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Issue-31-Digital-72dpi WEB

Actor Alan Cumming Talks Politics, Animal Rights, and the Press

Alan CummingWith a biting sense of humour, as well as an astute political awareness, Hollywood actor Alan Cumming OBE is no stranger to the media twisting his words.

When the Scot, who is now resident in the States, tweeted about the UK’s decision to leave the European Union – blaming it on ‘stupid English people’ – some tabloids leapt on the story. Alan told Vegan Life: “Having a throwaway quote that was honestly a rather poor attempt at humour being flung on to the front page of a newspaper purposely to rabble rouse and incite venom from certain quarters, I felt I was really used.”

According to Alan, the contentious referendum saw members of the public being duped by a combination of fear-mongering and misinformation. He says: “What really saddens me is the amount of blatant lies that were told. I can really understand why so many people voted to leave. They were tricked by people who neither care about working people, nor take any responsibility for the veracity of their rhetoric. And then for so many of them to just walk away, resign and leave the mess for other people to deal with, is, I think, utterly disgraceful.”

Despite this, he says he has no fear of the backlash every time he chooses to share a contentious opinion, ‘I wouldn’t keep doing it if I did’.

An Olivier and Tony award-winning theatre actor, and star of X-men film X2, the Spy Kids trilogy and as political fixer Eli Gold in US legal drama The Good Wife, Alan has enjoyed an uncommonly extensive and varied career (see box). A presenter, producer, novelist, director, and campaigner, he is one of the most versatile artists in the industry.

Having been awarded a variety of humanitarian awards from AMFAR, Human Rights Campaign and the Trever Project to name but a few  for his activism and passion, Alan doesn’t shy away from campaigning for animal rights and makes time in his busy schedule to make a difference.

Despite his interest in politics, he says his veganism was not a decision that entirely stemmed from a political place, telling Vegan Life: “It wasn’t initially a political gesture. I just gradually discovered over the years that I felt happier eating this way. But I am also really conscious of how eating meat is so damaging not just to our own bodies, but the planet in general, and so now, yes, there is a political element to it. When people say ‘I’m not political’ I want to shake them. Every time you go to the shops, every TV show you watch, every newspaper you buy is a political act.”

According to Alan, he approaches getting involved with campaigns – like the recent one for Peta – in the same way he approaches deciding to do a play or be in a film: “I just go with my gut.” He said: “I obviously think about the issues involved but it really is usually an instinctive thing. The ‘Not a Dairy Queen’ campaign [where he worked to persuade American ice cream chain Dairy Queen to sell vegan options] was a no-brainer because it combined humour as well as making people aware of issues in the dairy industry and also generally informing people about the vegan lifestyle. Companies are finally beginning to realise that the public craves more vegan options.” Which as far as Alan is concerned can only be a great thing as he despises the roasted vegetables slathered in olive oil that always come in sandwiches or wraps and are given to vegans because people think that is the only thing we can eat. “I’m over roasted vegetable wraps.”

After making his reputation in America for his star turn in Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret on Broadway, Alan returned to the cabaret genre with his hugely acclaimed show Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs. When discussing the show he said: “It’s old-fashioned cabaret. I have a little band and I sing a very eclectic range of songs-from artists such as Miley Cyrus and Liza Minnelli-and tell stories about my life. It is a form of performing I have grown to love though it takes an enormous amount of courage and chutzpah to jump off the cliff and be as vulnerable as you need to be to do something like it.”

Labelled by critics as openly confessional, the show-which is coming to locations across the UK this month-, includes spoken anecdotes about Alan’s sometimes troubled younger years which he discussed openly in his 2014 autobiography Not My Father’s Son. Performing the show for the first time at Café Carlyle in NYC last year, Alan says although he was more terrified than he’d ever been, he now finds the whole experience incredibly enriching. “I also use humour to talk about things that are sometimes quite painful, and so I love bouncing back and forth between different emotions. It’s a sort of smorgasbord of an evening.”e DNam

 

Alan Cumming’s career

  • Alan made his film debut in Gillies MacKinnon’s Passing Glory in 1986.
  • In 1986, he also made his TV debut in the Scottish television series Take the High Road and Taggart.
  • His feature film debut came in 1992 when he starred in Ian Sellar’s Prague and earned him the Best Actor Award at the Atlantic Film Festival and a Scottish BAFTA Best Actor nomination.
  • His many other films include Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, Full Grown Men, Spice World, Burlesque, The Tempest and animated films The Smurfs, and Garfield: The Movie.
  • His London stage appearances include Hamlet, the maniac in Accidental Death of an Anarchist, and the lead in Bent.
  • On Broadway he has appeared in The Threepenny Opera, as the master of ceremonies in Cabaret, Design for Living and a one man adaptation of Macbeth.
  • In 2005 he released an award-winning fragrance, and a related line of scented bath lotion and body wash.
  • In 2012, he launched his photography career with his first exhibition Alan Cumming Snaps.
  • Alan co-hosted the 69th annual Tony awards in 2015
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