Alan Cumming takes on gay adoption in ‘Any Day Now’
Set in the late 1970s, Any Day Now stars Alan Cumming as a drag performer, Rudy, who forms an unconventional family unit with Paul (Garrett Dillahunt), a closeted employee of the D.A.’s office, and Marco (Isaac Leyva), an abandoned teenager with Down Syndrome. But homophobic bureaucrats would rather see Marco dead than with a deviant couple, and so begins the loving trio’s heartbreaking legal struggle to stay together.
The original script, based on a real-life Rudy and Marco its screenwriter knew, had been kicking around Hollywood in development and turnaround for decades before writer/director Travis Fine found, re-wrote and produced it. Here Cumming — who currently appears as slick campaign manager Eli Gold on CBS’s The Good Wife — dishes on his lack of an inner drag queen, working with his Down Syndrome co-star, and why Sylvester Stallone, attached to the project during one of its earlier incarnations, hates Woody Allen.
— Lawrence Ferber
Dallas Voice: One might expect a lighthearted, frothy turn when they hear you play a drag queen, but this is a pretty heavy drama. Alan Cumming: I’ll say. What I liked about it was it was about something important but also managed to have humor. I liked the fact the tone of the film is always veering between comedy and tragedy.
How much of the performance is Alan Cumming? Well, I feel very connected to this character as a person, as an activist, as a man. The issues involved in it are close to my heart. But I didn’t realize how much of me there was until it was pointed out to me. As I got older, I realized that why people connect with you as an actor is because you do allow yourself to come through and be vulnerable. In this, I felt incredibly vulnerable in it and that means the audience is let in and can see you. When I’m with Isaac and Garrett, I feel that’s completely me in that moment and how I am in that situation. It’s nice to be able to access those bits that allow you to connect with the audience, but couched in someone very different from you.
Have you wanted to play a full-on drag queen before? Should we nominate you for RuPaul’s Drag Race? No. I don’t have an inner drag queen waiting to get out. The summer before making Any Day Now I did a miniseries in South Africa for British TV where I played a transvestite. It’s not my thing. I don’t think I’m good with it. I look like a horse in a wig. The two guys I perform the song with in the beginning of Any Day Now are proper drag queens and I felt like a total amateur. Even the moves I couldn’t get together. Maybe if I hadn’t done drag for work I would secretly pine for it but it’s not something I yearn for.
Variety’s review said, “Acting from beneath the least flattering haircut this side of the Bee Gees, Cumming delivers what is possibly his best performance to date.” Comment? I was not the biggest fan of my wig. On the poster they snatched the one moment where it looks quite good, but it took a while to settle in. Garrett and I still laugh uproariously about them. At the premiere, actually, we got the giggles during a very poignant scene where both of our wigs looked ridiculous. But that’s how people looked in those days and it was actually quite liberating to do something where you had to leave your vanity at the door. The clothes and the lighting as well was not particularly flattering, on purpose quite harsh, because the story’s quite harsh.
Had you heard about the case the film’s story was inspired by prior to receiving the script? And this sort of difficulty or impossibility that loving gays who want to adopt otherwise neglected or unwanted children face still exists, doesn’t it? No, I hadn’t, and absolutely. I think that’s one of the reasons I was drawn to the film. You try adopting a child through the state system as a gay in America. Nothing much has really changed. Some investors of this film had fostered kids with learning and physical difficulties and took on the state of Florida to be able to adopt one of those kids. Really the prejudice that happens in the film happens today. You’re so sad this family can’t be together and yet you’re so complicit because we are part of the society that allows that to happen.
Big actors like Sly Stallone and Tommy Lee Jones were attached to the original script during earlier attempts to get it made. Were you surprised to hear that? I was. But Sylvester Stallone is always getting my parts so it’s about time I got one of his. I worked on a film with him once years ago and he was very open about [his plastic surgeries]. He was really angry at Woody Allen and I asked why. He went, “Well, he could have a facelift, he doesn’t have to look so wrinkly!” Stallone was pissed off that Woody wouldn’t have a facelift.
What else was memorable or special about this film? Meeting Isaac. He’s 22, and that was an amazing thing to just hang out with him for a month. I never really spent time with someone with Down Syndrome, and that was hilarious because he has no filter. We were doing a night shoot and everyone was exhausted and pissed off and he turns around and says to me, “I can’t wait for the Oscars. I’m going to thank Travis and … what’s your name again?” Bless him.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 14, 2012.