At the 2005 Sundance festival I hosted Festival Dailies for Sundance Channel, interviewing many of the film-makers whose films were screening. Here is a picture of me probing Jennifer Jason Leigh.
And here is some raw footage of the interviews I did...
I was asked to host Out on the Edge, a special for Comedy Central that was an attempt to showcase a more edgy, queer brand of comedian and performer, and I was really excited to do a bit of stand up comedy again.
Craig Chester worked with me on my material, and I blame him for encouraging me to talk about my foreksin on national television at such length (as it were) again.
I contributed an essay to the publication, If You Had Five Minutes with the President, an original non-partisan collection of 55+ essays by personalities who are members or supporters of The Creative Coalition. The book also features a foreword by Ron Reagan.
Considering the President in question is Bush 2, my essay is not very complimentary. Still it was fun to write. Here it is...
Mr. President: You must forgive me for my audacity in writing this. I am not one of your citizens, although I do reside in your country. But worry not. I am not one of those illegal immigrants who are so vilified at election times in your border states to scare the electorate into voting against any wishy-washy liberals who might actually allow these people in and give them rights or benefits, instead of the much more sensible alternative of letting them work illegally at raising the children and keeping the homes of America, or any of the other low-paid jobs that no sensible American would want to do.
No, be not alarmed. I am a legal resident. I am just an alien. And not one of the new breed of aliens we have all sadly had to become more wary of since the horrible events of 2001. Relax, I am not dark-skinned, though I am European. And I only wear a towel in public at the gym, and if I did have a God (I don’t mean to alarm you but I don’t think she exists) it wouldn’t be a nasty, war-mongering one like Allah or one of those other ones that demand constant kneeling and regular slashing of oneself with chains and the like.
No, no, no. I am an alien of extraordinary ability, which in spite of its rather ominous overtones of espionage and such like really means that I am an actor who was asked to work in your country and liked it and stayed.
Since I have lived here there have been two presidents, and so my understanding of your job, be it naïve and simplistic, is entirely gleaned from their examples.
So here, Mr. President, are a few tips:
You’ll have had, no doubt, a family member remove thousands of people from the electoral register to enable your ascension to power, but please don’t forget to be publicly outraged when other countries do exactly the same thing. And oh yes, don’t ever comment on the matter even when your own people admit that the margin of error involved in this “cleansing” translates into many thousands more votes than your opponent lost by.
Forgive me if I am preaching to the choir here, but remember to start a war without sufficient evidence of any just cause to do so, apart from the fact that you just don’t seem to like dark-skinned people (call them “evil folks” when you don’t want to get bogged down with specifics, by the way), and tell your public that you have top secret evidence that certain countries with really large fuel supplies are about to launch nuclear bombs, but be careful to turn a blind eye to countries like India and Pakistan when they threaten to do so because of course they don’t have much fuel to take. Actually, come to think of it, don’t mention nuclear bombs, they’re too hard to pronounce. You don’t want to look stupid.
What else? Oh yes, make inappropriate jokes whenever you can; encourage your countrymen to believe certain evil folks are in utter cahoots when in fact they don’t like each other at all; claim any minor and normal upward fluctuation in the world’s economy as proof that all your policies, not just the economic ones, are working great.
I think you’ll find it’s best to have had a drug problem of some kind in the past, or at least to admit to having had drugs but not having consumed them in the way of most mortal men. Have offspring who are either so ridiculously successful that they can inspire jealous rage, or else drunk yahoos who give stupid Americans a bad name.
If you aren’t really charismatic and sexy, with a series of messy public extramarital affairs behind you and willingly lie under oath that a love affair with a young, impressionable woman never happened, then go the other way altogether and cultivate a look that is more prairie dog than horn dog, talk a lot about Texas and if possible—but this might be milking the Jock sympathy vote a little too far—try asphyxiating on a bar snack whilst watching sports alone.
Make sure you either court the gay vote by allying yourself with lots of queer causes and maybe even putting out a rumor that your wife is a lipstick lesbian OR completely alienate them and hopefully ensnare another group of minority voters (they being fascists) by denying gays the same basic rights and benefits as all your other citizens.
Finally, Mr. President— - and by the way, thank you, I know you don’t have to listen to anyone, least of all someone like me, for this length of time— never, ever admit you are wrong.
It’s always their fault.
Don’t ask why, ask how.
Oh, and have the same name as a previous president—even if it’s your dad.
I wrote the the foreward to Andy Warhol Men, a book which contains hundreds of rarely seen illustrations, paintings, drawings, silk screens and photographs of men, and their various body parts, by Andy Warhol. The book was published in late 2004. If you'd like to purchase a copy, visit Chronicle Books here.
Here's what I wrote...
Andy Warhol Men Introduction by Alan Cumming.
I have always maintained that the mark of a great artist is their ability to draw a good bum - a bum that stirs our loins, be we man or woman, attracted or repelled by the idea of a real, naked, honest to goodness bum in such close proximity to us.
But a great, great artist, I have realised, is one who can evoke such a bum and cause such stirring in a line drawing only. No rococo shading and texture, or Botticelliesque nonsense, just a simple collection of lines on paper that magically produce a sense memory of something so visceral it can actually arouse.
Aubrey Beardsley could do it. Picasso could do it. Cocteau could do it. And Andy Warhol can do it.
Leafing through the pages of this book was a revelation for me. I knew Andy was a genius of that curious and now much-copied fusion of art, pop culture, celebrity and kitsch, but – and I am feeling like my mother even writing this – I hadn’t ever realised he was so good at drawing.
I have already cited my criteria for greatness in this area, so let me just say that Andy Warhol is truly great: he can do brilliant bums.
Whether it is his longing for them, or indeed the sheer volume that passed so close to his dark-glassed eyes that makes his reproduction of them so evocative I know not. All I know is they float my boat.
But this book is not just a celebration of the anus. It takes a more holistic view of man seen through the Warhol prism.
His male nude photographs are at once intimate and raw, the subjects’ faces rarely seen. Of course, that makes it easier for the focus to stay with what Andy wants us to concentrate on: the member, the pudendum, the cock.
(I feel it is my duty to warn you there are a lot of cocks in this book, and whether you are a fan of them or not, you must agree Andy shot some quite nice ones.)
But just as he became famous for pointing out the beauty and weirdness of material objects we had previously thought mundane, here we have a collection where Andy can fascinate and mesmerise us with not just the beauty and weirdness of that absurd muscle we boys all have in our underwear, but the faces the owners of those muscles choose to project to the world.
The series of pictures of drag queens is so endearing - partly because it differs from the slightly detached, objectifying feel of most of Warhol’s photography - and we share the joy these boys feel at having someone simply take an interest in them.
Desire is big in this volume: Andy’s for the men he shoots and draws, the men’s to please him.
But an even bigger emotion is joy, Andy’s that is. He obviously loved men. And like his pictures of soup cans and brillo pads he forces us to reconsider that men, and all their essences, are pretty extraordinary.
This is a fascinating collection from a man who understood the value of capturing the everyday for tomorrow. How lucky we are. Enjoy!
Tommy's Tale is my debut novel, and was published by Harper Collins in the US and Penguin in the UK. The US edition was first, in September 2002, with the UK edition following in April 2003.
Chapter Six of the novel, entitled The Disabled Loo, is included in the anthology Best American Erotica 2004, edited by Susie Bright. To learn more about the erotic anthology series, visit www.susiebright.com.
Tommy is twenty-nine, lives and loves in London, and has a morbid fear of the "c" word -- commitment, the "b" word -- boyfriend, and the "f" word -- forgetting to call his drug dealer before the weekend. But when he begins to feel the urge to become a father, he starts to wonder if his chosen lifestyle can ever make him happy. His flatmates, the eccentric, maternal Sadie and the stoic, supportive Bobby, encourage Tommy to tone down his lifestyle a wee bit and accept the fact that he's got to grow up sometime. His boyfriend, Charlie (whose son, Finn, is the epitome of childhood charm), wishes that Tommy could make a real commitment to their relationship. But can he? Faced with the choice of maintaining his hedonistic, drugged-out, and admittedly fabulous existence or chucking it all in favor of a far more sensitive, fulfilling, and -- let's face it -- slightly staid lifestyle, Tommy finds himself in a true quandary. Through a series of adventures and misadventures that lead him from London nightspots to New York bedrooms and back, our boy Tommy manages to answer some of life's most pressing questions -- and even some he never thought to ask.
Tommy's Tale took me ages to write. But it is one of the things that I am most proud of, in terms of sense of achievement. It is pretty daunting to go into another field and put yourself out there, especially when there is such a disdain of actors turning novelists, and vast intellectual snobbery in the literary world. But I came out of it ok, especially in the UK, where I was really heartened that the book did so well.
Tommy's Tale was begun as an attempt to right an imbalance I felt existed in the stories I read or saw. It is essentially a modern fairy tale: a fairy tale in that fairy tales are usually about someone going on a journey or learning a lesson through a series of adverse circumstances,and ultimately the hero gorws up and there's a happy ending; and modern in that in real life people grow up and have sex and take drugs and try to keep it together.
I wanted to write about how I felt the family unit has changed. In my experience, being someone who has travelled far from his homeland, I began to envy people who still had their family nearby. But then I realised that I had made my own family, only now they were a collection of friends and lovers, each of whom gave me something that added up to what we expect and need from our families. So my friends have become my family.
I also wanted to talk about the desire that a man can have to have a child. We often hear abut a woman's ticking clock and the overwhelming urges to procreate. But I felt really strong urges like that too, though it seemed as if that was a woman's domain and it felt wrong to voice them. So in this book I do, and I also talk about dealing with those urges if you are neither in a relationship that can produce a child, or indeed if you don't even want to be in a relationship at all. What do you do with those feelings?
Finally I wanted to combine two realms that I love and that I hope are not mutually exclusive: dirty druggy nights out and fairy tales.
Geeky fact 1: In The Anniversary Party, Joe, the character I play has written a novel called Tommy's Tale, and a copy of it is on the shelves in the house. Jennifer designed the book jacket. So in a way I was sort of creatively visualising the future (or more like trying to embarass myself into finishing it!)
Geeky fact 2: i had the biggest battle with the US publisher about the cover, because originaly there were a woman's legs sticking out of the bath too, and I felt that it was a misleading image considering the subject matter of the book. She even went as far as to offer to add hairs to the woman's legs, but finally she backed down and they were airbrushed out!
I made a video diary documentary for BBC Scotland's Ex-S series. It actually began at the end of 2000 as I was finishing up The Anniversary Party in LA, and then it focussed on my time in NYC doing Design For Living. There is a very scary sequence in which I have everything shaved for an article I wrote for Marie Claire magazine!
It's so funny to look back at things like this and see what was going on in my life in such detail. I don't feel I have changed, and I was still having fun, so hoorah!
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
I went to Paris to see the haute couture shows and wrote about it for Marie Claire magazine.
The BBC commissioned me and Forbes Masson to write a half-hour comedy pilot which became The High Life, and we shot it at the beginning of 1993, and was broadcast with a number of other pilots as part of Comic Asides in 1994.
Then a full six-part series was commissioned, and we wrote that in various cottages and houses in Perthshire, Crewe and the Midi Pyrenees to name but a few in 1993/94 , shot in the autumn of 1994 and they were broadcast in early 1995.
The series followed the antics of Sebastian Flight (named after the character in Brideshead Revisited, but spelled differently of course), played by me and Steve McCraken, played by Forbes. The chief purser, Shona Spurtle ('Hitler in tights, Mussolini in micromesh, Pol Pot in pantyhose'), was played by the amazing Siobhan Redmond, and their pilot, Captain Duff was played by Patrick Ryecart. They all worked for a tatty Scottish airline called Air Scotia, and were all a bit mad. The series location sequences were shot at Prestwick Airport, and in and around Glasgow, Scotland. Production then moved back to London and studio sequences were shot in front of a live audience.
This was really fun to shoot because we were getting away with so many dirty things. It was quite wicked because a lot of the Scottish-ness in the script hid the fact that we were saying things that people hadn’t said on national TV before. The writing was really difficult because we were trying to do something different, something almost surreal and the people at the BBC were a little frightened, a little nervous. They kept trying to hem us in, but we knew the success of the show would be its wildness and abandon. And I think we were right.
The High Life was the swansong for Forbes and I working together, and whenever I go back to Britain I am always amazed and happy that it has a place in so many people's hearts and I think it is a great thing that we created something together that has had such a lasting effect.
Someone has very kindly put the entire series up on youtube, but here is my favoutie bit out of all the episodes. I think Ann Scott Jones who play Gretchen Betjamin is brilliant. I sort of still can't believe we got away with being so bonkers.
And also the opening titles dance, which is something of a classic, even if I do say so myself.