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Alan Cumming on his role in Son of the Mask

Ever since starring in Spy Kids, Alan Cumming has been an icon to kids. Son of the Mask now gives him another opportunity to reach young audiences and field infinite questions about the powers of Loki, the god of mischief.

"I really enjoy that kids like me," Cumming said. "I love the way that kids talk to you about films they've seen. I get asked to do those films and I do enjoy them. I wouldn't normally watch them. I don't have kids myself. It's quite funny. Sometimes I'm in films that I'd never go and see because I just don't really go and see things that often, so it's quite nice to experience something different."

Past films already made Cumming the target of young inquisitions, specifically Spy Kids. "They often ask [me] to do that F thing with my hands. So I show them how to do that. Sometimes they ask about the thumb thumbs. I always get asked about those. And if I really know Juni and Carmen."

Though he says they are not his genre of choice, children's movies allow a kind of performance Cumming relishes. "If they're more magical and more flamboyant, the character are usually slightly heightened and bigger. So they're more like theater and I quite enjoy that. And the costumes are usually gaudier and certainly the ones I've done, it's a little bit more the volume's kind of up a bit."

In Son of the Mask, Cumming plays Loki, the Norse god of mischief. He's searching for the mask which bears his brand of cartoonish superpowers. But the mask falls into the hands of a struggling artist, who conceives a child while under the masks' spell. Ultimately, Loki must battle his weird stepchild in a special effects extravaganza.

Though the special effects require very specific acting for the computers, Cumming said there was still room to improvise many jokes. "You tend to shoot the special effects bits separately from the dialogue, so you can improvise. We had quite a lot of rehearsal, so we kind of worked out how we were going to do things beforehand. But really, obviously you can't muck about when there's really technical things to do. But say there's a lot of speaking and there's a special effect, you would do the special effect thing separately. So you'd be more free to improvise than if you're worrying about a technical aspect."

Loki also uses different disguises in his quest to find the mask, including a ‘50s vacuum cleaner salesman, a girl scout, a plumber and a delivery man. "I quite liked playing the UPS man. Rod I called him. He was quite fun. I love being cheesy."

But the main costume for Loki, a tight, black leather number, took its toll on Cumming. "The actual normal Loki was quite uncomfortable because of all that leather, because they would pull it really tight to make sure it wouldn't ruffle up. I had a big chest piece that was quite uncomfortable."

Costume fittings went on in several stages before shooting began. "The first one I did was in Harlem in New York. I went to somebody's house in Harlem because they were a friend of the costume designer's in Australia. Then I did one here [in Los Angeles]. I did a thing here where you go in and they do a complete scan of you. That's when you wear a unitard and you go into this room and they completely scan you, put all the special effects and perhaps for the merchandising as well. I can't remember. And then a lot of costume fittings. And obviously, you know, with each character that I would be shooting for the movie, the different disguises, we would have fittings so a lot of time spent on that."

And, of course, Cumming wears the famous Mask green face when Loki goes into a mischievous rage. "It's absolutely horrible. The worst thing about it is that you're completely enclosed and it's like you can't really do anything. It must be a bit what it's like to have Botox or something because it goes right under your eyebrows and everything and it's really hot and I had these contact lenses and you can't really see. You feel so kind of corseted and weird and, actually, I felt really freakish. Everyone wanted to look and stare at you and I felt kind of like a circus thing. Obviously, I'm an actor and I'm used to having people look at me otherwise I wouldn't do this job but it doesn't feel like it's you. I actually feel like it could be anyone inside that thing. I think it was a little over-designed."

See Cumming in Son of the Mask this weekend.

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