Alan Cumming

Alan Cumming books and biography

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By Alan Cumming
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Alan Cumming


Cumming as Boris Grishenko in GoldenEye
Born January 27, 1965
Aberfeldy, Perth and Kinross, Scotland
Official site
Notable roles Boris Grishenko in GoldenEye
Nightcrawler in X2: X-Men United
The Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret
Spouse(s) Hilary Lyon (1985-1993)

Alan Cumming (born 27 January 1965) is a Scottish actor, best known for his film roles in GoldenEye, as Boris Grishenko; in X2: X-Men United, as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler; and on the stage with his Tony Award-winning performance as the Master of Ceremonies in the highly successful revival of Cabaret.

Cumming has directed, produced, and written films, TV series and plays, voiced several soundtracks, written a book, developed a stand-up show at the Edinburgh Fringe, and formed his own production company.

Cumming is openly bisexual, an LGBT rights activist, and has promoted gay rights on both sides of the Atlantic with organisations such as GLAAD and the HRC, as well as working for several AIDS charities, including AMFAR and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. He is also a member of the Creative Coalition, an organisation to bring public awareness of social issues. He was presented with the San Francisco Human Rights Campaign's Humanitarian Award in 2005.


Early life

Cumming was born in Aberfeldy, Perth and Kinross, Scotland, to Mary and Alex Cumming, a forester. He has one (older) brother, Tom. The boys endured a strict upbringing, and Cumming has described how he was beaten by his father if he didn't complete his chores.[1] Alan reportedly maintains a good relationship with his mother, however.[2]

Cumming attended Monikie Primary School and Carnoustie High School and originally aspired to a career in veterinary medicine, but a personality clash with his biology teacher put him off the idea and he subsequently set his sights on becoming an actor. [3] [4] Following graduation, he spent a year and a half employed as an editor for the Scottish pop magazine TOPS before entering the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.


Cumming has spread his career evenly between film, television, and stage. He has also regularly worked both on and off-camera, as well as developing his own personal projects.


Cumming as Nightcrawler in X2: X-Men United.
Cumming as Nightcrawler in X2: X-Men United.

Cumming's first professional acting role was as a minor character, Jamie, in the miniseries The Travelling Man, in 1984, which he filmed while attending the Academy. He recalls, "I had never been on a film set before, I was completely green and utterly in awe of the whole thing. I thought that you had to act really small because it was television and so as a consequence I hardly moved!"[5]

After graduating in 1985 with a BA in Dramatic Studies[citation needed], Cumming began his career proper by appearing in the long-running Scottish soap opera Take the High Road, in 1986. He had made his film debut in 1985, with Passing Glory. In 1992, he starred in Prague, in which he played Alexander Novak, a young Scot who is searching for a piece of film of his grandparents being taken by the Nazis. His performance won him Best Actor at the Atlantic Film Festival, and a nomination for a Scottish BAFTA Best Film Actor award.

Cumming has often been utilised as a character actor; he was the hedonistic Lord Rochester in Plunkett and Macleane and the misguided scientist Fegan Floop in Spy Kids and its sequels. A versatile actor, in 1991, he played the comedic lead in the BBC film, Bernard and the Genie opposite Lenny Henry, and in 1993 appeared as a villain in the The Airzone Solution. The following year, he starred as airline steward Sebastian Flight in the Scottish sitcom, The High Life, which he wrote with co-star Forbes Masson, and for which he also wrote the theme tune and much of the music. His friendship with Masson went back to their days at drama school together, and in their first term, Cumming had co-written and performed in Victor and Barry with him, a comedy act revolving around two members of a Glasgow amateur theatre group.

Developing his talents off-camera as well, Cumming co-wrote, co-directed, co-produced, and co-starred in the ensemble film The Anniversary Party with friend and former Cabaret co-star Jennifer Jason Leigh, in 2001.[6] The two starred in the movie as a Hollywood couple. During his career, Cumming has also directed two short films, Butter and Burn Your Phone.

In 2004, he starred in Showtime's Reefer Madness: The Musical in which he played the role of The Lecturer - a versatile character who narrates the story and transforms himself into several other minor characters. Shortly afterwards, he had a short role in Richard Bell's provocative feature film Eighteen, which was narrated by Ian McKellen. Having also worked together on X2: X-Men United, and also linked by their work for gay rights, they have become friends.


Cumming's most acclaimed performance was as the impish Emcee in the 1998 Broadway revival of the popular stage musical Cabaret, for which he won a Tony, as well as other awards. [7] He had previously played the role to great acclaim in a production at London's famed Donmar Warehouse theatre, for which he had been nominated for an Olivier Award.[8] Both the Broadway and Donmar Warehouse productions were directed by Sam Mendes.

Other stage roles have included Otto in the 2001 Broadway production of Design for Living by Noel Coward, the title role in the 1993 English Touring Theatre's Hamlet, and The Madman in the 1990 Royal National Theatre production of Accidental Death of an Anarchist by Dario Fo, for which he won an Olivier Award.[9].

In 2002, Cumming, with then-boyfriend British director Nick Philippou, formed the production company The Art Party. The company's first play was the first English production of Jean Genet's play Elle, which Cumming had adapted from a literal translation by Terri Gordon. The play was hugely sucessful, however, the company folded in 2003.

In 2006, Cumming returned to the stage, performing in a revival of the Bertolt Brecht-Kurt Weill musical The Threepenny Opera.


Cumming has also dabbled in other mediums. His first novel, Tommy's Tale, was published in 2002. [10] He has also written many articles for magazines, notably as a contributing editor for Marie Claire magazine, writing articles about the haute couture shows in Paris. In addition to various film and musical soundtracks on which he has appeared, in 2001, he recorded a duet of "Baby, It’s Cold Outside" with Liza Minnelli to raise money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the September 11th Fund. He also has his own range of beauty products, the initial product being a cologne called "Cumming: the Fragrance".[11]

Cumming served as a delegate for the Creative Coalition during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.[12] In this same vein, he contributed to If You Had Five Minutes with the President, an original non-partisan collection of 55+ essays by members or supporters of The Creative Coalition.[13]

Current work

His current projects include adapting his novel for the screen, and several gay-themed films: Gray Matters, Coming Out and Suffering Man's Society. He is currently appearing in the West End playing the lead role in Bent, a play about homosexuals in Germany under the Nazis.[14]

Personal life

Cumming currently divides his time between Manhattan, New York City and London with his dog, Honey. [15] He has publicly stated he is an atheist.[16]

Alan has dated both men and women, and was once described in The Observer as "a frolicky pan-sexual sex symbol for the new millennium," though he has stated that he thinks of himself as bisexual. [17]

In 1985, he married Hilary Lyon. They divorced in 1993, however, after his mental breakdown, and he subsequently became involved in several shorter relationships over the next two years, including one with Saffron Burrows, herself openly bisexual. He is currently in a relationship with artist Grant Shaffer, whom he met in 2004. In a profile for The Times, he recently stated he was considering adopting a child. [18]

In November 2006 he was made a Doctor of Arts when given an honorary degree from the University of Abertay Dundee.

Selected Works

  • Shadow of the Stone (1987)
  • Mr. Bean (1990)
  • Bernard and the Genie (1991)
  • Prague (1992)
  • Micky Love (1993)
  • Second Best (1994)
  • Circle of Friends (1995)
  • GoldenEye (1995)
  • The High Life (1995)
  • Emma (1996)
  • Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997)
  • Spiceworld (film) (1997)
  • Titus (Saturninus) (1999)
  • Annie' (1999)
  • Plunkett and Macleane' (1999)
  • Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
  • Urbania (2000)
  • God, the Devil and Bob (2000)
  • The Anniversary Party (2001)
  • Investigating Sex (2001)
  • Josie and the Pussycats (2001)
  • Spy Kids (2001)
  • Spy Kids 2: Island Of Lost Dreams (2002)
  • X2 (Nightcrawler/Kurt Wagner) (2003)
  • Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003)
  • Shoebox Zoo (2004)
  • Garfield (voice of Persnikitty/sir Roland)(2004)
  • Son of the Mask (2005)
  • Reefer Madness (2005)
  • Eighteen (2005)
  • The Ant Bully (2006)
  • Suffering Man's Charity (2006)
  • The L Word (2006)
  • Bent (2006)
  • Sweet Land (2006)
  • Full Grown Men (2006)


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  13. ^, The Renaissance Man
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  17. ^ New York Post
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