Page last updated at 07:19 GMT, Thursday, 8 May 2008 08:19 UK

Talking Shop: Alan Cumming

Alan Cumming first came to Hollywood's attention after starring as Bond villain Boris Grishenko in Goldeneye.

Alan Cumming
Cumming got his first break on Scottish soap Take the High Road

He has since become better known for his roles in X-Men 2, the Spy Kids films and his Tony Award-winning performance as the Emcee in the highly successful revival of Cabaret on Broadway.

The 43-year-old Scot now divides his time between the UK and US and, in January 2007, entered into a civil partnership with his partner Grant Shaffer.

He will next be seen in the sci-fi mini-series Tin Man, a modern reworking of The Wizard of Oz where he plays Glitch, the scarecrow character.


What attracted you to the role?

I really liked the script. I'd just done the play Bent in London about being in a concentration camp and it was a pretty full-on, hardcore emotional rollercoaster for five months. They asked if I like to do it and I thought: 'Perfect, it would be a really good thing to do.'

Glitch was voted by US viewers as their favourite character. Why do you think that is?

He has the biggest journey - he's funny and goofy and forgets everything at the start. Then slowly he begins to remember things and he becomes a really integral part. And he's got all the good funny lines.

Will there be a series?

The cast of Tin Man
Cumming appears with Zooey Deschanel, Neal McDonough and Raoul Trujillo

There's talk of it. I liked doing this because it was three film-length things. It was like doing a TV series, but doesn't take so long. I'm not sure I'd want to be in a weekly series.

Did you get to do your own stunts?

Of course! No, actually I did do a couple of things, but my stuntman is the one who's looked the most like me ever. Normally they're big muscled versions of you - like you've been inflated - but this one was quite skinny and had a big nose as well so it's quite seamless. You can't really tell when it's me or when it's him.

You have your own perfume, Cumming: the Fragrance. Whose genius idea was that?

There was a guy called Jason who had the idea and a guy Christopher, who's a perfumer, a professional nose. We had this crazy idea and Jason got it together.

Did you purposely play on your name and make racy adverts for it, or was it all intended to market the product?

Intended to market the product, but also to take the piss out of the notion of celebrity endorsement and all that sort of stuff.

What does Alan Cumming smell of today?

He's wearing his own signature fragrance! It's so funny - I was doing [the play] The Seagull in New York - and someone had a bottle of the fragrance on the shelf in my dressing room. I reached up to get something else and knocked it. It came down and banged me on the head and I thought, wouldn't that be hilarious if I was killed by my own fragrance!

Cumming the fragrance
The adverts for the fragrance were a homage to famous perfume images

What was it like squaring up to Anne Robinson on the US version of The Weakest Link?

Scary - I was terrified actually - and also it lasted for hours! I was there for seven hours. She's really menacing and she stares you out, but she was sweet afterwards.

Stephen Fry has revealed his frustration at being pigeonholed in TV and film roles. He says people wouldn't be convinced if he was to have a relationship with a woman on stage because he's so well-known for being gay. Do you feel the same?

There are several issues here - one is, if the audience isn't believing that someone's straight, or a certain nationality, then that's not good - if you're not doing the job that you're supposed to do then you shouldn't do that job.

The second is, there is a lot of homophobia in the world - but in Hollywood definitely. But I really don't think that people care that much - the people that go to see films.

I think the thing about people being scared to come out in case it affects their film career - I think in a way [the media] make more of a deal of it. It's made into a slight controversy and then it's self-perpetuating. I actually don't think it's that big a deal.

So you disagree that gay actors don't get pigeonholed?

Some of them do, but lots of straight actors get pigeonholed in various roles. I'm quite outspoken in the media about what I perceive as a civil-rights struggle that gay people in America are still going through, but I don't think that I only play gay characters or wouldn't be as convincing if I had a wife or a girlfriend in a movie.

Alan Cumming
Cumming entered into a civil partnership with Grant Schaffer in 2007

How's married life treating you?

Good, thank you.

You went to an ice rink for your wedding reception - how is your ice skating?

It's not too good. We actually thought it would be funny if for the first dance at our wedding we'd do the first skate and we were thinking of getting some lessons and doing something, but we never did. We just skated round and had a laugh.

So no plans to do celebrity Dancing on Ice then?

No - I'd rather stick pins in my eyes than do that!

How was Big Brother's Celebrity Hijack?

Oh I liked that, it was great. I'm kind of obsessed with Big Brother. When it's good it's a really amazing sociological phenomenon, and when it's bad it's just like looking at these people longing to get out so they can sign book deals and be on talk shows.

But I thought it was really good this year because they had all those young people in there with a talent and I loved saying things like, "Julian, please come to the diary room." I loved that!

Tin Man will be screened on the Sci Fi Channel at 2000 BST on 11, 18 and 25 May. Alan Cumming talked to BBC News entertainment reporter Genevieve Hassan.


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