James Toback was on hand to talk about his HBO documentary “Seduced and Abandoned” at the TCA press tour yesterday, a film about the film biz which was shot at Cannes 2012 and premiered at the festival this year. Alec Baldwin, his collaborator on the film, was not, instead popping in via satellite from a vineyard, rows of grapevines stretching out in the window behind him.
The film, which will premiere on HBO on October 28, follows Baldwin and Toback as they try to raise money for their version of “Last Tango in Paris,” in the process speaking with Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Polanski, Ryan Gosling and Jessica Chastain about the industry. The film provided the opportunity for Baldwin and Toback to reflect on the business themselves and its shift toward giant blockbusters and franchises. “If you don’t find some way to work in films that are going to make some money, it’s going to be a tough road,” reflected Baldwin. “If they come your way,” he continued, it’s good “to not dismiss them outright, to try to have a career like Hugh Jackman, who’s probably one of the most successful in the ‘one for me, one for them’ program.”
The reflective “30 Rock” star added that when he talks to younger people in the business now, he suggests that “during your 20s, give this everything you have and make it the most important thing in your life.” Speaking of Gosling, he said “you see how edgy and savvy he is — he’s so much smarter about the business than I was when I was that age. They have to have a realism about the business that I didn’t until I was 40 or 45.” There’s never a mystery about where you stand in film, he continued: “You never have to wonder where you stand in the business, someone’s always sticking a thermometer in your mouth and telling you how hot you are or not.”
Of “Seduced and Abandoned,” Toback said that “we didn’t know the outcome of anything in advance” as they were shooting, and that it “created itself day by day.” He and Baldwin would have been happy to get to make the project they were pitching — “I don’t think either of us is inclined to get involved with anything cinematic that we don’t take seriously,” he mused. The “Tyson” director and general big personality had some bold words on the future of the industry, nothing that there’s never a shortage of “mediocre movies” and suggesting that the big studio films are ultimately going to regress to “just cartoon characters.” He also pointed out how theatrical exhibition made little sense for most people these days in the age of home theaters and the ease and comfort of watching movies at home, calling it a “quaint, outdated medium.” “I like them because I grew up loving them,” he admitted.
Baldwin, who spoke briefly of his role in the new Woody Allen film “Blue Jasmine” (“I hadn’t done a drama like that for so long”), also had some words of advice for television critics, who he said are “always ascribing things to people that weren’t their responsibility,” particularly actors. When you set out to act in a project, Baldwin said, “you realize you’re not making the film. When films work and when films don’t work, it’s the director’s responsibility — unless you’re miscast… Actors really don’t have as much power as you think they have, but they’re often handed more of a piece of the bill when the thing gets skewered than they deserved. Good television critics are ones who really know what’s going on in the process.”