Alec Baldwin on 'fetid septic tank' movie biz
NEW YORK -- In "Seduced and Abandoned," Alec Baldwin and James Toback present a portrait of today's movie business and an elegy to what it once was. In person, Baldwin's even more candid, venting on tasteless studio executives, the pay for actors and the "fetid septic tank" of the movie business.
Baldwin and Toback knocked around the Cannes Film Festival last year, documenting the humbling process of Hollywood deal-making and trying to get financing for a film. Baldwin, whose movie career has largely taken a back seat to TV (he has followed his Emmy-winning run on "30 Rock" with his recently launched MSNBC talk show, "Up Late With Alec Baldwin"), calls making the film -- a blitz of celebrity interviews and yacht visits along the French Riviera -- "one of the best times of my life."
Currently playing in select theaters before airing Monday, Oct. 28, on HBO, the film is timely, coming amid a year of much debate about the state of moviemaking. In an interview, Baldwin had plenty to say on the subject.
Q. Though you have several films in the works, you've suggested before that you may be done with the movies. Are you?
A. You wind up not having any faith in it, in terms of having a career at it. Everyone wants you to turn to a speech that Lucas and Spielberg gave -- two very, very seasoned people in the business who talk about the business model of studio movies collapsing. What I want to say is: The business model in terms of actors making a living at it is collapsing because you can't get paid to make a movie. Everybody does TV because you're not out there having to kill yourself to get an audience the way you do in the movie business. People I work with, they want you to become their partner in raising money. They want you to become their partner in collapsing their fees. They want you to become their partner, now, in selling the movie. They want you on a plane going to festivals and you're on the phone with reporters all the time. The amount of work outside the shooting of the film has become absolutely unconscionable. ... All the fun of it is gone. You talk it to death.
Q. "Seduced and Abandoned" comes at a time of great hand-wringing over the future of cinema.
A. It was tough financially. Then it was very tough financially. Then it was unbearable financially. And now it's unbearable financially and creatively. For the most part. There are exceptions. "12 Years a Slave." There are movies that come along that are wonderful films. The movie "Gravity" is a box-office success. "Captain Phillips" is a good movie. There are good movies that come along. It just seems that the opportunity to make a good movie, if you do get to make one, takes an extraordinary amount of luck or an extraordinary amount of fortitude.
Q. "Blue Jasmine," the Woody Allen film in which you co-starred, was excellent.
A. But Woody's in his own universe. When what you're starting off with is "written by Woody Allen," you have a leg up on everyone else.
Q. What needs to change?
A. The principle reason movies fall apart is that you don't have a good director. The most anemic guild in all of the business is the Directors Guild. There are thousands of good actors out there waiting for a job. There are so many unproduced scripts that are good. The real dilemma in the business today: There are not enough good directors. There's an ocean of mediocre directors.
Q. Did you learn anything new about the film business making "Seduced and Abandoned"?
A. You see in the business this fetid septic tank filled with all these people, and then you turn around and there's Bertolucci, there's Scorsese. They don't let that get in their way. They have their stresses. They have their own challenges. It is not a boulevard of green lights for these people, at all. They've got their compromises. ... The people who are the heads of production of all the studios, across the board, they don't know anything about films. Nothing. They know things about selling films.
Q. Are you optimistic about anything then?
A. I say to myself: Thank god for ("12 Years a Slave" director) Steve McQueen. Right as you're about to collapse from a kind of cinematic starvation and dehydration, along comes McQueen. Along comes Alexander Payne. Along comes Wes Anderson. Along comes (Paul Thomas) Anderson.