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'Any Day Now' chronicles gay adoption ordeal

With films such as Ira Sachs’ “Keep the Lights On” and David France’s “How To Survive a Plague” drawing solid audiences, 2012 has turned out to be another banner year for LGBT films. The year ends on an especially high note with “Any Day Now,” starring out actor Alan Cumming as Rudy, a gay West Hollywood man who must deal with a prejudicial and antiquated court system as he attempts to adopt a boy with Down syndrome in 1979.

Cumming gives the performance of his career and even has the opportunity to sing a couple of numbers in the movie. Written and directed by straight filmmaker Travis Fine, “Any Day Now,” which has won several awards at film festivals, has crossover appeal and the potential to be remembered fondly at Oscar time. It’s scheduled for general release in December.

I spoke recently with Fine.

Gregg Shapiro: What drew you to “Any Day Now”? 

Travis Fine: I respond to characters and situations. There was something that drew me to this notion of this outsider trying to raise this child, trying to save this child - the Rudy character and the young boy being outsiders. There was also something in the situation that moved me as a parent.

Do you know same-sex couples who have adopted or given birth to their own children?

Absolutely. It’s a cliché to say some of my best friends are gay, but I have some very close, dear friends in the LGBT community (and) some of (them) are married, in partnerships, have children. 

The original screenplay that you adapted yours from was set in 1979. Why did you keep that setting?

First of all, (the original) script was inspired by a real person who lived in Brooklyn in the late 1970s. I felt that to honor this person and this story, it made the most sense. Also, I’m a huge fan of ’70s cinema – the gritty, character-driven dramas of the ’70s. I wanted to explore that as a filmmaker, visually and stylistically. From a political point of view, the story would be different in Los Angeles in 2009 or 2012. But as we all know, there are still certain places, even within this country, where the story wouldn’t be that much different. There would be some of the same challenges and hurdles and obstacles.

How important was it for you to have gay actors, such as Alan Cumming, Douglas Spearman and Randy Roberts, in the movie?

Personally, particularly with the Rudy character, with Alan, I thought it was very important. As a straight filmmaker who had the honor of telling an important, profound and moving story about a chapter in the late ’70s of the LGBT movement, it was incredibly important to have Alan take on that role. Not only is Alan a sensational actor, an incredible talent and a wonderful human being, but he’s an OBE, an Order of the British Empire, knighted by the Queen for his work on LGBT rights and equality. He is not just giving lip service to equality, he has fought that fight and been a vocal champion and proponent. Could the film work with a straight actor? Of course it could. Just as a gay actor can play a straight character. At times, I would turn to Alan and ask him what his thoughts were and he brought a certain part of his own personal experience to the role.

Alan’s character Rudy sings in “Any Day Now.” Is that something from the original screenplay or was it added when Cumming was cast as Rudy?

It was actually in between the two. It was not in the original screenplay. Rudy was an unemployed hairdresser. When I updated (the) script, there were a number of elements that I changed significantly. The element of singing came out of my desire as a filmmaker to explore it visually. It was a visual thing. I was watching “The French Connection,” and there’s that great scene in the bar where a woman is singing this song and Popeye Doyle and his partner are looking across the bar at the two bad guys. Those images in those movies stayed with me. 

“Any Day Now” won the Audience Choice Award at the mainstream Chicago International Film Festival. Congratulations.

(They told me that) I shared the honor with another film. At first, I went, “What you mean we have to share the award? We didn’t win it outright?” They said we received the exact same percentage as another film. I asked, “Who’s the other filmmaker?” They said, “Dustin Hoffman.” I said, “I’ll take it” (laughs)! 

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