I took the lovely Liv Tyler to Coney Island for the third of my Eavesdropping with Alan Cumming shows for Oxygen.
I went to LA to interview the goddess that is Halle Berry for my Eavesdropping with Alan Cumming show. We had just finished shooting X2, and that is why I look ill and drawn and fat.
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.
Jennifer Jason Leigh and I wrote, produced and directed The Anniversary Party. We also play the central characters, Joe and Sally Therrian, recently reunited after a 9-month separation, and throwing a sixth wedding anniversary party to prove to themselves as well as their friends that everything is all right.
The other cast members include Kevin Kline, Phoebe Cates, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Beals, Jane Adams, John C. Reilly, Michael Panes, Mina Badie, Parker Posey, John Benjamin Hickey and Denis O'Hare.
Jennifer and I first met while she played Sally Bowles on Broadway in Cabaret. The idea for the story came from Jennifer and I getting to know each other. We thought it would be nice to make a film with friends, and so, partly influenced by the experience she had had working on a Dogma film in Africa we set out to make a film that would feel real, with a crossover of who we all are in real life and who we all are in the film and to make it about grown-up issues and dealt with in a grown-up way i.e. not perfectly and a little messy.
Here's a video diary I made during the course of the film, and some interviews we did about it...
The film premiered at the Cannes film festival in 2001 and was released shortly after. We won a National Board of Review award and were nominated for two Independent Spirit awards for Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay