Alan Cumming on "Any Day Now" and Queer Complacency

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by Austin Dale
April 26, 2012 2:48 PM
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Alan Cumming was famous (and out) for quite a while now, but it's been a while since he's been front and center. "Any Day Now," playing this week at the Tribeca Film Festival, is a subtle, simple showcase. It's the story of a mismatched gay couple in the 70's who find themselves taking care of a child with Down's Syndrome and fighting for their parental rights, fighting institutionalized and socialized homophobia. This decades-old screenplay finally hits the screen with style, humor, and heartache.

Something that is starting to change in movies is that we're seeing more actors coming out than ever before, and suddenly we're seeing more gay stories being told. In the past, you know, it was always a straight celebrity getting acclaim for playing gay and being risky.

Well, gosh, I haven't really thought about it to be honest. You're right that things are changing in that sense. I suppose the difference with this is that this is not a big film. If it was a studio picture, I probably wouldn't be playing that part. I don't have a thing about straight people gay parts, necessarily. Of course, as long as you're convincing and do the part well, all's well. I don't really think it matters what you do in your underpants.

Watching the film, I was wondering where a movie like this comes in in the changing landscape of gay cinema, because it's not a contemporary piece. What do you think?

It's interesting. This is the first day I've been talking about it, and I've seen it just once, and everyone's in on it and having opinions about it while I'm forming mine. I think it's sort of niche-y. I don't go into things thinking about it in a broader scope. For me, it was just about this couple, and the fact that forty years on, nothing much has actually changed. How it fits into gay cinema, I'm not actually sure. Well, actually I do. I think it's really good to keep cataloguing gay stories like this. I was watching, on the plane over here from London... Do you know the documentary "We Were Here"?

Yeah, of course! I'm amazed they're showing it on planes.

Yeah, on the Virgin flight. And, you know, I felt really proud. In a similar vein, it's cataloguing experiences gay people had in the seventies. And I think both films really gets it, not only because it's a gripping story that gets you emotionally, but it's also good to remind people that people had to be afraid of losing their jobs because of their sexualities. The idea of adopting was seen as an insane idea. And actually, it still is to an extent in the states.

What was it like acting across from someone with Down's syndrome?

It was actually really amazing. Every emotion about his interaction with the world was so immediate. When he was happy, he was jumping up and down. When he was not, he was weeping. It was good to be reminded of what it feels like to be around someone who is completely in the moment. That's a good lesson for what you're supposed to be as an actor. What was most important was getting to know each other for him to be comfortable around me. It was a lovely experience. I never felt that we were having to slow things down to accommodate him at all. I had a great time being with someone who was so emotionally pleasant. And he'd do things like come up and put your head on your shoulder; if he liked you, he'd come up and tell you. I love that.

This is a movie about discrimination. Do you have any stories about being discriminated against?

Not really in terms of specific incidents. If you are a queer person, it is a big part of the world. Quite simply, you're a part of society and you're not treated equally. The whole idea of "Oh, we've come so far, and look how much we've achieved." I agree that we've come so far, but look around. Everyone in New York is happy that we can marry and we've got all these legal rights, but I think the biggest obstacle for gay people to fight against is being complacent. That would be terrible. I mean, we obviously shouldn't be thankful for something that is a right. You know what I mean? I don't have any specific stories of being discriminated against, but I guess I do feel discriminated against as a queer man living in the world. Yes. Yes, I do.

What would you like to see change in the immediate future?

In America, I hope there will be a federal intervention to make sure that there is true equality. Last year, I spent a lot of time looking up online to see which states you could adopt in, because you know, it's such a waste that in states where you have civil partnerships or marriage, you can't legally adopt. I would love for all these things to come from a federal edict. I don't think state-by-state is gonna cut it. In the South, there's legislation to not teach about homosexuality in schools. These people say, "We don't like that, so we don't want it taught in our schools." But would you say, "I don't like slavery, so I don't want that taught in schools"? It's such a terrible argument these people are making, because it's like they want homosexuality to disappear. We're here, we're queer, get used to it. You know? I was just in London. In London, you can get married. Well, actually, because of the semantics, you can get a civil partnership. But it's all about not disappearing, not being complacent. In the East End of London, there were all these buses going by saying "Some people are gay. Get used to it." Millions of them. Millions and millions of buses. I think that's the greatest.

The Lost Boys @ Tribeca, brought you by Diet Coke. Diet Coke is giving away free Tribeca screenings online. Just go to Tribecafilm.com and hit the “Shift” and “X” keys at the same time and a special film will be unlocked for you to view. Do it now!

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