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The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Alec Baldwin

07.11.2016
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Last week, we took a look at the career of the late director, Michael Cimino. This week’s subject is on the other side of the camera, but seems like an actor that would have been a natural for any of Cimino’s movies...
Alec Baldwin
alec baldwin glengarry glen ross

Alec Baldwin has always struck me as a character actor born with a leading man’s mug. Often cast as a heartthrob in his younger days, it’s no coincidence that Baldwin’s career got hotter-and-hotter as he moved into middle age and started taking character parts that suited him perfectly, such as Wayne Kramer’s THE COOLER. For awhile, Baldwin was stuck in a bit of a rut, but he emerged from it big-time, with Tina Fey’s ‘30 Rock’ doing an especially good job catapulting him back into the limelight. Considering how hilarious he’s always been whenever he hosted Saturday Night Live (sixteen times, making him the most frequent host of all-time) it’s crazy no one ever thought to try him out in comedy before then.

alec baldwin miami blues

That said, with his dark looks, it’s no wonder Hollywood initially used him as a romantic lead. Following a low-key turn in Tim Burton’s BEETLEJUICE (where Michael Keaton chewed-up most of the scenery), Baldwin’s career hit the fast lane. In 1990, Baldwin acted in George Armitage’s amazing MIAMI BLUES, where he created an especially interesting anti-hero in the lead character, Junior, a sociopath who steals cop Hoke Moseley’s (Fred Ward) badge (and dentures) and makes a weird, twisted attempt at domesticity with a kind-hearted prostitute (Jennifer Jason Leigh), which doesn’t sit well with his killer instinct. While not a box-office smash, Baldwin’s next movie, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, put him squarely on the A-list. For awhile, Baldwin along with his brothers, William, Daniel and Stephen were everywhere, something which only increased once he married former co-star Kim Basinger, making them Hollywood’s premiere golden couple of the nineties.

alec baldwin snl

Eventually, his career cooled a bit, with him having a hard-time scoring really meaty lead roles. His movies ranged from the underrated (THE EDGE), to the well-meaning but dull (GHOSTS OF MISSISSIPPI) to the abysmal (THE JUROR, MERCURY RISING), but Baldwin was always good and came back before long.

In addition to his acting, Baldwin’s political savvy has made him a frequent pundit, while his knowledge of classic films led to a well-received stint on TCM (Turner Classic Movies), which occasionally includes interview specials with people like Gene Wilder. A busy guy, Baldwin also currently hosts ‘Match Game’ on ABC, and has a cool interview podcast called ‘Here’s the Thing.’

His Best Work
alec baldwin the hunt for red october

Harrison Ford’s Jack Ryan movies, PATRIOT GAMES and CLEAR & PRESENT DANGER were both great, and Ford was good in the part. However, for my money no one has ever nailed the part of Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst like Baldwin. Perfectly cast as a guy who’s supposed to be brainy rather than brawny, the part made Baldwin a star, but the fact that he was never able to play Ryan again is a real shame. I’m of the mind that even now, Baldwin would be a perfect Jack Ryan in an adaptation of one of the later Clancy novels where the character becomes the U.S president. Oh well, at least we have one, perfect thriller with John McTiernan’s HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER. It’s my pick for the best techno-thriller of all time, and one I revisit pretty much every year.

His Most Overrated Work
alec baldwin kim basinger the getaway

In his prime heartthrob days, Baldwin made a bit of a miscalculation when he remade the Steve McQueen/Sam Peckinpah actioner THE GETAWAY as a vehicle for him and his then-wife Kim Basinger. While, as a teen-aged boy, I certainly appreciated the generous love scenes for Basinger (one of my all-time crushes) the movie is tailored too closely on the original. I love Baldwin, but he’s not Steve McQueen (no one is), although he’s not the first contemporary actor to try to imitate him. Outside of a memorably sleazy part for James Woods, this remake was pointless.

His Most Underrated Film
alec baldwin the shadow

Back in 1994, Universal Pictures and director Russell Mulcahy tried to launch a big superhero tentpole franchise with THE SHADOW. A period adventure based on the pulp novels and the old Orson Welles radio show, Alec Baldwin starred as the fascinatingly ambiguous hero, a former opium warlord-turned-playboy, Lamont Cranston, who used psychic powers to fight crime as THE SHADOW. Co-starring an impeccably cast John Lone as the villainous Shiwan Khan, the gorgeous Penelope Ann Miller as love interest Margot Lane, Ian McKellen as her father, Peter Boyle, Jonathan Winters, Tim Curry (who has a memorable death scene) and more - this was a really dynamic adventure. The visuals were outstanding and the score by Jerry Goldsmith ranks with his best, not to mention Baldwin’s performance, which is so good it’s a shame this only became a one-off. Nevertheless, it’s well-worth checking-out.

His Best Scene

Alec Baldwin’s part in GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS proves the old adage that there are no small parts. Although he only has one scene in James Foley’s screen version of the David Mamet play, his A-B-C (“always be closing”) monologue dominates the movie. That he wasn’t even nominated for an Academy Award for this is mind-boggling.

His Five Best Films

5. THE DEPARTED/BLUE JASMINE (Tie)

4. THE COOLER
3. GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS
2. MIAMI BLUES
1. THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER

Up Next

Always in-demand, Baldwin’s got a full slate for the next year or so, running the gamut from prestige pics (Alexander Payne’s DOWNSIZING) to family fare (BOSS BABY) and indies (BONJOUR ANNE). He’s even showing-up in Warren Beatty’s long-awaited RULES DON’T APPLY. Could a trip to the Oscar podium possibly in the cards for this guy? We’ll see.

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...

Source: JoBlo.com

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6:40PM on 07/11/2016
As others have mentioned, Baldwin is equally great at comedy and drama. Like the author, I'm a big fan of Hunt for Red October and wish that Baldwin had played the character at least once more. I actually pretend that his character in Mission: Impossible 5 is the older version of his Jack Ryan.
As others have mentioned, Baldwin is equally great at comedy and drama. Like the author, I'm a big fan of Hunt for Red October and wish that Baldwin had played the character at least once more. I actually pretend that his character in Mission: Impossible 5 is the older version of his Jack Ryan.
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4:31PM on 07/11/2016
Props for mentioning Miami Blues.
Props for mentioning Miami Blues.
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3:51PM on 07/11/2016

Great actor

Has the complete range from drama to comedy.
Has the complete range from drama to comedy.
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3:09PM on 07/11/2016
"That doesn't FEEL south, Charles."
"You had no business with that broad, anyways. You know you don't....."
"That doesn't FEEL south, Charles."
"You had no business with that broad, anyways. You know you don't....."
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2:14PM on 07/11/2016

Agree w/ your assessment of Baldwn, disagree with your assessment of The Shadow

I loved The Shadow as a kid, but unfortunately like so many films from my childhood it hasn't aged nearly was well with time & maturity as I would have hoped. I mean I adored the original Ninja Turtles, but in no way would I argue that it was actually a quality film. Although The Shadow looks like fine art when compared to The Phantom, I think it's pretty shlocky overall, not Batman & Robin level, but maybe Batman Forever -- it's got flashy looks but underneath it's mostly just camp who
I loved The Shadow as a kid, but unfortunately like so many films from my childhood it hasn't aged nearly was well with time & maturity as I would have hoped. I mean I adored the original Ninja Turtles, but in no way would I argue that it was actually a quality film. Although The Shadow looks like fine art when compared to The Phantom, I think it's pretty shlocky overall, not Batman & Robin level, but maybe Batman Forever -- it's got flashy looks but underneath it's mostly just camp who thought that Adam West's Batman set the template for what suprhero films should be. Okay, it's not quite that bad, but really you watch this, The Phantom, Spawn, Steel, the Schumacher Batman films, or even The Burton ones and you appreciate just how revolutionary Bryan Singer was when he insisted that the X-Men film should be played straight.


Balwin's bread and butter during his leadingman days were competently made but relatively forgettable thrillers. I think The Hunt For Red October is quite good by 80's/90's thriller standards but I don't know if I'd really call it, or Miami Blues or The Juror (or anything else he made in that wheelhouse) "a great film." Baldwin has talent galore but it just seems like it was wasted on standard issue box office fodder in his youth and only in the 2000's has he received the level of roles which I wished he had been receiving all along.

For my money, his best is:

10. The Hunt For Red October
9. Talk Radio
8. Married to the Mob
7. State and Main
6. Blue Jasmine
5. Still Alice
4. Glengary Glen Ross
3. The Departed (Small but seriously good supporting role)
2. The Cooler
1. 30 Rock

(He was the narrator in The Royal Tenenbaums and while that's one of the "best films" he's been in, his part's pretty thankless so I didn't include it.)
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1:41PM on 07/11/2016
Big fan. I don't think he's ever had a bad performance that I've seen. Comedy, drama, thriller alike.
Big fan. I don't think he's ever had a bad performance that I've seen. Comedy, drama, thriller alike.
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11:29AM on 07/11/2016
Alec Baldwin is badass alright. He can tackle many roles. While I really like The Shadow, personally I'd say his most underrated movie is The Juror. Demi Moore pretty much stole the movie but Alec Baldwin gave us one of his finest performance in that thriller.
Alec Baldwin is badass alright. He can tackle many roles. While I really like The Shadow, personally I'd say his most underrated movie is The Juror. Demi Moore pretty much stole the movie but Alec Baldwin gave us one of his finest performance in that thriller.
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10:24AM on 07/11/2016
While undoubtedly his most memorable role, I'm glad you didn't select Glengarry Glen Ross as his best role, since it is a glorified cameo. I've always been a fan of Baldwin's, though I generally stop short of calling him a badass because of his reputation for being thin-skinned. But you make a compelling argument. "Here's the Thing" is a great podcast.
While undoubtedly his most memorable role, I'm glad you didn't select Glengarry Glen Ross as his best role, since it is a glorified cameo. I've always been a fan of Baldwin's, though I generally stop short of calling him a badass because of his reputation for being thin-skinned. But you make a compelling argument. "Here's the Thing" is a great podcast.
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