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He’s one of those fellows with a bright, sweet face that you can’t help but smile at. Ridiculously talented and accomplished – and just so dang cute – the charming stage, TV and film actor, model, Tony Award-winner (to name but one award of many) and new Masterpiece Mystery! host Alan Cumming speaks with PopMatters 20 Questions about Dionysus, the prudency of using prophylactics, and Leon, the singing Chihuahua.


Read more about Alan (and see more – much more in the “sex symbol” section) on his site at Alan Cumming.com.


cover art

Tommy's Tale

Alan Cumming

(HarperCollins)

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
I’ve been flying a lot recently and I always cry while watching movies on planes and while reading books on planes. I think it must be something to do with the air pressure or perhaps the potential imminent death, or else the free booze. Whatever.


I cried while watching Enchanted and also while reading The Great Gatsby, which my friend Joey had given me because we were driving in Long Island recently and he mentioned it and I confessed I had never read it. I also cried at a documentary about a millionaire going to a poor area of London and giving money to an impoverished community center.


2. The fictional character most
like you?

I would like it to be Tintin, the character in comic books created by Belgian artist Hergé,  because he has such great adventures (like me) and loves his fox terrier dog, Snowy (like I love my dogs) and has weird friends (like me).


But really, the fictional character most like me is Tommy, the titular character in my novel, Tommy’s Tale (a young British pansexual with a penchant for chemical and physical excess). But it is only a novel, people!


3. The greatest album, ever?
Oh, this is a hard one. I fall in love with albums all the time. Right now I am crazy about Cyndi Lauper’s new one, Bring Ya to the Brink. There is a song on it called “Same Ol’ Story” that I just adore. I really love Kate Bush’s albums, especially her earlier ones like The Kick Inside and Never for Ever. But I suppose the best one ever would have to be Trevor Horn’s Produced. He is a genius producer.


Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler in X2

Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler in X2


4. Star Trek or
Star Wars?

I’m not a Trekkie by any means, but I would have to choose Star Trek, purely for the tacky retro qualities of the original series. I love when they hit a meteor storm and everyone flings themselves across the bridge.


I once did a convention in London for sci-fi fans (I was Nightcrawler in X2: X-Men United, so I got asked to come along and sign autographs) and Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Ohura was there. I was standing next to her in the green room, getting a cup of coffee, and I remember felling a tingle of excitement. I also love that she, and other cast members, hated William Shatner and didn’t mind you knowing about it.


5. Your ideal brain food?
Almonds, or any kind of nut or seed. I always keep some in my bag for those lulls in the day. When I have to do something like sing or go along a red carpet or something scary and potentially humiliating I find a vodka martini takes the edge off in a very pleasing way. So a martini and nuts would be my brain food of choice


6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
I was given an honorary doctorate of arts from the University of Abertay, Dundee, in 2006. It’s really near to where I grew up and my mum was there and she was so proud. I was glad for her to see me finally becoming a doctor. I think despite all that I’ve achieved she would really have preferred me to have had a proper job.


7. You want to be remembered for…?
Having lived my life to the full, and being open and speaking out for what I believed in and for being kind and making people happy.


8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
Those who have not apologised for their difference, and fought for their rights and respect. And I mean this in all areas of life.


9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
A child.


10. Your hidden talents…?
I have none. All my talents have been unremittingly displayed for the world to see, or guess about. But my dogs are very talented impressionists. At my country house we put on “The Honey and Leon Show” and they don various hats and props and give stunning impressions of various celebrities and historical figures. Then Leon, the Chihuahua, sings.


11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
Always wear a condom.


12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
A snow globe of Minnie Mouse. At a very low point in my life I smiled every time I looked at it. Her hands are clasped behind her back in a really sweet way and she looks so happy even when it’s snowing. I acquired it in Disneyland Paris, and it is my favourite possession because of how much it helped me when I was really down. I know that’s really corny and twee but screw you.


13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?
I have to say that I dress for comfort but I tend to blend both ends of the spectrum into a pleasing whole. I think it’s important to wear what you know you like and not what some magazine is telling you that you ought to wear.


Alan Cumming as Dionysus in The Bacchae - photo (partial) ©National Theatre of Scotland

Alan Cumming as Dionysus in The Bacchae - photo (partial) ©National Theatre of Scotland


14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
My husband, Grant. I am away for him right now, and the idea of a nice dinner and then a night alone in a hotel room is very appealing. I love hotel rooms. They make me so horny. And the Ritz does good afternoon tea too, so we could make a day of it.


15. Time travel: where, when and why?
I’d like to go back to 30AD and find out if Jesus was really married to Mary Magdalene. I’d ask him lots of questions, including about his viewpoint on GLBT people. Then I’d ask him to sign a written statement testifying to his beliefs about God’s children. Then I would come back to the present and show his statement to all those nasty Christians who profess that bigotry in His Name is acceptable and say “Na na na na NA!


16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
I think a combo of all three: take a hit of Prozac, go the spa and get pummeled, then take a hot hit man home and shag him senseless.


17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or…?
Vodka would be above coffee, but cigarettes and chocolate I could live without. Sex, however, would have to be top of my list. Even sex with myself, that is. Sex is the best thing, and it’s something we’re all designed to do.


18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
I’m a country boy originally and now I have a place in the Catskill Mountains that is my sanctuary. But really New York City is the greatest place on Earth for me. When in New York, every time I step out of my door I feel that I am starting an adventure.


19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
Well, to Gordon brown I would say “Darling, you’re great. You’ve done great things over the years, but if you stay in office you are going to allow the conservatives back into power and that would be a disaster for Britain. So resign and let one of your younger, more charismatic colleagues try and pick up the pieces and hopefully Labour can win the next election”.


To George Bush I would say, “How can you sleep at night?”


20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
I’m re-rehearsing The Bacchae, a play I did last year for the national Theatre of Scotland at the Edinburgh International Festival, Glasgow and London. We will be doing it at the Lincoln Center festival in New York from July 2-13th. I play Dionysus, the God of wine and ecstasy. ‘Nuff said.


Karen Zarker, Managing Editor at PopMatters, works with a talented array of writers throughout the magazine. She manages the PopMatters Books Series, and also holds many behind-the-scenes operational responsibilities. She can be reached at zarker(at)popmatters.com.


Media
Masterpiece Mystery! With Host Alan Cumming, PBS
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