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Sfgate.comAlan Cumming Taking Over Show Business ? (david boreanaz mention)
Monday 19 June 2006, by Webmaster
Quietly, stealthily - likely while you weren’t completely paying attention - Alan Cumming took over show business.
You can find him on Broadway. You can see him in movies, from "Spy Kids" to "The Anniversary Party." You can play one of his characters in a video game. He hosts his own TV show and has written a book.
You can even smell like him - courtesy of a line of beauty products that bears his name and wit. His body lotion is called Cumming All Over.
"I think I work better when I’m multitasking," he says during an interview, between bites of salad and performances of "The Threepenny Opera" on Broadway. "I think I focus more."
Howard Stern, the so-called King of All Media, should give up his crown to this Scottish-born performer who seems to pop up when you least expect it - usually winking like a demented Puck.
"Some people will say, ’Oh Alan Cumming does this and that - I don’t get it,’ or ’Why does he do that?’" says "Opera" director Scott Elliot. "But it’s not for them to get or to figure out. It’s to enjoy."
That may be a tad difficult with his current project - a modern interpretation of a German expressionist musical that’s always irked people. In "The Threepenny Opera," Cumming plays Macheath, a vicious mohawk-wearing street thug who occasionally breaks into song.
The fact that the musical - by Bertold Brecht and Kurt Weill - is on Broadway stuns Cumming, the 41-year-old product of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama who won a Tony Award in 1998 for playing the Master of Ceremonies in "Cabaret."
"It’s sort of a weird thing that you’d normally find off- off-Broadway," he says. "Broadway is now a code word for a certain type of experience - and we’re not giving that experience."
So provocative is the material that the audience is usually shell-shocked at the end of performances. "You’re not supposed to know what to make of it. You’re supposed to feeling all jingled. All these songs suddenly appear for no reason and there’s no actual narrative," he says.
"If you came for a trip to New York and went to ’Tarzan’ last night, ’Beauty and the Beast’ tomorrow and have us in the middle, you’d absolutely be on crack. You wouldn’t know what the heck was going on."
In that way, it seems a perfect vehicle for Cumming, who has a knack for provoking theatergoers. "Pleasant is not good. I think pleasant is boring," he says. "You should HAVE an experience. It shouldn’t just BE an experience."
As serious as his theater work has been - including a revival of Noel Coward’s "Design for Living" and the role of a roller-skating pope in "Elle" - Cumming’s film career has been eclectic. That was him as a hotel desk clerk in "Eyes Wide Shut," a computer nerd in "GoldenEye" and Saturninus in 1999’s "Titus." He also played opposite Gwyneth Paltrow in "Emma."
Cumming also appeared in the "Spy Kids" series, "Son of the Mask,""Spice World,""Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion" and "X2: X-Men United," as Nightcrawler, the demonic-yet-cuddly blue-skinned mutant.
"You can’t always do challenging, scary things all the time or else you’d die," he says in his thick Highland burr. "So it’s nice to go and do some fluffy film and just have an easy time for a while.
"I call it The Hollywood Bank. When you do a big Hollywood movie - doing ’X-Men 2,’ for example, or ’Spy Kids’ or something - it’s like you make a deposit and then when you go and do all these little, independent films, you withdraw. So now my balance is quite low."
During the "Opera" run, Cumming has been finishing a labor of love, a film he’s directed called "Suffering Man’s Charity," which co-stars David Boreanaz. It’s about a struggling writer who is murdered by an obsessed man, who then swipes his unpublished manuscript.
Cumming reaches over to his laptop to share a photograph from the film. It shows him in his underwear, splattered in blood, bruised, weeping and screaming. Silly question: What’s his part?
"I’m the obsessive weirdo - of course," he says. "Duh. Hello?"
Other films you might soon catch Cumming in include "Sweet Land," where he plays a Minnesota farmer in the 1920s opposite Alex Kingston; "Grey Matters," in which he plays a taxi driver who falls in love with a lesbian, played by Heather Graham; and a documentary about the 2003-2004 Broadway season called "Show Business: A Season to Remember."
On TV, Cumming hosts "Midnight Snack" for Sundance Channel. And though he doesn’t appear in the new X-Men movie, he did lend his voice to "X-Men: The Official Game," reprising his role as Nightcrawler.
"I have a wide demographic," he says. "I have a whole kids’ following from all the ’Spy Kids’ films. I have a kind of intellectual, highbrow crowd from things like ’Titus’ and ’The Anniversary Party.’ I have a sort of theater crowd. And I have a kind of a gay thing. And sometimes they crossover - you can be in more than one section. It’s kind of fun. I like to have different people to engage with."
Need more Cumming? Why not check out his semi-autobiographical novel, "Tommy’s Tale," about a pansexual Londoner with a fondness for all matter of sin. (Sample passage: "Charlie belonged to that lucky, lucky group of normal people who are not waiting for their lives to start.")
Then there’s the face and body product line, complete with its facetious advertising campaign that mocks both Calvin Klein ads and supermodel endorsements.
The success of Cumming the Fragrance - which, according to its promotional material, smells like leather, peat fire, burnt rubber and white truffle - has inspired the Cumming Off Buff scrub, the Cumming Clean cleanser and a soap - Cumming in a Bar - among others. The products are a collaboration with Christopher Brosius, an award-winning perfumer.
"For me, it was like a kind of art project," he says, of the original idea for the fragrance. "The bottom line is it is something that I liked and would wear and would willingly endorse, but also I can subvert the whole thing of celebrity endorsements at the same time - I just thought that was the funniest thing."
"In a way, it completely reflects my personality. I am being provocative, but I’m also playing," he says. "Dopey people don’t get it. They say, ’Why do you have a fragrance?’ I say, ’My name is Cumming. Don’t you think that’s funny?’"
Elliot, the director, does. "He puts himself out there in a way that is fearless," Elliot says. "He has no problem being confrontational with intelligence and heart. There’s a certain sort of living every day to its fullest with great joy and magnetism and confidence."
A few years back, Cumming auditioned for a film based on a documentary called "Southern Comfort." In the movie, which was never made, Cumming and Sissy Spacek were to play transgendered lovers.
After Cumming learned he had gotten the part, he called his agent, Tracy Brennan, at Creative Artists Agency. "I called her and said, ’Guess what, Tracy? I got the part!’ And she said, ’Oh, that’s so fantastic! I’m so happy for you!’ I thought, ’How many agents would be delighted that their client was going to play a transsexual in a film that will be seen by four people and a dog and pay 25 cents a day?’"