battle of the sexes alan cumming teaser
battle of the sexes alan cumming teaser

‘Battle of the Sexes’ Star Alan Cumming: It’s a Responsibility, Not a ‘Privilege’ to Tell Queer Stories

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During a recent sit-down with Alan Cumming — brilliant in the film Battle of the Sexes, coming to theaters nationwide Friday, Sept. 22 — the famed Scottish actor spoke to whether queer artists and actors have a duty to tell the tales of the LGBTQ community. In Cumming’s opinion, he bears a “great responsibility” to do just that in his work.

Battle of the Sexes, directed by Valerie Faris & Jonathan Dayton and having already received much critical praise, tells the story of women’s world tennis champion Billie Jean King (played brilliantly by Emma Stone). The film takes place in the early ’70s, during the wake of the sexual revolution and the rise of “women’s lib.” When King is challenged by former men’s champ and self-proclaimed “chauvinist pig” Bobby Riggs (Steve Carrell) to a tennis match, it’s billed as “The Battle of the Sexes” and becomes the most-watched television event of all time. In addition to the big match, though, King is battling with off-court battles, including the creation of an all-women’s league and her own burgeoning sexuality.

In real life, King was a lesbian tennis star with no openly gay role models to help her navigate the uncharted territory of being LGBT and in the public eye. In the film, Cumming plays Ted Tinling, the gay but also closeted wardrobe designer for the newly created Women’s Tennis Association.

Watch the trailer for Battle of the Sexes here:

Cumming is masterful in the film, which isn’t the first time the actor has shared queer stories with a large audience. His character Ted shares a particularly poignant moment with Stone’s Billie Jean character near the film’s end in which he tells her his hope that one day queer people will be able to live their truth openly.

We asked Cumming about the role of queer actors in telling the stories of the LGBTQ community. Is it a responsibility? It is a privilege? Is it both?

“As a queer man — or a queer person, a bisexual man, whatever you want to call me — I do feel a great responsibility both in my work and as a person to celebrate diversity and to put out messages that are positive and inclusive and to remind people that we are here, and we are queer, and we’re not going away,” Cumming says.

battle of the sexes alan cumming still
Photo of Emma Stone, Alan Cumming, Martha MacIsaac and Natalie Morales by Melinda Sue Gordon/© 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

“And also to remind people to be vigilant. Because there have been lot of great strides recently, with our rights legally, but there’s still a long way to go, you know? Not everybody is protected, and it’s not an equal society yet,” he says. “So we have to keep fighting until that happens for everybody. But also we’re living in a time when attacks — hate crimes against LGBTQ people are rising incredibly — and we have a president who is condoning that violence against many minorities by silence, so we have to be vigilant.”

Cumming doesn’t, however, consider it a “privilege.” Far from it, in fact.

“In terms of privilege,” he says, “I do not consider it a ‘privilege’ to have to speak out to be considered an equal with other people.”

It’s a valid point he raises, and one we’re curious whether other queer artists and actors would agree with.

What do you think of Battle of the Sexes‘ Alan Cumming recent comments? Sound off in the comments.

 

Featured photo of Alan Cumming and Wallace Langham courtesy of alancumming.com