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Alan Cumming Explains How His Gay Adoption Drama 'Any Day Now' Involved Bette Midler, His Love for Scotland and Voting for Obama

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire December 12, 2012 at 11:40AM

Alan Cumming, the Scottish stage and screen star best known to audiences as a scene-stealing supporting player (he's appeared in everything from the "Spy Kids" franchise to Cher's latest vehicle "Burlesque" and the hit CBS TV series "The Good Wife"), takes center stage in "Any Day Now," a powerful indie that's won 10 audience awards on the festival circuit, including in Seattle and Chicago.
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Alan Cumming at a New York screening of "Any Day Now" hosted by The Peggy Siegal Company
Marion Curtis/Starpix Alan Cumming at a New York screening of "Any Day Now" hosted by The Peggy Siegal Company

Alan Cumming, the Scottish stage and screen star best known to audiences as a scene-stealing supporting player (he's appeared in everything from the "Spy Kids" franchise to Cher's latest vehicle "Burlesque" and the hit CBS TV series "The Good Wife"), takes center stage in "Any Day Now," a powerful indie that's won 10 audience awards on the festival circuit, including in Seattle and Chicago.

Based on a true story and directed with restraint by Travis Fine (he helmed the similarly affecting drama "The Space Between" starring Melissa Leo), "Any Day Now" centers on Rudy (Cumming) and Paul (Garret Dillahunt), a mismatched gay couple in the '70s who take in a boy with Down syndrome (Isaac Leyva) after he's abandoned by his junkie mother living next door. When their living arrangement comes to the attention of authorities, the two find themselves at the center of a nasty custody battle mired in homophobia.

Ahead of the drama's limited release this Friday, Dec. 14, Cumming sat down with Indiewire in SoHo's Crosby Hotel to discuss the film's pertinent issues and his affinity for his homeland.

You get to do so much in this film: there’s high-stakes drama, you don drag, you get to sing live, you sport an accent... I can't imagine anyone else in this role.

Good! Luckily, it was me. It’s a great character; it’s a great role. It kind of is the perfect storm, in a way. I get to do a lot of different things. And also, I really liked that I was able to sing in a way that’s very much about the tone of the film – not just performing a song. The songs are really an integral part of the way the story takes you. I didn’t realize that at the time, actually, but I’ve never really done that before. I’m just a person who sings a song.

"Any Day Now"
Music Box Films "Any Day Now"
Was that your idea to sing, or did the real Rudy sideline as a singer too?

It was based on a true story, but that part of it was all made-up. He was a drag queen, but he never sang. The idea of finding his “voice,” literally and metaphorically, is a really nice part of the story, too.

Whose idea was it to make that metaphor literal?

It was Travis, really. If I couldn’t sing, I guess they would’ve had to. What is funny about it is, actually, when you have songs like that… It’s all about the rights. The songs we were going to be able to use were changing all of the time. I think he might’ve put in the singing aspect more when I came on board; I can’t remember, really. Those things are always very, “Oh my god, we’re going to sing this song?” and then it’s changed. I remember when they said they got the rights to the Bob Dylan song at the end, I said, “I don’t really know that one,” and Travis goes: “I’ll send it to you. You have to learn it.” He sent me a YouTube clip of Bette Midler singing it, in a bathhouse, with Barry Manilow playing on the piano. No pressure. He could’ve just sent me a scratch track over, but no. It was pretty exciting.

The project's been in the works for over 20 years. How did you become involved?

"I don’t really have a process."

75 years! Well, the man who wrote it, originally, was trying to get it done in the 1980s, and then it ended up in his drawer. It wasn’t actively trying to be made in all of that time. His son is the music supervisor on this film, and on Travis’s last film. He said, “Oh, my dad’s got a script,” and then Travis rewrote it. I came onto it because he called up my team, Team Alan: My agent first, and then my manager. She read it, and – it’s interesting, those times when your team makes really good recommendations for you that are life-changing… That’s why you pay them, I suppose. They’ve done a couple of things over the past few years where I felt like, “Eh, I don’t know,” but I was always very into this.

So I came on, and there were various versions of the script. I was able to collaborate with Travis, in terms of my input. Quite radical things in the story changed, actually. [Spoiler Alert!] The child didn’t die, initially; it was a happy ending. I said that I thought it might be too much of an upbeat ending. Next draft, he’s fucking dead. I was like, “I didn’t quite mean that downbeat!” In real life, Isaac [Leyva] is perfectly happy, of course. He’s lovely. I just love Isaac; he’s such a sweetie. In real life, there was no Paul [Garret Dillahunt]. There was a drag queen and he looked after this very, very, much more physically disabled child in Queens.

How much research is too much when it comes to preparing for a role like this? When does the homework start to get in the way of your process?

I don’t really have a process. It’s nice when you do something like this where you have a long time of gestation to let it be a part of your psyche, and to have discussions about it. And to think of things, like: I want to be sure that I don’t reinforce a stereotype. You have time to mull all of that. I looked up pictures, and read about what was politically happening at the time – visually, what was happening. That was quite interesting, but I just, sort of, let the character seep into me. That’s what I always do. You know – I’m doing something, and I’ve suddenly made a decision; I didn’t even actively make it. It’s just in my mind. I know it’s not very interesting for people. I always think the word "process," for acting, is counterproductive and counterintuitive, because it shouldn’t be a process. It should just be… ‘It.’ It’s just pretending. It’s just like playing.

This article is related to: Alan Cumming, Any Day Now, Interviews





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