Cumming and Going

BY Advocate.com Editors

September 28 2009 1:30 PM ET

1 PIXEL GIF | ADVOCATE.COM

It’s almost impossible to believe that Cabaret [for which Cumming won a Tony award as the Emcee, playing opposite Natasha Richardson’s Sally Bowles] was more than a decade ago.
It was an overwhelming experience. I talk about it in the show. It changed my life. I was actually ill-prepared for it -- just the aspect of the business of Broadway. I had been doing a film in Czechoslovakia; nobody told me what it would be like. I stumbled into Cabaret. I was so green and that probably helped me in a way. When you’re in a big success -- I wasn’t ready for what a grand experience that was. After the show opened, I said, “I’d like to stop doing all these interviews,” and they told me that “award season” was coming up. I had no idea what they were talking about. It was a big learning curve. Natasha had done it before and she held my hand.

The loss of Natasha must have been enormous.
I was in Scotland, working on a film. I’d heard that she’d been injured the night before. But then I started getting all these calls in the middle of nowhere. I thought to myself, What’s wrong? I was up all night and it was about to rain. Right after somebody told me -- this horrible news about a friend dying -- you switch back into doing your job. Strangely detached. After Natasha's death, I realized that the most positive thing to learn is to seize the day. Look what can happen to someone who was so full of life, then boom, it's over.

Your career is certainly varied. Theater, stage, recordings, and then there’s Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. It’s become a gay cult film.
I think that’s lovely. People are obsessed. The girls are pros. It was a bit weird for me. I remember thinking, This is great, a mainstream comedy. But I can’t understand why they cast me. I’d never played an American before. I’d never played a mutant before, for that matter, and it’s not that big of a leap from playing an American.

Mainstream juxtaposed with alternative seems to be how you navigate your career.
I suppose the record is emblematic of that because it’s quite mainstream but it has an indie perspective. It’s not really a plan that I have. Because I have an open attitude, strange things can happen. From a business perspective I understand it’s important to do certain things, but then there are things you really want to do, based on your sensibility and point of view. I go with what comes up. People think of me, well, he might do this or he might do that. I’m not stuck in a box.

The L Word, for example.
That was fun. Kind of crazy. Enjoyed that. X-Men 3 didn’t happen so I said, “Sure, I’ll do it: I want to have sex with a lesbian.” I like to shake things up and confront people’s expectations. I just did a condom commercial with Ricki Lake for Trojan. It’s on YouTube.

[The cab has arrived at the Century Club and Cumming indicates that he has no more time for the interview]

Gosh, there’s so much more to discuss: Julie Taymor’s Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, that duet you did with Liza years ago, The Tempest with Helen Mirren, your marriage, plans to adopt, your future projects to direct…
I thought we were only doing fifteen minutes... I’ll give you to Brian. You can discuss that with him. 

Tags: film

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