It all started with an idea to make a movie called “Last Tango In Tikrit.” For Alec Baldwin and writer/director James Toback, their desire to produce an erotic, sexually charged movie set in the Middle East, with a budget of $25-30 million soon found them dealing with an industry that no long makes erotic, sexually charged movies for $25-30 million. And so what came out of a yet-to-be-realized project turned into the documentary “Seduced & Abandoned” (our review), which screened this week at the Savannah Film Festival in addition to premiering on HBO.
And while the prospect of a drama about a right-wing CIA agent, a liberal journalist and their torrid affair in Iraq seems like something created for the purposes of exposing how difficult it is to get a movie made in the current climate, when we sat down with Baldwin in Savannah, he insisted that ‘Tikrit’ is indeed a real movie.
“Yes, we do want to do it. I really think we’re going to try, but as always, this money thing is very troublesome,” he said. “I said to him, ‘Why don’t we go to Cannes and film us pitching the movie. Forget the movie, let’s make a documentary about the pitch.’ And he then thought, which I was stunned because I didn’t think it was possible, that we would be able to get a serious amount of access with people. And the only thing that stopped us having the next level of access that would’ve popped our movie visually, was that CanalPlus has the exclusive rights to air the festival, to televise it, so there were things we couldn’t go to with the camera.”
But even with those limitations, one can hardly tell that anything held them back. Featuring appearances and feedback from Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Bernardo Bertolucci, Roman Polanski, Ryan Gosling, Jessica Chastain, Berenice Bejo, Diane Kruger and James Caan, ‘Seduced’ entertainingly captures the surreal world of film financing and the power players who need to be convinced to sign checks to make movies happen. But make no mistake, ‘Tikrit’ is real and it’s one Baldwin believes would provide him with a great opportunity if and when it gets made.
“We had thought about a film we wanted to do. And when we came around to that idea, Jimmy articulated it best when he said there’s nothing that explores character more than an intimate relationship like that. And I agreed with him,” Baldwin said.
And the actor can only help but feel lucky to have such a creatively fulfilling equal in Toback, particularly as he’s recently suggested that part of the problem in the movies right now is that there are simply not enough good directors to go around. And when we asked him amount those comments, Baldwin expanded on his thoughts, citing a mix of directors without the resources to realize their vision and directors squandering the financial and creative opportunity they’re given as part of the problem.
“I got to a point, probably just short of twenty years ago, probably around 1995 … I was making a film, and I got into a period where I had a string of experiences where a director was a very good director, and they didn’t give him enough money to make the film. Then I would work with a director who was a very mediocre director that had promise, but he was cheap, and they gave him a lot of money to make the film, but maybe not enough even there,” he shared. “And then I did a movie with another director who was kind of a retread director, so they were going to give him another chance to prove himself and he’d made some good movies and he’d had some success, and they gave him a modest budget. All along the way, people either don’t have enough money, [but] they have the talent, that’s what’s frustrating … And then here’s another guy who they give a lot of money, and he was someone who no amount of money could cover up his inadequacies as a director.”
“I just realized that there’s just this tremendous shortage of good directors,” he added. “And that becomes really tough to me, because the actors don’t make the movie, the directors make the movie.”
And yet, even as the movie business makes it more difficult to generate the kind of material that Baldwin gravitates toward, that doesn’t mean he still doesn’t carefully consider his choices. Word emerged this summer that Baldwin hard turned down a role in a Marvel project, but as he tells us, it’s not because he’s above doing a tentpole or comic book movie.
“Disney people and Marvel people who came to me and asked if I wanted to do a project with them, and I would of played a supporting part in the film. And the answer was ‘Yes,’ I just couldn’t work it out schedule wise,” he clarified. “I was perfectly willing to do it, I was very eager to do it.” But sometimes, even if the prospective project—even if it’s voiceover or video game work—looks promising, Baldwin also needs to feel fully comfortable taking it on. And he shared some intriguing gigs he ultimately decided not to do.
“[The makers of] ‘Grand Theft Auto’ came to me to do a voice of some mobster, many years ago, for ‘Grand Theft Auto 2.’ … and they offered this incomprehensible amount of money for one day’s work. And they offered me a pile of money, this ridiculous amount of money to just come in a record this voice for one or two days,” Baldwin said. “And I turned them down because [the character] was a cop killer. And I didn’t want to get near that [because] of my reputation; I have enough problems with the press as it is. I said no.”
And Baldwin also said no to a role that would’ve seen him berate Anne Hathaway night after night on stage. “Whether it’s movies or TV or anything in your career, there’s just things you don’t want to do, that just don’t feel right. [David] Mamet wanted me to do ‘Oleanna.’ I did this beautiful reading of ‘Oleanna’ for producers with Anne Hathaway. And Anne Hathaway was so great, I was stunned at how stageworthy she in the part, it just all seemed so right,” Baldwin explained. “And when it was over, at the end of the play I’m stomping her behind a couch, and screaming the most ugly epithets. And I said, ‘I don’t really need to be stomping Anne Hathaway, America’s sweetheart, saying you this, you that and stomping her. I don’t really want to go there, I think it’s ill-advised right now.’ “
But still, like any artist, Baldwin continues to seek avenues to continue creating and working his craft, and is still driven to find those movies where everything comes together the way it should. “The greatest place to be is [with] great directors, great material, something worthy, something positive, something beautiful,” he said. We couldn’t agree more.
“Seduced & Abandoned” is now playing on HBO. The Savannah Film Festival continues through November 2nd.