Alan Cumming Has Never Been Better

The story of Any Day Now may take place in the past, but the discrimination against same-sex families it depicts is unfortunately still all too real.

BY Diane Anderson-Minshall

January 04 2013 4:00 AM ET UPDATED: January 07 2013 8:28 PM ET

Cumming (right) and Dillahunt prepare for battle.

George Arthur Bloom lived in Brooklyn in the late 1970s, back when it was a rough-and-tumble area. He was inspired by a larger-than-life character everyone seemed to know, Rudy, who developed a fatherly relationship with, as filmmaker Travis Fine puts it, a “kid who was terribly handicapped, both mentally and physically” and whose mother was a drug addict. Bloom turned Rudy’s real-life experience into a screenplay, which almost got filmed several times during the ensuing years (at one point Tommy Lee Jones and Sylvester Stallone were attached to it). Then it went nowhere, Bloom gave up, and it sat in a drawer until his son, an old high school friend of Fine’s, showed the director the script.

The movie that came of it, Any Day Now, which hit theaters this winter and garnered awards on the festival circuit, follows The Good Wife’s Alan Cumming as Rudy, Raising Hope’s Garret Dillahunt as Paul, the closeted attorney who becomes his partner, and Isaac Leyva as Marco, a teen with Down syndrome who’s abandoned by his mother and taken in by the men. They all must fight a biased legal system so the couple can adopt Isaac, a heart-wrenching storyline that will resonate with many of the 2 to 6 million LGBT people who say they’d like to adopt.

“The story of Any Day Now may take place in the past, but the discrimination against same-sex families it depicts is unfortunately still all too real in some parts of our country,” says GLAAD president Herndon Graddick.

It’s real too for kids like Marco. As of 2011 there were 104,236 children in foster care awaiting adoption, many of them considered special-needs children because they are black or Latino, are older than infants, or have some form of mental or physical disability. “What the film’s remarkable performances and eloquent script reveal, though, is how unjust and hurtful to same-sex couples and children that discrimination really is,” Graddick adds.

Cumming, whose performance is riveting and one of his most inspired, talks about making the film.

I found Any Day Now just completely absorbing and really moving. And I notice people just seem to really have a gut reaction to the film. Why do you think it reaches people that way?
I think that we see the story of people who are damaged and devastated by bigotry and prejudice and ignorance. And we understand how wrong that is because we’ve invested in these characters and we want them to be together. And then I think in a larger way, we know that the reason that happened is because that bigotry and that prejudice still exist in our society. And I think we are so moved by it because we know that we are complicit in that because we are all members of that society.

This is a story about many things — about family, the foster care system, and coming out, but at the heart of it, it’s a love story between your free-spirited Rudy and Garret’s buttoned-down, closeted Paul. How did you develop the sort of chemistry that viewers see between you and Garret on-screen?
We just had to fake it, because we didn’t know each other. It was very well-written. and obviously Garret is a really brilliant actor and we luckily felt very comfortable with each other and got on. And I think that’s half of it. Once you feel comfortable with someone you can just dive in. But you’d imagine we’d have lots of time to talk and get comfortable with each other. No, we were practically in bed on the first day.

One of the other parts of the film that we don’t see a lot of — but is so true — is that there’s so much difficulty over same-sex couples trying to adopt. But the reality is there are a ton of children and teenagers, especially with physical or mental disabilities, that will just languish in the system.
Absolutely right. And that to me is the biggest idea—because everyone falls in love with Isaac. Garret says at one point, “I’m just hoping that this child doesn’t slip through the cracks in the system,” and sadly he does.

Tell me about working with Isaac.
Oh, it was great. I loved it. I mean people think…you’re going to make a movie with someone who has a learning disability, what’s that going to mean? I had no idea. But I just went into it…with an open heart. And he was just an absolute darling and so lovely.… He’s got kind of openness to him and…he’s not at all jaded. Everything there’s pure, and it kind of reminded me of what acting should be like. Everything’s really on the surface and completely authentic.



That's great. You have some scenes of just real heartbreak and anguish. Was there anything in your own life that you could call on to sort of nail those scenes? To inspire?

Well, yes. I have had heartbreak and anguish in my life. That's not difficult for me to access.

So, ten years ago, we used to ask straight actors if they had any hesitation about playing a gay role. Now it's more common to ask gay actors if they worry about being pigeonholed. This is certainly not your first gay role, but do you ever worry about that?

No, I actually don't. I mean, [I'm] playing a straight man on TV every Monday. I just don't deal with that. I mean, I've played gay people, but I don't know the percentage. I just I don't think much in that way, you know. I don't correlate it in that way.  

But I'm drawn to the stories and the character's heart, you know. And perhaps because… I'm comfortable with it, I'm likely to be offered things, I could see people know that I would be more ready to be comfortable with doing it. But I don't worry at all. I'm not really a worrier. I refuse.

That's great.  So assuming they met somehow, what would Rudy think about Eli, your character on Good Wife?

I think… in terms of the story, I think he'd probably try to see what he could do to help his situation. I think probably they might lock horns a little bit initially because they're both quite sensitive types. But I imagine that, you know, they might get on eventually because they look so alike. That was a joke.

What’s the most critical thing for you to get across with this film?  What do you want people to take away from it?
I want people to…have a real emotional experience and an emotional connection. But really…I want people to go away and think, Wow, look at the effect of prejudice and ignorance and bigotry, and look at how much our society is still engendering and encouraging that.  

Speaking of, you and your husband, Grant, got married earlier this year in New York. What are your thoughts on the recent marriage equality successes?
I think it’s great that we have a president who is very vocal in his support of equality and gay rights. I think the last election is really exciting in that it showed that the country was rejecting all that sort of prejudice and fear-based prejudice. We’re still the second-class citizens. And people still can be fired for being gay and people are gay-bashed.… So, you know, I don’t mean to be ungrateful but I don’t see why I should be so grateful for my rights. I think that’s what we should all remember.

 

I have one last question. You have a book coming out in 2013: May the Foreskin Be With You. I read a little excerpt from it and it made me want to ask, what made you want to talk so intimately about your penis and other people's penises?

Because I was shocked when I first came to America, [and] I realized that the people who were seeing my penis were so utterly ignorant of what a real penis — a normal, intact penis —looks like. I thought, God, I'm here, I'm in New York City, this progressive, cultural, melting-pot of the world, and these people don't realize that they are genitally mutilated as children. And that was really what got me going, I was like, this is how it's supposed to be. 

And then I've [found] out more about it, and saw all the things about lack of sensation that people have, and I became aware of that because you just are aware that people with their circumcised penises are less sensitive. And so it just became a cause for me, really.  

And then of course you find out all these things about how the circumcisions can go so horribly wrong, and how these poor kids have terrible, terrible things happen.  I've been in situations where I've been in a car, and me and an interviewer are talking about the book or other things, and the driver will go, "I heard you speaking and you know, my circumcision went wrong and I… pee out of two holes."

And I think it's this unspoken thing, of men, that don't want to talk about it and they certainly don't want to be told something that irretrievable, irreversible. It's so wrong and they're losing so much. Also, it's fighting the medical system that [doesn't want to] admit they're wrong, and they don't want to lose the money that every circumcision brings them.  

To me, it seems to me this huge conspiracy. And actually … if it was girl circumcision, I mean female genital mutilation, we would be horrified about it. And we are, when it happens.

Yes, [female circumcision] is illegal here, yeah.

Yes, so why is it? If anything happens to thousands of little boys and we think that's okay.

Yeah. And there always seems to be the excuse that a boy's penis should look like his father's. I hear that again and again.  

To which I think, do you go home get your cocker in front of your dad? I didn't. Is that an American custom? Because I don't think that's right, if it is. 

***

Read extended interviews with Garret Dillahunt and Alan Cumming.

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