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The artful swinger.

"Pansexual" and proud, Alan Cumming prances through fall playing both a devilish fop and, well, the devil

Alan Cumming comes equipped with blue eyes, long lashes, a lithe body, and this evening, at least, a slightly pink nose caused by a nasty cold. "Sorry," he says in a Scottish brogue as he honks discreetly into a handkerchief and slips into a booth at Los Angeles's Sonora Cafe. Cumming's not one to let the sniffles slow him down. He can't; hot from his talked-about turn as a hotel clerk with a jones for Tom Cruise in the summer release Eyes Wide Shut, he has no less than five projects chewing up the memory on his PalmPilot.

First off, Cumming, resplendent in 18th-century fop garb, eats up the screen in Plunkett & Macleane, a pre-Western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid due out in October. As Lord Rochester, a good-hearted debauchee, he stands out in an enticing cast that includes The Full Monty's Robert Carlyle, Johnny Lee Miller of Trainspotting, and Liv Tyler as a ballsy aristocrat. One of the more tantalizing aspects of Cumming's character: Lord Rochester makes it clear early on that he swings both ways.

In that respect, Cumming (who divides his time between Los Angeles and New York) and his character have something in common. The 34-year-old Perthshire, Scotland, native is openly interested in both men and women. Married and divorced, he says his last serious relationship, which ended two years ago, was with British actress Saffron Burrows. He says he is currently dating "one of those big, muscly West Hollywood guys."

Which would make him bisexual, no? Cumming bristles just a bit at the thought of being pigeonholed. "You know, if you don't fit into one category, no one knows what to do with you," he says. His mood brightens a bit as he repeats his favorite line regarding his personal life. "I'll tell you exactly what I told Page Six [the New York Post's notorious gossip column] when they asked me what my sexual orientation was," offers Cumming. "I'm a frolicky pansexual sex symbol for the new millennium."

So far, he has successfully resisted typecasting of any kind. He appeared as an unwanted suitor in Circle of Friends and as a documentary filmmaker trailing the Spice Girls in their campfest Spice World; he then charged critics with his portrayal of the emcee in the 1998 Broadway revival of Cabaret. And soon enough he'll be seen playing the mad emperor Saturninus in Titus, a retelling of Titus Andronicus that boasts Anthony Hopkins in the title role and Jessica Lange as Tamora; a man with AIDS in Urban Folk Tales, a dark drama centering on gay bashing; and in the Woody Allen-Sigourney Weaver comedy Company Man, he smokes as, of all things, U.S.-sponsored Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. He'll also notch a TV version of Annie with Kathy Bates. And he provides the voice of the devil in NBC's new animated sitcom God, the Devil and Bob.

"You have to keep yourself open to whatever comes up," says Cumming of his full, varied plate. And while some may not be completely at ease with one so openly ambidextrous, others fred his frankness refreshing. "I don't think Hollywood has quite figured out what it has in Alan, but he's one of the most talented people in the industry right now," says producer Bruce Cohen, who felt so strongly about Cumming's versatility (as an actor) he cast him as the Great Gazoo in next year's summer prequel The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas.

Cumming seems proud of his honesty regarding his sexual identity. "I'm not going to say I'm one thing when I'm not just so I can fit into people's notions of how things are," he says. "I think people deny themselves by putting themselves into categories." And so far, Cumming, it appears, will be denied nothing.

Is Hilary Swank Oscar bait?

THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE, FOR SWANK AS BRANDON TEENA

If you recognize Hilary Swank at all, it's probably thanks to her TV work in Beverly Hills, 90210, and her marriage to Rob Lowe's brother Chad, Certainly there's nothing in her resume to prepare you for her tour de force in Fox Searchlight's October release Boys Don't Cry. As Brandon Teena--the young female-to-male transsexual who tried to live as a man in small-town Nebraska and who was killed for her trouble--Swank is wrenchingly believable. Not only does she "pass," but with her big shy smile and her gangly way with the ladies, she makes it abundantly clear why a string of young women found Brandon easy to love. Now that Swank has turned in perhaps the most stirring transgender film performance ever, will Academy Award voters give her a nod? If not, there's no more justice in Tinsettown than for the real Brandon Teena in Nebraska.

McQuaid also writes for The New York Times and Instyle
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Title Annotation:bisexual actor Alan Cumming
Author:McQuaid, Peter
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 28, 1999
Words:817
Previous Article:Odd couples.
Next Article:Reagonomics.
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