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September 2004
The Last Shot: An Interview with Alec Baldwin

The Last Shot: An Interview with Alec Baldwin

By Julian Roman

Alec Baldwin comes across as being a very serious guy. He was all politics during the interview. Movie stars usually avoid any deep conversation and concentrate solely on the film they're promoting. Alec Baldwin is an activist who isn't afraid to speak his mind. We had him for a short space of time and The Last Shot was not the talking point. It was interesting to hear his pursuit of a TV gig. He's become such a prominent character actor, but seems to really want to settle down.

This film is based on the FBI trying to capture a member of the Gotti family. Are you a fan of the reality TV show?

Alec: No, it's nothing against them or the show, but I don't have a lot of time to watch TV. I pick and choose what I watch. From what I've read in the papers, there's not a lot of surprises in that show.

What brought you to this film?

Alec: I wanted to do the film because Jeff Nathanson [the director] is such a great writer. I loved Catch Me If You Can. I know that Nathanson had done some doctoring on scripts that he didn't get credit for. In the business he's known as a talented writer. So much of what's sent to me, as far as comic material, is more cute than funny. His script was so clever, dry, and funny. When he told me they were getting Matthew [Broderick], that was really the capper for me. Matthew is funny himself, he doesn't have to do anything. Matthew is Jack Benny to me.

Can you recall a nightmare pitch meeting?

Alec: For a while I was interested in doing a TV show, the reason being that I wouldn't have to travel and be away from my daughter. I put my feelers to some of the biggest people in the TV business. I wanted to talk to people about doing a half hour sitcom. I abandoned that idea after a couple of years of meeting people and having meetings. I met with some of the biggest people in the sitcom business, some of the colossuses. They pitched me these ideas. It was really upsetting to me. There wasn't anything funny in what they were saying. Comedy is so binary. It either is funny or it's not. Comedy is results oriented. They laugh or they don't. You know where you watch sitcoms now is on the plane. On the trip from New York to LA they have CBS Eye on American and they show Everybody Loves Raymond. I think that everybody is chasing the same four sets of writers. These are the only guys that are on to something and can make it work. I got out of the sitcom business because I didn't have one of those sets of writers. I'd love to do a good sitcom. I did an episode of Friends and I thought, they're getting a million dollars a week to do this? That seems perfect. I've seen film people do TV with disastrous results. I won't name names, but it's very costly when it goes bad.

There is that weird x factor. Shows that work on paper don't always work in reality. Plus, you have to develop the audience quickly. It's not like Seinfeld where people can wait to get it.

Alec: Yeah, they gave it time to develop, to incubate. Norman Lear is a friend of mine. He talked about All in the Family. In the beginning, nobody got it. I see other shows where people don't get it and they hang in there doggedly. People always ask me if I watch TV. I just don't have the time. I'm a pretty low-tech person so Tivo doesn't work for me. If it's not on the air then I'm not watching it. I had a friend that taped the Yankees game and watched it the next day. I'd say, here's the newspaper, you can just read who won. I thought that was the most absurd thing.

Speaking of TV, what inspired you to go on O'Reilly show?

Alec: Where I live in Eastern Long Island there's a charity called The Wounded Warrior program. They give gift bags, welcome home packages, to returning soldiers, some of whom are pretty seriously injured. They're looking for some more underwriting and I'm going to help them, Johnson & Johnson, Sony, etc. I did O'Reilly to promote that. O'Reilly is an interesting guy. He's not without talent. He's not Sean Hannity, who's the luckiest person to have his own TV show. O'Reilly has real broadcast ability. I think he must be frustrated. There's a certain level that he's never going to get to because he's affiliated with such a right wing, fundamentalist group of people. Fox News is a fundamentalist operation. Their goal is very closely tied to the fundamentalist religious movement. O'Reilly has his own limitations but he could have grown into a very formidable broadcaster.

As a New Yorker, what are your thoughts on Manhattan coming back after the 9-11 attacks?

Alec: I'm sad about the federal funding we haven't gotten. You hear these stories about the per capita spending, how it's skewed against New York. Wyoming and Vermont has all this equipment and it doesn't really make sense. New York is in a tough place. We have a Republican mayor in a 5 to1 Democratic city that wouldn't let us have a protest in Central Park. He should be deeply ashamed. Free speech is a right. This is not like California, where people are more lemming like. A lot of people sit idly by there. This is why I live in New York. People care more. The average California person is not fundamentally interested in what happens on a community wide basis. Whereas in New York, people go nuts, New Yorkers care. Political exercise is a quotidian reality for New Yorkers.

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