Playing the fallen auto entrepreneur John DeLorean, skewering Donald Trump on SNL, Woody Allen, #MeToo Why is it so hard to pin the actor down on anything?
A conversation with Alec Baldwin feels rather like being in a holding pattern above New York. Not that it’s boring: on the contrary, talking with this old-fashioned film star and modern-day sitcom god, this part-time Trump antagonist and full-time schmoozy showbiz personality, is an altogether pleasant experience. You are in business class, perhaps even first, and you are happy and sated and induced. Spread out invitingly below you are the twinkling lights of Manhattan, where the 61 -year-old actor and his 35 -year-old wife, Hilaria, own a penthouse apartment.( They also have an 18 th-century farmhouse in the Hamptons .) And yet a question presents itself , not unreasonably, as the plane circles the city and each new circumnavigation seems to bring it no closer to terra firma: are we ever going to land?
It is something to do with the circuitous nature of Baldwin’s sentences, the style he riffs and waffles and meanders at will. Nothing can interrupt him, apart from his pets. (” Hold on a second ,” he says down the line from New York, and then I hear the words” Daughters! Come !” before he returns to the phone to tell me he was ” only summoning my dogs “.) It is his appearance in the new docudrama Framing John DeLorean that has occasioned our conversation today. In bite-sized dramatic reconstructions peppered among interviews with the subject’s family and colleagues, Baldwin plays the late vehicle executive and discoverer, whose gull-winged car was turned into a time machine in Back to the Future but whose life was destroyed by ambition, idiocy and greed. It’s a obliging story that starts with DeLorean relinquishing his position as group executive at General Motors to start his own company and ends with his naive involvement in a cocaine-smuggling operation exposed in an FBI sting.
Baldwin has said he feels differently about DeLorean every day, so I ask where his head is at right now.” With John- I don’t think I’ve ever said this before- and I’m not just saying this to, um, delight you and freshen up this material for this interview- but lately when I think about him- and I’ve been talking about him a lot- I have friends and acquaintances who’ve seen the movie, and we go out to dinner and discuss it- I find that beyond anyone who’s- oh, I don’t know- perpetrated assassination or they’re a sexuality trafficker- I kind of look at John as a victim .”
I am trying to fathom the” sexuality trafficker” commentary but he has already moved on.” Now, awarded, this sounds like I’m being too colourful. But he’s a victim of his own ambition. He’s an American businessman and that comes with a whole menu of options. American industries have changed the world- they’ve promoted invention on a level that’s unseen- and they’re also responsible for a lot of the horrific pollution and climate change and plastics pollution- I entail, I don’t want to go on and on with that listing- and DeLorean is someone who made a lot of poor selections. His family, reputation, his own health, all fell victim to that soaring ambition .”
Baldwin himself had one interaction with the real DeLorean: a late-night phone call in 2004 in which the drop vehicle giant suggested that the actor might like to play him in a movie.” No one was approaching me from a network or a studio. It was all hypothetical. John’s hand was in this because he was an uber control freak. I never heard from him again, and then he was dead the subsequent year .”
For the film’s reconstructions, Baldwin wears facial prosthetics, a silver wig and a pair of thick black slabs for eyebrows. I bring up the subject of makeup but all this does is prompt one of those ruminations, which ends, with Baldwinian inevitability, in him comparing his treatment unfavourably with that of a more successful actor.” I wish we could have gone further ,” he sighs.” The hair and makeup people said they could do a detailed version that would take three hours to apply. The director said:’ Give us the best you can in two hours .’ I was looking at some stills of Christian Bale as Dick Cheney in Vice– I admire Bale so much- and when you have as much skill as Bale, and they get it just-so …” He trails off, then picks up the think again with a note of faintly smouldering rancor.” Well, I’m sure they didn’t rush him out of the makeup chair .”