Books & Literature

Book Review: Baggage, by Alan Cumming

BIOGRAPHY: A joyous and poignant book about the world of professional acting, the messiness of life and how every experience – good or bad – shapes who you are.

Alan Cumming gives the reader a poignant, funny and emotionally draining ride through his professional life.
4.5

In his first memoir, the critically acclaimed Not My Father’s Son, the venerable Scottish actor, Alan Cumming, told of his struggle to come to terms with the abuse meted out by his father as a child and how he ultimately confronted the man about the damage he had caused when he was finally in his 20s. Whilst Cumming moved on with his life out of his father’s shadow, this book tells us the tales of his life as a professional actor who is still battling those scars that do not seem to heal.

Cumming’s second memoir regales the reader with many anecdotes about films and personalities that he has worked on or with, as well as his Tony award-winning run as the Emcee in the Broadway revival of Cabaret that cemented his place as a cultural icon for the LBGTQIA+ community. As one of the most vocal advocates for gay rights, Cumming gives the reader much insight into how he adapted his thought processes around this shift in the public perception about him.

Along the way, he tells tales of working with Tom Cruise and legendary director Stanley Kubrick on his final masterpiece Eyes Wide Shut which he then immediately followed with his hilarious turn in Spice World (which he rates as his favourite of all his films). He also talks about his role in the Bond film Goldeneye and his subsequent appearance in the almost as legendary video game that it spawned on the Nintendo 64. Spy Kids also gets a mention as well as a horrific story about working on the second X-Men film with a director who badly needed an intervention (picture a scene with all of the main cast of that film in a trailer telling the director he needed help!). There are other projects, some good, some bad, that he reflects on that help bring forth the overriding message of the book: we need to push ourselves out of our comfort zones and sometimes it will be to your benefit and sometimes it will just be a learning experience, but either way, regret nothing.

There is, of course, a lot written about his role in Cabaret with many anecdotes from that show including meeting the original stars of the show as well as his thought processes behind how he imagined the character and how this gelled with director Sam Mendes’ revelatory vision of the work.

Throughout all of these stories, Cumming reveals his own personal struggles with his relationships, from failed marriages to his current healthy long term relationship. There is never a sense of bitterness towards his former partners; he has the ability in most cases to see their point of view quite clearly, as well as his own role in the downfall of those relationships. He rarely uses names for his exes, preferring to give them titles like “Adonis” and “the man who would become my husband”.

This is a beautiful and endearing piece of writing from a man who clearly has had a lot to work through in his life. It is at times hilarious, moving, serious, frustrating and highly charged in equal parts. By the end, you desperately want to give the man a hug for coming out of the other side of it all. He would be quite right to shout his often quoted line from Goldeneye, “I am invincible!”

Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Twitter: @Wagnerfan74

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.

Published by: Allen & Unwin
Released: November 2021
RRP: $29.99

[adrotate banner="159"]
To Top