Tony Awards 2015: Is it Time For The Curtain To Close on The Award Show?

Tony Awards
Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori at the 2015 Tony Awards via CBS

The red-headed stepchild of awards shows, The Tony Awards, aired last night on CBS celebrating the accomplishments in Broadway Theater. Well, most of them, anyway.

To start off with the good, “Fun Home” snagged the award for Best Musical, a touching show that deals with sexuality, abuse, suicide and dysfunctional family life. Helen Mirren won for once again playing the Queen of England (but on stage this time). John Cameron Mitchell was awarded a special Tony for…being John Cameron Mitchell, I guess. Kristin Chenoweth was at her pixiest hosting, and co-host Alan Cumming strutted the stage in plum shorts.

But one of the reasons the Tony’s might need to be reevaluated (or put out of its misery) is the sheer pomp and circumstance that’s eclipsing honoring the true talent, hard work and perseverance the awards ostensibly celebrate.

The most egregious snub thanks to the CBS broadcast, in my opinion, was the exclusion of Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori, the first female team to win the Tony for Best Original Score for “Fun Home”. Obviously, as the last four minutes of the broadcast showed, the American public needed to see a number from “Jersey Boys”, a decade-old jukebox musical, for the 11,00000th time. Yes. That’s surely more important than watching an historic achievement and an incredibly moving speech about working in the arts. The odd thing is, Original Score isn’t really a “minor” award (not that Costume Design or Set Design is, either, but…) so the choice not to air it to make room for another musical number baffles me. Yes, it’s a commercial affair and any attempt to boost ratings is expected, but at the expense of history?

The Tony’s have never been a ratings juggernaut (it had a paltry 7.24 Million in 2013, which was actually its highest in four years); compare that to the 36.6 Million the Oscars received this year (which is also pretty low). As disheartening it is that the general public seems to care less about the theater, it’s not surprising. Broadway is a very narrow slice of the theater world, and considering it’s geographically remote to most Americans and getting more and more expensive, there’s less reason to invest in it, emotionally or otherwise. And because of that, CBS cuts what the ceremony should actually be about to make a dog and pony show in a last-ditch effort. We’re not treated to live performances of the Best Play nominees, or coverage of all the awards. Instead, we watch musical numbers of shows that weren’t even nominated, or long rants by Larry David.

At this point, the Tony’s should probably move to a cable network who’ll produce it better. It’s breaking tradition for what has been a major award show to die a slow death, but if you’re not going to show awards going to the people who craft and create theater, well, what’s the point of an awards show?

Check out the full list of Tony Award winners here. 

 

On His Birthday, The 10 Things Alan Cumming Hates About Celebrity

Photo via Mina Magda/BFAnyc.com

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN BLACKBOOK’S OCTOBER 2010 ISSUE

Writer, director, and actor Alan Cumming will soon appear in two new films—Burlesque, with Cher, and Julie Taymor’s The Tempest—but it’s his website, It’s A Sickness, “an obsession network for an obsessive culture,” that makes the star of The Good Wife (for which he recently received an Emmy nod) the perfect man to lash out against the ravenous cult of celebrity. This is what we call a true Hollywood story.

1. I hate that kids get older and weirder. When kids know you from a film, they are genuine and open in the way they approach you. Then they get older and jaded, and you have to deal with their new adult shit, and they come up to you and say things like, “I don’t know who the fuck you are but my friend thinks you’re kind of hot.” Then they let slip something about a film you’ve been in and of course they do know you, and actually quite respect you, but they are unable to betray that level of emotion and you wish they’d just stayed age 9.

2. Celebrities are not deaf. We can hear you when you talk about us.

3. Twitter is the devil. Not only does it mean that people will grow up unable to experience something without instantly commenting on it, but it is also a hideous invasion of normal human interaction to watch someone you are talking to in a bar go to the loo, and then be told later that they did so to tweet about you. Or how about when someone witnesses a fender bender and tweets about it rather than asking if you’re okay, or if they can help? This happened to me, and a friend of mine saw the tweet and freaked out thinking I was hurt because, of course, the tweeter didn’t bother to follow up and say that I was fine. But worst of all are people who tweet their comments during a play or a movie! I mean, come on! What ever happened to analysis, or allowing an experience to actually be just that?

4. I hate, hate, hate people who come up to you and ask if you remember them, revealing that they slept with you a long time ago. Why would you put yourself in a place of potential humiliation? If the celeb doesn’t remember you it will only make you angry and upset, and make you feel like you weren’t that good of a shag in the first place. Also, didn’t you ever consider the fact that you would never have remembered the celeb either had you not seen his face again and again on TV and in magazines? Wouldn’t it be nicer to gently remind your former shag of where and when you met, subtly and with decorum, and allow you both to have a nice little flashback to why you wanted to get into each other’s pants in the first place?

5. I hate the existential dilemma that magazines and websites deliver: if there isn’t a photo of me in US Weekly or on the latest vacuous blog, was I really at the party/premiere/awards ceremony? Do I even exist if I am not in those publications and on those sites? Is there an alternate reality where outmoded celebrities go to die or exist in a timeless zone waiting to be reborn or reinvented in a Betty White sort of manner?

6. I hate that celebrities are asked our opinion on every inane aspect of society and culture, some recent examples being, “What do you think of Kate Gosselin’s new hairdo?” and, “Are you a Gleek?” and, “Can you do a George Clooney impression?” But we’re supposed to shut up and say nothing about things that actually matter.

7. I hate that we are called “talent.” Not even the talent. My publicist shouted out of a car window recently: “You have to let us through! I have talent!” At first I thought she was referring to herself and was rather excited about what her hitherto unrevealed talent might be, but then I realized it was me, and talent was a noun by which I have come to be known. I am not talented, I am talent. One of the most vivid memories I have about a crazy, embittered ex of mine (and on reflection, probably what precipitated the beginning of the end) was him having to wear a lanyard at an event that was attached to a plastic card emblazoned with the phrase “Guest of Talent.” Ouch.

8. I hate very, very much when people recognize me enough to stop me and sometimes physically prevent me from moving on with my life, yet do not exactly know who I am and so feel entitled to ask me a series of questions about things they might have seen me in. I hate that when I say, “Well, I don’t know, because I wasn’t there when you saw it,” they don’t suddenly realize what an annoying and rude twat they are being. Ditto when, after more questions (and them still clinging onto my arm to disable my flight), I say, Why don’t you Google me?—and they still persevere. What is the solution? Should I try to become more famous to ensure that everyone, everywhere will automatically know me and I will avoid this sort of exchange? But won’t that mean that more and more people will want to stop and talk to me, and take my photo and try to drag me through bars to meet their cousins who are visiting from Arkansas?

9. I hate that people assume that being famous means you’re an asshole; that you’ll be rude to bar staff, waiters, and anyone further down the totem pole than you (which, when you’re a celebrity, is pretty much everyone, with the exception of bigger celebrities); that you will demand loads of expensive booze, clothes, and drugs, and not expect to pay for it. This is utter transference. I am always asking people to stop being total bitches on my behalf and trying to explain that it would be a nice change for me to have a conversation that isn’t about me, my work, how fabulous I am, or how I can help someone get a start as an actor, model, screenwriter, agent, publicist, or my assistant. I think it’s a real test of someone’s character if they choose to be mean to people they can be mean to. Some celebrities do this—but then, some celebrities are revolting shits. There are, however, many more revolting shits who are celebrity hangers-on.

10. I hate that I am even writing this, because it will be misinterpreted, and weird blogs and British newspapers will take lines from it and make up articles that will make me look like a spoiled, frothy dick, and there will be that “Oh, poor you to have so many problems because you’re famous” reaction from people I know and even like. But you know what? I don’t hate the fact that I still notice these things, because it means that I have not hidden myself away from the world, and I am glad about that. Also, as ambivalent as I am about my own fame, it is a byproduct—unwelcome as it may be—of me getting to do the work I love, and be the person I am, so, hooray for that.

Talking to Carmen Electra About New Single, XL Nightclub, & Photographer Mike Ruiz

Tonight they will be celebrating the birthday of photographer extraordinaire Mike Ruiz. over at XL Nightclub, 512 W. 42nd Street, Carmen Electra, Martha Wash , The Ones, Janice Robinson and Jason Walker will perform. The event  will be hosted by the luscious Lady Bunny and Bianca Del Rio and the cast of HOT MESS. DJ Escape and Whitney Day will provide the sounds. The whole shebang will benefit the Ali Forney Center (AFC).  Admission is $15 for non-members. They are trying to raise $15,000 for the Center which provides shelter and care for homeless LGBT youth. The center was particularly damaged from the wrath of Hurricane Sandy.

Carmen Electra will perform her new single “I Like It Loud” which was produced  by Grammy-nominated producer Bill Hamel. Carmen will do the media rounds with appearances on The Wendy Williams Show, VH1 Morning Buzz, and Anderson Cooper before scooting over to XL. I asked her all about it.

Why did you decide to be part of this benefit for the Ali Forney Center at XL Nightclub? 
When I heard the center was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, I could not help but to be part of this amazing night.

How did it come about? 
I am friends with Mike Ruiz; he called me and asked me to be part of the benefit.

Have you worked with Mike Ruiz as a model? 
Yes, he’s shot for a few magazines.

You have a diverse career. What are your career goals? 
To continue entertaining my fans and touring the world.

XL Nightclub’s Director of Operations elaborated:
How do you think Carmen Electra will energize your crowd? What makes her work?
She is a versatile entertainer; she’s been on MTV, Baywatch, and she now has a singing career. Gays respect a hot woman continually reinventing herself.  She’s working with Mikey Minden (Pussycat Dolls), and the act is pretty over the top. I saw a couple rehearsals and know the crowd will love it.  She’s come a long way from slow-motion jogs down the beach.

XL Nightclub is no longer the new club on the block. How would you define it and compare it to the dominant gay clubs of other eras… say the Roxy, etc.
XL isn’t just a big dance club; we’re a full-service, 200-seat cabaret and lounge.  In any given week, we’ll have artists like Alan Cumming perform in the cabaret, DJs like Danny Teneglia spin for 2,000 people in the nightclub, we’ll produce a rock concert on our 32-foot stage, host a young-professionals mixer in our front lounge, or host a full sit-down charity dinner. We do it all.

Besides this, what is planned as far as performances and events that you think will be the highlights at XL this winter? 
We have loads of new programming that we’ll be rolling out in the winter. I’m most excited about our new lounge concept.  We’re completely gutting our front lounge and creating an exclusive new “club-within-a-club.”  It’s a high-end exclusive, “gay Bungalow 8”  concept that we think is missing from our community.  The goal is to have it open by the end of January to coincide with our one year anniversary.  More details on that soon.

Mark Kamins’ Greatest Legacy & My Spot On The ‘Vanity Fair’ Downtown 100 List

The celebration of Mark Kamins’ life and times culminates at Santos Party House tonight. Konk will perform for the first time since 1986. Lady Miss Kier of Dee-Lite fame, as well. Coati Mundi, Crystal Ark, and a ton of other performers will crowd both floors of the club that most resembles the old- school type clubs where most of these folks did their thing …in days of yore. A zillion DJs including Jellybean Benitez and Justin Strauss and Mike Pickering and Stretch Armstrong and Ivan Ivan and Jazzy Nice and and and…. will make musical statements about the man we and thousands of others loved. I will MC along with Jim Fouratt, Chi Chi Valenti, Michael Holman, and and and. Proceeds of the event will go to the Mark Kamins Scholarship Award in Electronic Music. Walter Durkacz is the puppeteer pulling all the strings that make this sort of thing happen. Not an easy gig.

This journey will end for all of us maybe tomorrow, maybe in 40 or 50 years. Many have preceded. Some people will say Mark’s legacy can be defined by a great record or his immense body of work. I think Mark Kamins’ legacy is the love that he instilled in the hearts of all the people who will gather tonight to remember and celebrate a life well-lived. 
 
For 20 years, Vanity Fair’s George Wayne has compiled his Downtown 100 List for his annual party of the Most Fabulous+Inspired+Relevant People Who Today Define Downtown. The list has often been controversial, as many who think of themselves in those terms have been snubbed, and many newbies added have gained instantaneous validation and recognition.

The order of the list seems to be irrelevant save for the first name who is always someone delicious. This year that name is Kate Upton. The list includes Solange Knowles and Vito Schnabel and Marc Jacobs and Dita Von Teese and Alan Cumming and Susanne Bartsch and, like, 94 more. I am honored to be listed as well. George is an old and extremely vibrant friend. I will join him on The DL Rooftop, 95 Delancey, tomorrow night at 10pm.

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Four Legs Good: 10 Celebs and Their Famous Pooches

 

President Obama recently took some time out of his busy schedule to tell CNN’s Chris Cuomo about the latest addition to the First Family: a puppy named Sunny, who is Bo’s new playmate. It seems that if anything can distract us from the task at hand, it’s our canine companions. But often they are central to the task at hand, like Andy Warhol’s dachsunds, who were depicted in his paintings and were also regular subjects in his diaries. Here’s a look at ten famous Fidos—some of which have stolen the show from their celebrity guardians.

Alan Cumming, Honey and Leon

Actor Alan Cumming, who has two dogs—Honey, a Collie-Shepherd mix, and Leon, a shorthaired Chihuahua—claims his friends don’t think he’s a crazy dog person, although he admits, "My day is kind of focused around them." He may not be crazy, but his melodramatic Masterpiece Mystery! introductions—usually featuring arrestingly effective eyebrow raises, sideways glances and duck faces—hint at a wild and crazy guy within.

Rachael Ray and Isaboo

Rachael Ray brought her beloved dog Isaboo on her talk show to get microchipped in front of a live studio audience, urging all dog guardians to do the same with their precious pups. I honestly never gave much thought to Ray until I saw this segment and found out more about her work helping shelter dogs. I’ll have to try whipping up her Marsala Mushroom Ragout after all.

 

Picasso and Lump

This cute little animation by Raza Shah features Pablo Picasso’s famous line drawing of a dachshund (thought to be the artist’s own beloved dog Lump). In 2006, photographer David Douglas Duncan published the book Picasso and Lump: A Dachshund’s Odyssey, which revealed the duo’s close relationship through photographs taken in 1957 at the artist’s mansion in Cannes. Apparently, Lump was in charge.

Louis C.K.: An Old Woman and Her Dog

OK, so this clip isn’t about a celebrity and their dog. But it’s a celebrity talking about a dog; specifically it’s a bit about an old lady and her dog that comedian Louis C.K. performed in Phoenix in February that is pretty damn funny. Not sure if Louie is lucky enough to have a dog. I’ve seen him walking with his daughters, though. He was in a rush and all sweaty, kind of like his character in his awesome FX television series, Louie.

In the excellent heist film High Sierra (1941), Humphrey Bogart’s character Roy is befriended by a homeless mutt named Pard, played by the actor’s own dog, Zero.

Parker Posey and Gracie

The fact that I’ve seen Parker Posey and her dog Gracie walking around my neighborhood on several occasions isn’t surprising. According to Gawker, "everyone’s had a run-in with Parker Posey’s devil-dog"—though I’ve never seen anything other than a cute little canine behaving very well. But I’d hate to see what happens if Gracie ever lost her squeaky toy.

Ryan Gosling and George

Note to celebrities who don’t like talking about themselves on talk shows: Bring your dog. In 2011, when Ryan Gosling was a guest on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, the actor brought along his dog George. "He’s more interesting than I am," said Gosling, "so I thought it would be helpful."

Susan Sarandon, Penny and Rigby

When she stopped by The View, Susan Sarandon brought her two dogs, Penny, who was in at least two of the Academy Award winner’s films: Arbitrage and Cloud Atlas, and Rigby, "who just got out of rehab."

Kevin Spacey and Boston

In May, actor Kevin Spacey adopted a shelter dog from the Surry County Animal Shelter in North Carolina. The two-time Academy Award winner named her Boston in honor of the city. Two more reasons to love this guy.

The Obamas, Bo and Sunny

The White House recently unveiled the newest member to the First Family, Sunny, who seems to enjoy the first First Dog, Bo. Both of them are Portuguese Water Dogs, chosen partly because they are hypoallergenic, as Malia’s allergies require a breed that doesn’t shed. "Bo was starting to look a little down in the dumps inside the house," the pack leader-in-chief told CNN’s Chris Cuomo. "And Sunny, the new dog. she’s only a year old, and the truth is, she’s faster than he is. She jumps higher, she’s friskier…[Bo] is trying to keep up. But I think that ultimately, he’s loving it. I think that ultimately, it’s going to be great for him in the long term."

Anne Hathaway and Alan Cumming Are Headed for a Broadway Revival of ‘Cabaret’

Oh, no. No. No. According to the Daily Mail, Anne Hathaway is reported to star in the upcoming Broadway revival of Cabaret alongside Alan Cumming. She will be taking on the lead role of Sally Bowles opposite Cumming’s Emcee and for the love of all things sacred, I cannot get behind this. Back in 1998, Cumming performed his Tony Award-winning run as the Emcee alongside Natasha Richardson in what was the closest thing to perfection that the musical can possibly get—save Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey of course. 

The 1930s Berlin set psychosexual political drama of a musical, made famous by Bob Fosse’s 1972 cinematic adaptation, is the epitome of everything I love in a musical, movie, or maybe just life. Haunting and shimmering, Minnelli spoke about the film back in January, joking that before it went into production they had no idea how to sell it, saying—"How are we going to advertise this? The Nifty Nazi Follies?’ Seth Cagin once wrote that Cabaret was the only major film of the period to "consider the flip side of political awareness, detailing the allure of decadence and self-indulgence, and the abegnation of social and political responsibility in the face of looming catastrophe a denial which nonetheless becomes an upbeat philosophy in the film’s crowning metaphor: Life is a cabaret!" 

But what I’m trying to get at here is: it’s not like Anne Hathaway can’t be seductive, it’s not that she can’t go dark, it’s not that she isn’t immensely talented or have an Oscar-winning voice—and I mean, this is just a musical after all—but she’s not a Sally Bowles. A Velma Kelly? Perhaps. A Roxie Hart? Bleach that pixie cut and maybe? But Sally, no. And although last fall she did perform numbers from Cabaret at Joe’s Pub to a warm reception, that’s all fine and dandy, but a Broadway turn in the iconic role it does not make.

Well fine, I can get past this just knowing that Cumming will be hitting the stage again in his greatest role as the devilish Emcee, that’s thrilling enough in itself. So, for now, let’s just watch some videos of him performing in the late ’90s. Enjoy.

Also, watch HERE and HERE.

 

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Stephen Colbert Skewers Brad Paisley and LL Cool J With ‘Oopsie-Daisy Homophobe’

I thought we were done as a nation talking about "Accidental Racist," but apparently, this dead-on-arrival and racist horse needed one last flogging, and who better to do said flogging than Stephen Colbert? The introduction of Colbert’s skewering of Brad Paisley and LL Cool J’s accidentally-racist trainwreck is actually pretty funny — aftert the opening verse plays, Colbert offers, "[The Confederate flag] just means you’re a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan, in the same way that having a burning cross on your lawn just means you’re a Madonna fan." And yeah, now that he mentions it, it is kind of surprising that no one’s brought up the "Like A Prayer" video for comparison / discussions of loaded imagery. Alright then.

Anyway, Colbert praises the song for uniting America in hatred of this mess (and it’s a shame because the rest of Brad Paisley’s album isn’t all that bad, either), and offers the healing power of music to bridge "another deep cultural rift in America—the gay marriage divide." Hence, "Oopsie-Daisy Homophobe," which takes the situation to a Crunch gym and as expected, is far more overt in its intention to offend. The best part is, of course, Alan Cumming appearing as the LL equivalent, which reads "we just picked a random obvious gay celebrity who we thought would have something to say about this" the same way choosing LL, as Ta-Nehisi Coates helpfully pointed out, was Paisley just assuming that just because LL is black and a rapper, he’d automatically be able to offer insightful contributions on racial discourse and the Confederate flag, when there are countless other rappers who have said much more salient things about race and do this sort of thing better regularly. Anyway, now the song is safely dead, we think, and you can watch Colbert and Cumming trade verses below.  

[via Hypervocal]

Alan Cumming And Director Travis Fine Get To The Heart Of Their New Film ‘Any Day Now’

‘Tis the season for tear-jerking movies. While the biggest hits of the holiday (and Oscar) season go for broke when it comes to grabbing the audience’s emotions, there are very few that manage to pull at the heartstrings of the average moviegoer with subtlety and nuance. Director Travis Fine and actor Alan Cumming fully admit that their new film Any Day Now (which opens today) reads, at least on paper, as the kind of emotionally manipulative film that only serves to induce sobs. The film, based on a true story, focuses on a gay couple, Rudy and Paul (played by Cumming and Garret Dillahunt, respectively), who attempt to retain custody of their foster child, a young boy with Down syndrome who has been neglected by his drug addicted mother. It’s heavy stuff, for sure, but it’s hardly sensational.

Inspired by gritty character-driven dramas of the ’70s, Any Day Now invests the majority of its running time on its two leads, not only examining the familiar rushed nature of their courtship, but also their mutual desire to protect and love the son they have come to know. Working from a script originally written decades ago, Fine not only examines the social conditions of the ’70s but brings light to an issue that is still politically relevant today. Cumming, who delivers the performance of his career, plays Rudy in a refreshing manner not typically seen on film: at times he is a flamboyant drag queen, at others a tough, streetwise man with a gruff exterior. 

I sat down with Fine and Cumming to discuss their film, how they managed to keep the emotional content in balance, and what they hope the audience will see in the coupling of its two leading men.

To start with you Travis, what inspired you from the beginning to work on this film? Did you know the story beforehand?
Travis Fine: I had not. I read the script. PJ Bloom, the script supervisor, said, “My father wrote a script 35 years ago, can you read it?” It was a script that had almost gotten made a number of times and never did. And thankfully I read it, but again, I didn’t quite understand what my deep, personal connection…I understand on a cerebral cinematic level. Once I kind of got in touch with that deep, personal level I wrote the film and infused it with some of my own personal take on loss and away we went.

Alan, how did you get involved?
Alan Cumming: He sent it to my agent and manager and they were very, you know, they were like, “Read this now.” And so I did, and we talked on Skype. There were a few versions of the script before the actual production one, so it was it great to have the pleasure of being involved early on to be able to discuss things that are gestating.

It’s a story I had never seen before, especially with two gay men, and especially as a period piece. Beyond the subject matter, what I loved about it was that it could have been much more emotionally manipulative, and I think you avoided that successfully. Was there a stance you wanted to take at the beginning of looking at the script and how you’d present it on film?
TF:
One of the thing I loved so much about George [Bloom]’s script were the characters and the situation but there were elements of it that I felt needed to be less manipulative and even in some of the early drafts that I wrote, there were moments that some of which made it to the actual shooting of and then ultimately the editing of the film…anyone who has been in an editing room knows how much rewriting goes on in there as well. And one of the things I tried to remain very conscious of, both in working with the actors…and Alan was always a reminder of this…of sort of steering away from that. And then once we got in the editing room, the mandate, the very first day of editing, I said to the editor, “anything that smacks of overt sentimentality, that smacks of chopping onions for the sake of chopping onions just to evoke a tear is coming out of the movie.” So the first cut we actually had of the film, which is about 12 minutes shorter than the current cut.
AC: Shorter?!
TF: Yeah, we have a version that was 12 minutes shorter; literally almost everything was taken out—every emotional moment. Nobody cried through the whole thing, nobody got emotional. And then from there we started adding back in some of the moments, so it has been an evolution, something I was conscious of, something that Alan was conscious of. I think we were all aware that we ran the risk of falling off that rail.
AC: It’s got a lot of elements of it that could fall into cloying territory. I went into it worried about those things and also about doing gay stereotype. And it’s just amazing, in the working process with Travis, every single one of those things that I would think—“Oh, this speech, we don’t need to have it, or this moment…”—every single one he just either cut it or changed it, so it was really inspiring to have those anxieties just completely erased. It’s been entirely heartening about the proper use of sentiment and sentimentality in its true sense, in a positive sense.
TF: I will also say one of the most heartening things has been defying expectations because a lot of people on paper when they read the log line, there’s that sense of, “Oh, I know what that movie is.” A couple people online have said, it seems like one of those movies from Tropic Thunder, one of the Oscar-bait movies. One guy has a club foot, two gay, a Down syndrome child, with a sheep herder from Uganda. And on paper it can appear as if it’s this mawkish, overly sentimental thing, but I think it defies all those expectations. Having audiences respond, winning all these audience awards, and having not just gay audiences but audiences across the spectrum respond in this way…it sort of lets me know and lets all of us know that we did ultimately what we set out to do, which was to tell a great story that steers away from some of those more obvious traps.

To get to what you kind of mentioned about the character—worrying that it would be a gay stereotype—what I responded to the most about this is that you character didn’t seem stereotypical at all. The press notes described him as flamboyant, which I think is true, but there’s not a lot of femininity to him. I think it happens so frequently in films, especially in gay couples on film, where one man is “more straight” and the other “more gay.”
AC:
Like that new sitcom. One’s really queeny and the other one watches football.

And was that something that was sort of planned from the original script?
AC: He was more kind of effeminate in the first versions of the scripts, and we talked about that. I tried to explain to Travis why I wanted to fight against those stereotypes. In a way, those are counterproductive to what you’re trying to do because it doesn’t allows the audience to engage with the person because they think they know who he is because they’ve seen him so many times before. It also didn’t make sense in terms of the story for him not to be strong and very brave. He has this armor that he had to acquire to exist. I was saying this earlier: the drag queens I know are fierce. They really know how to take care of themselves. You have to if you’re going to pursue that, especially where he comes from and that time in which he lived. He’d have to be pretty fierce and aggressive.
TF: I had an interesting tip-off when people read the first drafts of the script and a couple people said, “Oh, Nathan Lane would be perfect for this.” And I said, “Oh, I was thinking more Robert Downey, Jr.” Somebody a bit like a young Al Pacino, who could have played this role back in the ’70s. Thankfully, when Alan came on board, we did have some great conversations about who and how this guy should be, which helps the film and helps me as a filmmaker. Particularly as a straight filmmaker trying to tell an LGBT story.

Did you ever consider adapting it into a present-day story, or did you always want to keep it as a period place in the ’70s?
TF:
There are great dramatic films that are set present day without question, but when I read the script, there were certain things I responded to. One of the things that did inspire me was getting to tell a story using modern technology—modern digital photography—and to make a gritty ’70s drama. I was born in ’68; as I came of age, those are the films that I was watching and the filmmakers I was watching. Certainly that was one of the hooks and one of the draws for me making the movie, and there was never a consideration to reset it to modern day. I wanted to tell a story that allows us to look back and see where we were as a society against where we are now.

In terms of the music and the character performing, was that something that was always involved or something that came along with Alan?
TF:
That was not in the original draft, meaning the script that George wrote. I wanted to make this film and make it very personal to myself. In the original script Rudy was a hair dresser. But I wanted to add that element of music and theatricality, and then the notion of him becoming an actual singer was, you know, yet another draft. So what was wonderful, when thinking of who to cast, when Alan’s name was brought up it was one of those—
AC: Duh.

Was that appealing to you, to be able to play a role in which you’re singing?
AC:
Yes, because what’s interesting about this part and this film is that I sing in a different way to how you would normally sing in a film. The songs are very much a part of the storytelling and the tone and the mood of where we are in the story. I really like that. It was kind of hard because you have to record the songs before and make decisions about the tone of them. I’ve sung songs in films before, but they’re mostly just performances, and these are performances, too, but there was another level to them that I really liked.

It gives it that musical quality.
AC:
It is a musical according to the Golden Globes.

Really?
AC:
It is a musical. And it’s funny.

What is your idea of the ideal audience for this? Because for a film with political undertones to it and about something that obviously causes a lot of debate today, it’s hard to imagine someone making a film hoping it’s going to change minds. But it seems like this would be playing to an audience that already has the mentality of rooting for these characters kind of brings this topic up a little bit more for discussion. Is that something you ever thought about, like who you would want to really see this film and take something away from it?
TF:
I was always aware that there are certain people that will not make it past scene three of the film. I have people in my own family that won’t see the movie. They will not, and I’m aware of that. For people on the far end of the political or the religious spectrum, I would hope that if they would be able to sit through the film, that it would inspire some introspection. But I don’t think a piece of art, anymore than a political argument, is going to cause people to magically change their minds about what they believe, and that’s not really the intention. The idea was to tell a great love story—unlikely people finding love in unlikely places—which I think is always interesting to me. The byproduct of having some people maybe change their ideas and their perceptions is something that I hope happens. It happened with me. As I did my research as a filmmaker, it moved from being sort of a passive supporter of equality to a bit more activist and a bit more openly supportive. 

This year has brought out a lot of great films that feature LGBT couples that aren’t necessarily making a statement but just being visible. And I think that’s something this movie really did.
TF:
The one thing I was going to say was, we did a screening at the 92nd Street Y and got an email from an employee saying that a woman who she goes to temple with came rushing up to her and said, “I have to tell you, I loved the movie and I did not think my husband was going to sit through the whole thing. He’s very homophobic, he’s very old-school.” And she said that he sat through the whole thing and they’ve had some wonderful discussions and it opened his mind in a certain way, which I thought was wonderful. It’s wonderful if it can do that, it’s a great thing.
AC: I think what’s really good about the film is that people just really respond to your love that you can see and just that it’s…there’s a purity to it. I think you forget the circumstances. And I think that’s because it’s just about human things, very basic human things about loving and caring for people.

And it’s recognizing that these men react the same way they might react to something.
AC:
The sense of injustice, I think, really resonates with people.
TF: This whole notion of normalcy… I was talking to somebody about the film and I said, “You know, if it was a straight couple, it could be a gritty woman of the streets and some normal guy, and they fall in love and take this kid in.” That story could work, but in that case you wouldn’t need to push the sexuality. You wouldn’t need to push the intimacy because it would be normal. Maybe you would have a scene where they’re in bed together, like these two guys, just kind of laughing and playing around with one another. And I think by not trying to push that, I’m hoping it just shows it’s a story about people in love.

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The Black List: The Ten Things Alan Cumming Hates About Celebrity

Writer, director, and actor Alan Cumming will soon appear in two new films—Burlesque, with Cher, and Julie Taymor’s The Tempest—but it’s his website, It’s A Sickness, “an obsession network for an obsessive culture,” that makes the star of The Good Wife (for which he recently received an Emmy nod) the perfect man to lash out against the ravenous cult of celebrity. This is what we call a true Hollywood story.

1. I hate that kids get older and weirder. When kids know you from a film, they are genuine and open in the way they approach you. Then they get older and jaded, and you have to deal with their new adult shit, and they come up to you and say things like, “I don’t know who the fuck you are but my friend thinks you’re kind of hot.” Then they let slip something about a film you’ve been in and of course they do know you, and actually quite respect you, but they are unable to betray that level of emotion and you wish they’d just stayed age 9.

2. Celebrities are not deaf. We can hear you when you talk about us.

3. Twitter is the devil. Not only does it mean that people will grow up unable to experience something without instantly commenting on it, but it is also a hideous invasion of normal human interaction to watch someone you are talking to in a bar go to the loo, and then be told later that they did so to tweet about you. Or how about when someone witnesses a fender bender and tweets about it rather than asking if you’re okay, or if they can help? This happened to me, and a friend of mine saw the tweet and freaked out thinking I was hurt because, of course, the tweeter didn’t bother to follow up and say that I was fine. But worst of all are people who tweet their comments during a play or a movie! I mean, come on! What ever happened to analysis, or allowing an experience to actually be just that?

4. I hate, hate, hate people who come up to you and ask if you remember them, revealing that they slept with you a long time ago. Why would you put yourself in a place of potential humiliation? If the celeb doesn’t remember you it will only make you angry and upset, and make you feel like you weren’t that good of a shag in the first place. Also, didn’t you ever consider the fact that you would never have remembered the celeb either had you not seen his face again and again on TV and in magazines? Wouldn’t it be nicer to gently remind your former shag of where and when you met, subtly and with decorum, and allow you both to have a nice little flashback to why you wanted to get into each other’s pants in the first place?

5. I hate the existential dilemma that magazines and websites deliver: if there isn’t a photo of me in US Weekly or on the latest vacuous blog, was I really at the party/premiere/awards ceremony? Do I even exist if I am not in those publications and on those sites? Is there an alternate reality where outmoded celebrities go to die or exist in a timeless zone waiting to be reborn or reinvented in a Betty White sort of manner?

6. I hate that celebrities are asked our opinion on every inane aspect of society and culture, some recent examples being, “What do you think of Kate Gosselin’s new hairdo?” and, “Are you a Gleek?” and, “Can you do a George Clooney impression?” But we’re supposed to shut up and say nothing about things that actually matter.

7. I hate that we are called “talent.” Not even the talent. My publicist shouted out of a car window recently: “You have to let us through! I have talent!” At first I thought she was referring to herself and was rather excited about what her hitherto unrevealed talent might be, but then I realized it was me, and talent was a noun by which I have come to be known. I am not talented, I am talent. One of the most vivid memories I have about a crazy, embittered ex of mine (and on reflection, probably what precipitated the beginning of the end) was him having to wear a lanyard at an event that was attached to a plastic card emblazoned with the phrase “Guest of Talent.” Ouch.

8. I hate very, very much when people recognize me enough to stop me and sometimes physically prevent me from moving on with my life, yet do not exactly know who I am and so feel entitled to ask me a series of questions about things they might have seen me in. I hate that when I say, “Well, I don’t know, because I wasn’t there when you saw it,” they don’t suddenly realize what an annoying and rude twat they are being. Ditto when, after more questions (and them still clinging onto my arm to disable my flight), I say, Why don’t you Google me?—and they still persevere. What is the solution? Should I try to become more famous to ensure that everyone, everywhere will automatically know me and I will avoid this sort of exchange? But won’t that mean that more and more people will want to stop and talk to me, and take my photo and try to drag me through bars to meet their cousins who are visiting from Arkansas?

9. I hate that people assume that being famous means you’re an asshole; that you’ll be rude to bar staff, waiters, and anyone further down the totem pole than you (which, when you’re a celebrity, is pretty much everyone, with the exception of bigger celebrities); that you will demand loads of expensive booze, clothes, and drugs, and not expect to pay for it. This is utter transference. I am always asking people to stop being total bitches on my behalf and trying to explain that it would be a nice change for me to have a conversation that isn’t about me, my work, how fabulous I am, or how I can help someone get a start as an actor, model, screenwriter, agent, publicist, or my assistant. I think it’s a real test of someone’s character if they choose to be mean to people they can be mean to. Some celebrities do this—but then, some celebrities are revolting shits. There are, however, many more revolting shits who are celebrity hangers-on.

10. I hate that I am even writing this, because it will be misinterpreted, and weird blogs and British newspapers will take lines from it and make up articles that will make me look like a spoiled, frothy dick, and there will be that “Oh, poor you to have so many problems because you’re famous” reaction from people I know and even like. But you know what? I don’t hate the fact that I still notice these things, because it means that I have not hidden myself away from the world, and I am glad about that. Also, as ambivalent as I am about my own fame, it is a byproduct—unwelcome as it may be—of me getting to do the work I love, and be the person I am, so, hooray for that.