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Cumming, Alan (b. 1965)  
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Versatile actor Alan Cumming has performed a wide variety of roles on stage, screen, and television. He has earned numerous awards for his acting and also for his support of glbtq causes.

The younger son of a forester and a homemaker, Alan Cumming was born January 27, 1965 in Aberfeldy, Perthshire, Scotland. He spent his first year in the neighboring town of Dunkeld, where his father worked on a large estate. The family then moved to Fassfern on the west coast of the country, and three years later settled on the east coast, on another estate near Carnoustie.

As a child growing up on an isolated estate he lacked playmates--his only sibling was six years older than he--and so he amused himself by acting out stories of his own invention. His cast, he recalled, consisted of "me and my dog. And imaginary others."

After graduating from Carnoustie High School, Cumming worked for a year at a publishing company in Dundee, initially in the fiction department and then interviewing bands for a pop culture magazine called TOPS.

Cumming then enrolled in the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow.

While attending the academy Cumming met and married fellow student Hilary Lyon.

After graduating in 1985, Cumming and a friend, Forbes Masson, developed a stand-up comedy act that proved extremely popular. Following this success Cumming starred in a BBC sitcom, The High Life, which he also co-wrote.

Cumming's first love was the stage, however, and he and Lyon won the lead roles in a very well-received production of Hamlet in London in 1993. Cumming was nominated for the Richard Burton Award at the Shakespeare Globe Awards and received the Martini Rossi TMA Award for his work.

Cumming and Lyon appeared destined to become a theatrical star couple, but it was not to be. Near the end of the run of Hamlet, Cumming suffered from panic attacks and depressive episodes that led to a nervous breakdown. The marriage disintegrated, and the couple divorced.

Thereafter, Cumming was involved in several gay relationships, but while filming Circle of Friends (1995, directed by Pat O'Connor) he fell in love with actress Saffron Burrows. The two became engaged but broke up before there was a wedding.

Following his relationship with Burrows, Cumming had a number of romantic relationships, mainly with men, before he settled down with American illustrator Grant Shaffer. The two entered into a civil union in London in January 2007. Family and friends including Sir Ian McKellen and Rufus Wainwright attended the joyful ceremony at the Greenwich Royal Naval College. The couple now resides in New York.

Cumming is reluctant to put a label on his sexual orientation. In a 1999 article in the Advocate he said, "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. I think people deny themselves by putting themselves into categories."

As an actor Cumming has certainly defied categorization. In his work on stage, in films, and on television, he has played roles in productions that range from the plays of Shakespeare to the animated adventures of Garfield the cat. He has already appeared in over fifty movies, with more in production.

Cumming's first film role was in the little-noticed Prague (1992, directed by Ian Sellers), in which he plays a young Scot who has returned to his ancestral home, Prague, in search of film that depicts his grandparents being taken away by the Nazis in World War II. The 1995 James Bond film Goldeneye (directed by Martin Campbell), in which he plays a computer programmer, brought him to public attention, and he went on to more prominent roles in Circle of Friends and Emma (1996, directed by Douglas McGrath). As the egregious Reverend Elton in Emma and the slimy Sean Walsh in Circle of Friends, Cumming brings unexpected humanity to unappealing characters.

Before becoming a film actor, he had already won acclaim for his stage work in London's West End. He was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award as Most Promising Newcomer for his performance in Manfred Karge's The Conquest of the South Pole in 1989. He received an Olivier Award for his work in Dario Fo's Accidental Death of an Anarchist in 1990 and was nominated for another in 1992 for David Hirson's La Bete. The following year he gave his award-winning performance as Hamlet.

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Alan Cumming. Detail of a photograph by Angela Brinskele (© Angela Brinskele).
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