Film Scouts Interviews

Alan Cumming on "Buddy"

by Leslie Rigoulot

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When we met at the hotel, I had to wonder why Cumming immediately drew his knees into his chest, sinking into the overstuffed chair like a child. But I suppose if I were confronted with seven eager journalists I'd be trying to protect myself as well. And even though we knew he was a Scot, his accent still took us by surprise because he was so very American as the geek-made-good in "Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion", and the very British Reverend Elton opposite Gwyneth Paltrow in "Emma".

By way of introduction, I told Cumming that I was with America Online, which got the following response: "I was trying to access you last night but I don't have the local access number! You have to get on to get the number and you can't get on without the number. I'm headed for Chicago next, so maybe you can get me the access number there! I only use it for e-mail; I just don't understand the chat rooms. I have a fellow who comes in who teaches me what I need to know about computers but so far, it isn't much."

Too bad his accent and voice don't show up on line, because he endears himself to all the journalists with them and his animation.

The following is from a round-table with journalists Boo Allen, Todd Jorgenson, Ricky Miller, Alice Reese, Frank Swietek, Theresa Zumwalt, and myself. - L.R.


Q: How did you manage with the accent in "Romy and Michelle"?

Alan Cumming: Well, first I'm not an American, hello. So we don't have proms and reunions and such. And I was just glad that someone else pronounced Tucson before I had to. I thought it was Tux-sun! But I'm glad I did it because now I'm through the accent thing in America. When I came from Scotland to London, they asked if I could do the accent thing, which I overcame. And now, I've overcome it in America as well.

Q: What kinds of challenges did you face making "Buddy" with assorted chimps and a gorilla?

AC: The chimps were grand. Although we all got chimp flu as we called it. They are like children, always putting things in their mouths and then giving you a kiss. So when one got sick, we all got sick. And my favorite Rene Russo story is when we went to meet the chimps for the first time. She looked stunning in a new white outfit and when we got close to the chimps, one stuck her finger in her diaper and wiped it on Rene. Needless to say, we wore old clothes from there on out. And working with the animals, well, they don't always do what you want them to. Which can be said of most actors! And I couldn't think about my acting. I had to be more concerned about the chimps or the dogs or the gorilla.

Q: Can you tell us about your work on Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut" with Tom Cruise?

AC: Well, I had heard all the rumors about Stanley being a shouter and about Tom being a recluse but none of it was true. I felt a little strange coming on to the set because I was only going to be there for four days and you feel a little the outsider. You don't know the jokes on the set. Well, with Stanley there are no jokes on the set. He is meticulous and will shoot in four days what a someone else would do in an afternoon. That is why he is Stanley Kubrick. But he heard I was coming off "Buddy" and wanted me to bring photos of the chimps. So there I am with the Stanley Kubrick looking at my chimp pictures when Tom Cruise comes over to look at them too. Very nice guy. But it was rather odd shooting in London on a set that is supposed to be New York, with me as an American. Stanley does a lot of rehearsals and a lot of takes. I don't actually know how many I did, and this is really quite clever, because he has the clap board, but only the sound man whispers the take number into the mic. That way you aren't hearing a downtrodden, "Take twenty-two" and you know the guy would rather be home. It does effect the actors, you know. Now here's a story for you. Stanley doesn't like make-up especially on men and I had used some to cover my blotches. The make-up man came over to touch me up because I was sweating between takes and Stanley gets upset. "What are you doing there?" he yells at the make-up man. I tried to explain, but the make-up man turns and says, "Stanley, it's the shining!" Well everyone cracked up because Stanley made "The Shining."

Q: How was the reunion with you and Robbie Coltrane and is it just coincidence that you and he and Minnie Driver seem to be showing up in all movies together, like "Goldeneye"?

AC: No, it is just that so few of us get through. Minnie and I worked on "Circle of Friends", and then we all worked on "Goldeneye", which I wanted to do because in the script I'm in all these exotic locations - Siberia, the Bahamas, and in reality I got no further than the studios south of London. Imagine my disappointment. But there are fewer reunions than you would imagine because we work on differnent parts of movie so we don't get to see much of each other.

Q: What is up for you next?

AC: I'm doing a movie with the Spice Girls! Guess you don't have to ask why I'm doing that. Even my seven-year-old nephew is impressed. Knows all of their names. It is going to be like "Help!", in that ilk. I'm a documentary filmmaker and they are getting ready to do their first song. And I'm doing "Caberet" in New York. I have to commit to nine months, but I did it in London.

Q: Is your family proud of you?

AC: My Mum has a shrine to me. If I die, it is all set. She gets on me about the things in the tabloids, though. "Mrs. Jones around the corner saw it in the Daily Word that you are dating so-and-so, why didn't you tell me?" But Mum, I'm not! She loved going to the "Goldeneye" premiere in London, but probably more in retrospect. She was a bit intimidated by all the people and the photographers all yelling your name trying to get a snap. But she liked the limo.

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