Eckhart), a young doctor who gets a job at the mental hospital where his father was once a patient. There he meets Gabriel, played by Ian McKellen, a patient at the hospital who has a mysterious knowledge of Josh and his past. The film also stars Jessica Lange, Brittany Murphy, Nick Nolte, William Hurt and Vera Farmiga.
I played a small role, one of the patients in the mental hospital. Here I am impersonating a 70s porn star at the Neverwas world premiere at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival
Bad Blood is a short film directed by my friend from Vancouver, Kyle Leydier, and he adapted it from a chapter of the novel Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh.
The film premiered at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. We shot it in Vancouver in 2004, around the time I was there to shoot Neverwas, and it also features my Eighteen co-star Paul Anthony.
Bad Blood is a really dark look at revenge and pain and disease. I like it.