“Any Day Now,” which has won numerous audience awards on the festival circuit, shows, without lecturing, just how hard obtaining legal rights were — and, in some places, still are — for same-sex couples. The film’s chronicle of justice will wring strong emotions from viewers. That is not to say the film is unbiased, but its points are cogent, compelling and never didactic. There are also many poignant moments — from Rudy’s reaction to watching his “son” Marco sing at school to a heartbreaking letter Paul reads (in voice-over) in the film’s most powerful scene.
Cumming, who is fantastic here, also gets to showcase his fabulous voice, especially when he movingly covers Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released,” the song that gives this top-notch film its title.
PGN spoke with the out actor about making “Any Day Now.”
PGN: How did you make Rudy a character and not a caricature?
AC: Obviously, some of the anxieties I had about how to deal with things that could fall into stereotypes or be negative portrayals, or cloying. I was conscious of that — much more than a straight actor would be. The part was originally more effeminate. But I fought to resist that. Any drag queen I know has balls of steel to walk down the street in a wig and heels. I forgot Rudy is a drag queen. It’s a small part of the film, but it is the initial scene. So I was a drag queen with slightly hairy armpits. That was my concession. I wanted to be truthful and real. I wanted to be in the moment of the love story and not a distracting stereotype.
PGN: How did you work on your rapport with your co-stars Garret Dillahunt and Isaac Levya?
AC: I just really felt incredibly comfortable with Garret. When you have to do something like this — where we’re going to be making out and weeping, and realistically portray a thunderbolt love affair — we just dove right in. I met him at the wig fitting, and we shot two days later. We just really got on. Never any awkwardness about the sex stuff or lovey-dovey stuff. He’s easygoing and open and lovey. And easy on the eyes. Isaac was just so lovely. He was excited to work with me, having seen me in “Spy Kids.” He was so excited to see Mr. Floop. I did fall in love with him. In a way, my relationship with Issac mirrors what’s in the movie. My favorite thing about the experience was meeting Isaac; he was a ray of light. Honest, real and in the moment.
PGN: How did you work on the songs Rudy performs in the film?
AC: It’s always a matter of which songs we have the rights to. And that changed all the time as we got nearer to shooting. What can we afford? But I thought that it was amazing that we got the Dylan song, a cri de couer. The songs are more about what’s happening in the story, they have a thematic contribution. I love that the film ends with a song. It’s concluded by a performance; the song says more than any scene could. But it’s hard because you have to pre-record them. So you have to remember where the song came [in the film] so you know the feeling. The day I had to perform it, I was so exhausted. I was in a state of distress throughout making this film, but I really wanted to give it my all.
PGN: You did. It’s an incredible scene. Speaking of performing, what can you say about the drag scenes? Do you enjoy doing that, or was it just part of the part?
AC: I dreaded those scenes! I did a thing for BBC where I played transgender, and I never want to see a high heel ever again. I was sore! I have respect for women; it’s like bondage. I don’t have an inner drag queen. It’s not my thing. Androgynous works for me.
PGN: What research did you do on custody issues — both past and present — for same-sex couples?
AC: I read a bit and talked to people and, over the years, I’ve had friends who have tried adopting, and the issues of adopting now through the state system is very hard as a gay couple. Your rights are vague.
PGN: What drives you as an advocate/activist?
AC: I don’t like injustice. I want equality. I’m Scottish, and I grew up with a sense of fighting injustice — it’s almost genetic. As a gay man, I feel more and more angry. It’s easy to get lackadaisical even though great strides are made. We’re still second-class citizens.
PGN: Do you think you would make a good parent?
AC: Ha! I think so. I have two dogs, and that’s as far as it’s going to go. I was once obsessed about having a child. My novel [“Tommy’s Tale,” 2002] was a thinly veiled memoir and [I wrote about] wanting to be a parent. But now — after all the guys I dated — I am with someone whom it would be sensible to have a kid with, but we’re content and don’t want to.
PGN: Do you prefer to play gay characters/tell gay stories?
AC: I feel a responsibility to take part in things that are meaningful and can change minds that need to be changed, but I don’t think, Oh, I’ve not done my quota of gay characters. Travis [Fine, the director] spoke to my manager and she really pushed me to read “Any Day Now.” And sometimes when you read something like this, you think: That’s why you pay them! Mostly, I’m drawn to things that are interesting and that I’m passionate about. A lot of the time they are gay, and I get asked to play gay characters because I don’t have an issue with it. Doing something like this, the passion and energy is more about how I feel than the actual role — what the film can do to open minds if more people see it.
PGN: The characters discuss the issue of justice. Do you think the world is just?
AC: [Laughs.]. No, I don’t think the world is just. I think there are heartening things in the world, like Obama being re-elected. And states voting not to oppress gay people’s rights. But there is a long way to go, and I hate when they throw us a bone to think it’s all lovely, but we don’t have equality yet. And when that happens, it will be a more just place.