Comic-Con 2014

EXCLUSIVE: Alan Cumming Talks 'The Tempest'

The star of 'The Good Wife' and 'Burlesque' discusses his latest film, an adaptation of William Shakespeare's classic play.
Alan Cumming Talks The Tempest

Alan Cumming discusses his latest film, an adaptation of William Shakespeare's classic play


Actor Alan Cumming, who is best known for his role as Nightcrawler in X2: X-Men United, is having one hell of a year! Not only is he receiving rave reviews for his breakout role as campaign manager Eli Gold on CBS's hit series The Good Wife, but he was recently featured in the big screen musical Burlesque opposite Cher and next summer will appear as Gutsy Smurf in The Smurfs, an adaptation of the classic '80s cartoon.

This week, Cumming can be seen in director Julie Taymor's adaptation of the classic Shakespeare play The Tempest, which opens in theaters on December 10th. We recently had a chance to sit down and talk with Alan Cumming about his new film, his role, Shakespeare, Taymor's unique vision for the film and working with Russell Brand. Here is what the talented actor had to say:

To begin with, this movie is an adaptation of the classic Shakespeare play but it has been interpreted in a new way, can you discuss director Julie Taymor's unique vision for the film?

Alan Cumming: It is clearly about magic and the magic can be visualized in an exciting way because of all the technology we have with film. So I think that is the biggest thing she can show, the words visually. Aside from that, I thought it was quite sort of faithful with the way she told the story. In a way she is enhancing the text with all the technical wonder. The rest of the time I thought it was pretty faithful and doing it clearly. It is kind of one of his more simple plays in terms of a bunch of people are on an island, they are ship wrecked, there is someone who is bringing them all together, they all come together, lessons learned, and they go back home. It is actually easy and you don't have to worry about people getting it because it is a simple story.

What did you think about Taymor's choice to change the character of Prospero, a man, to Prospera, a woman?

Alan Cumming: I thought that it was a really good idea. In a way, with the play, when it is a man it is very much with vengeance and when it's a woman it is much more of healing and a female energy. I think that really helps and it's almost a motherly nurturing. I thought that worked really well. She kicks some ass, but there is more of a healing and forgiveness when it's a woman.

You have a lot of experience in both the theatre and working on movies, did that dual knowledge give you an advantage on this film?

Alan Cumming: I felt that having done quite a lot of Shakespeare and from just talking with some of the other actors, that I don't really worry about it. I have done it enough times, I feel confident that I know how to do it.

So you don't have that, "Oh no, its Shakespeare," reaction that a lot of American actors have?

Alan Cumming: I think that is an American thing. It is done less here so people are more challenged by it because they have less practice and there is a slight thing about it. I think it is an inferiority complex in America about Shakespeare, people kind of feel, "Oh we can't do that here its for the English." I think that is really sad. I think Shakespeare is universal and it should be done everywhere. I think there is a blockage in theater. I feel very confident performing those lines. There is a lot to think about when you are making a film so its good to not have to worry about that

Do you think a modern day audience, specifically an American audience, will enjoy this interpretation of the material?

Alan Cumming: Well, I hope they will be pleasantly surprised. You know I think people do think Shakespeare is a bit scary. But it is a rollicking tale and I think the whole idea of redemption is actually a very common part of American culture. We love a bit of redemption and its got people that people will really like. I think visually people will love that. I think its part of what people will find a surprise and it will draw them into it. It is very exciting to watch. I will be excited to see what people think of it. I really liked it more than I thought I was going to. Probably because of that extra layer of the magic and how you can visually demonstrate that.

Can you talk about how you specifically interrupted your role as Sebastian?

Alan Cumming: I just thought he was a bit stupid. I don't mean this to be disrespectful, but I always kind of thought he was a bit like Prince Andrew, like you know, nice, lovely and pleasant, but dim. I think he is a bit stupid. So I tried to make him a bit vacant to kind of help the whole idea of why he doesn't get for so long that Chris is trying to kill his brother.

Julie cast some interesting actors in the film that you wouldn't immediately associate with Shakespeare, like Russell Brand or even Oscar winner Chris Cooper. What did you think about her choice to select them and how do you think they did reciting Shakespeare's words?

Alan Cumming: I loved it. I see Russell was an actor. I did a play in London a few years ago and I met him, we were on a talk show thing and he told me he had done some scenes in drama school. So I knew all that. I think he is really brilliant and he is such a nice boy. He makes me laugh. He also has got such kindness. I saw him, I saw him with his mom. It is nice when you see someone with swagger and wit, and he ends up being a nice boy. I am very, very fond of him. I think it is great he is doing so well. He is surprising people with the choices he is making. When I heard Chris Cooper had been cast, I just think Chris is a great actor and I have always loved him. I was slightly giggly. I went home and watched Adaptation. I just love him and he is a sort of shy, sort of funny man. If I made him laugh, it made my day. I just love him.

Finally, As a fan of Shakespeare yourself, are there any other Shakespeare plays that you would like to participate in bringing to the big screen?

Alan Cumming: I don't know, I want to do Macbeth. I am hopefully going to do Macbeth in the theater, but who knows. I am just really intrigued by that play. I want to do it where Macbeth swamps roles each night, like I would be Macbeth one night and then the Lady Macbeth the next night. A woman would be playing a man and a man playing a woman, imagine that. I think there is a real struggle with the sexes and power so swapping it around will be really interesting. So that is what I am going to do next.

The Tempest was released December 10th, 2010 and stars Helen Mirren, Chris Cooper, Alfred Molina, Alan Cumming, Djimon Hounsou, Russell Brand, Ben Whishaw, David Strathairn. The film is directed by Julie Taymor.



Sources: Jami Philbrick

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Comments (1)

  1. Josh

    I'm so pumped for this movie.

    4 years agoby @shuabertFlag

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