DAVE DAVIES, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross, who's off this week. Our guest, Alec Baldwin, is appearing in two movies this summer, Woody Allen's "To Rome with Love" and "Rock of Ages," adapted from the Broadway musical, two very different roles for an actor who's had a career of interesting turns.
In the '80s and '90s, he became a Hollywood star with his leading-man looks and roles in films including "Beetlejuice," "Married to the Mob," "Working Girl," "Glengarry Glen Ross" and "Hunt for Red October." But he's also found success in comedy, guest hosting "Saturday Night Live" for a record 16 times and for six seasons playing TV executive Jack Donaghy in the hit NBC series "30 Rock."
In the new movies, he plays a long-haired club owner in the musical "Rock of Ages," and in Woody Allen's film "To Rome with Love" he plays a middle-aged architect who's vacationing in Rome, where he'd lived decades before. Walking around the city, he meets a young man played by Jesse Eisenberg and goes to the apartment where the young man lives with his girlfriend, played by Greta Gerwig.
Baldwin's character becomes a muse of sorts, giving Eisenberg's character advice only he can hear, as he does in this scene, when Gerwig's character explains that an old friend is coming to visit.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "TO ROME WITH LOVE")
GRETA GERWIG: (As Sally) Oh my gosh, my friend, Monica, she called. She's going to be in Rome, and I told her she could stay with us.
JESSE EISENBERG: (As Jack) Oh, so I'll finally get to meet her.
GERWIG: (As Sally) She just broke up with her boyfriend, so she's a bit at loose ends.
ALEC BALDWIN: (As John) Trouble, trouble in River City.
EISENBERG: (As Jack) What trouble? Why, why trouble?
GERWIG: (As Sally) You're just going to love her. She's smart and funny and interesting. Men just adore her. I think it's because of the sexual vibe that she gives off.
EISENBERG: (As Jack) Uh-huh. And how long is she coming for?
GERWIG: (As Sally) Oh, I don't know. Between the breakup and then her acting career isn't going that well...
BALDWIN: (As John) Jesus Christ, can't you see this situation is fraught with peril?
EISENBERG: (As Jack) Come on, give me a break. Her friend is coming. What do I care? I'm not looking for anything. I'm perfectly happy with Sally, and actually, judging from Sally's description, Monica's kind of like a neurotic, unpredictable type.
BALDWIN: (As John) Beautiful, funny, smart, sexual, and also neurotic - it's like filling an inside straight. Monica - even her name is hot.
DAVIES: Well, Alec Baldwin, welcome back to FRESH AIR. You know, your character, John, is an architect, and he's older now, and he used to live in Rome, and he's sort of seeing these kids go through stuff like things he may have gone through. Why don't you just tell us a little bit about your character, John, and the role he plays with these three young people that he's around.
BALDWIN: Well, my character is in Rome on vacation with my wife and two other friends, and I leave them at the onset of our segment. I leave them and I go off and take a walk, and then it winds up being a very particular walk. I'm kind of walking through time, really, and I meet someone who arguably or not is a younger me.
And I go back in time to witness these events and things like that and situations in Rome that - it may or not be me literally speaking to my younger self and trying to get that younger guy to avoid some of the mistakes he made.
DAVIES: Did you have a back story in your head about John's life?
BALDWIN: Yeah. I think that you really don't need one. You know, with Woody, you know, it's all, it's all there. You know, there's a lot of times if the film is not as well-written, you wind up hungering for things that aren't there. You get - as an actor sometimes you get very kind of proppy. I've done films where you're like, well, let's talk about my character's luggage, you know.
BALDWIN: You just - you kind of go crazy because you're thinking - you're struggling for things to kind of fill in these holes because there's just not enough on the page for you to play. And I think if it's well-written, and you have a pretty clear understanding of what everybody wants, you just say the words to the best of your ability, and it pretty much takes care of itself.
DAVIES: You know, you're here in this film playing a guy with young people who are engaged in this romantic fling that, you know, seems familiar, and making mistakes, and you're kind of giving the Jesse Eisenberg character advice from the perspective of experience.
And it occurred to me, you're an actor here, a veteran who's been around a lot, with two very young, very successful actors - well three, really - Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page and Greta Gerwig. Did you feel kind of this relationship replicated at all on the set, like you were, I don't know, knew things that they didn't and could help them?
BALDWIN: Well, I don't think I would ever try to tell people anything about the work they're doing in general, but let alone people who are at that level, because all of them are very experienced. You know, Ellen is someone who's made a lot of films, and she's very successful in the film business, and she's very talented. I mean, it's just apparent when you work with her just how gifted she is and the way she can act in front of a camera.
And Jesse too. I mean, I always remember when I saw the movie "Roger Dodger" years ago, how I feel in love with his acting, and I really liked him a lot. Greta I had not seen as much, but the - but she's wonderful too, and very - and very direct, you know, and keeps it very simple, which I like.
And I would never dream of saying anything to them. Like if someone asked me something and they said, oh, what do you think - and with Woody, most often people talk to each other like, do you think he liked it? Because Woody's so quiet.
BALDWIN: I think all of us turn to each other and say: Do you think he's liking what we're doing? Like Jesse would say: How do you think this is going? And I'd say: I don't know. How do you think it's going? So it's all - it's a little - yeah, Woody is so quiet. You know, he's so, you know, recessed. He doesn't really talk a lot. So it's - you do get a little - these little pangs of insecurity sometimes.
DAVIES: Right, so how did any of you ever know that you were getting it right? You moved on?
BALDWIN: You didn't, you didn't. If you remained in the film and weren't cut out of the film, that was a clue that he kind of liked what you did, but it's the opposite of what you get a lot in filmmaking, where people walk up to you and say everything's great. You know, you do something that's very plain or very ordinary or very simple or even banal, and people are walking up to you saying that was great.
You know, and you do get - I mean, some people I know, they don't want that either. You know, they don't want to be rewarded for nothing. But I think that, you know, that we really were all the same, actually. We're all in the same boat, which was A) we were in Rome, which is just an incredible place to shoot, and we were all very happy to be in Rome, because Woody shoots very civil days.
There are some times you make films and you travel places, and the take that people in the business have is that the worst way to see a city is to shoot there because you work these long, you know, 12 and 13 and 14-hour days and you go home to the hotel, you eat, or you go to the gym, and you pass out. And you don't have a chance to explore, unless, of course, you have a lot of days off, you have a more forgiving schedule.
But Woody shoots very civil days. You know, you work 10 or 11 hours, and they're never long, long days. He likes to work at a very moderate pace. And he wants to work hard, he wants everyone to know their lines and get to the better take as soon as possible, we can't really luxuriate, but this was an opportunity to relax and to see Rome.
You know, every night we would go for nice walks. My girlfriend and I would walk around Rome, and I just love Rome. I mean Rome really does cast a spell on you.
DAVIES: Well, maybe some people were surprised to see you in "Rock of Ages." You're there, a middle-aged guy with long hair who owns a bar called, what is it, the Bourbon Club?
BALDWIN: The Bourbon Room.
DAVIES: The Bourbon Room, right. Were you a rocker back in the '70s and '80s? Did you connect with this at all?
BALDWIN: No. I mean I listened to the music I listened to growing up, but I wasn't somebody who was - got into the hair and the, you know, the clothes and jewelry and rings...
DAVIES: And going to concerts and head-banging...
BALDWIN: Yeah, I went to some concerts in the '70s. When I was a kid, I went to, you know, not a lot, but I went to a few. But I never was much of a, you know, wearing a vest and a Kiss T-shirt and a lot of beads and stuff like that. I wasn't - tattoos, I didn't do that.
But I think that, oddly enough, this period is right around the time that I turned off popular music on the radio, and I almost never listened to it again after that, about 1985 is when I kind of switched over to classical music and I discovered classical music on the radio in Los Angeles, and I've pretty much stayed with that since then.
There's almost no popular music I listen to now. I mean I'll hear it because it's everywhere, it's in the gym or it's in the coffee shop, it's playing, and it's in the shopping mall. You know, music is ubiquitous now. But music of that type tends to speak to people, you know, in their teens or their 20s, you know, when they're younger. And I was getting closer to 30 then. So I just had no desire to listen to that music - of my youth.
You know, and I still listen to music every now and then from my youth, you know, the Stones and the Beatles and the Who and Led Zeppelin and Woodstock and Crosby Stills and this and that. There's a lot of music from my childhood and my youth that I still listen to.
The radio show that I do for WNYC, we just interviewed Peter Frampton for that show, and that was really a thrill because he had that great iconic album he released in '76 - '75 I believe.
DAVIES: So how did you end up in this film? It's based on the Broadway show.
BALDWIN: I have no idea.
BALDWIN: I have literally no idea. Obviously, there were six other guys they wanted, and they couldn't get them, and they came to me and asked me to do it.
DAVIES: There's a moment I wanted to play from the film. This is a scene where you get to sing with Russell Brand, who's also at the club, and you discover that your friendship is perhaps something more, and you sing this duet. It's the old REO Speedwagon song "Can't Fight This Feeling." Let's listen. We hear Russell Brand sing first.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CAN'T FIGHT THIS FEELING")
RUSSELL BRAND: (as Lonny) (Singing) I can't fight this feeling any longer. And yet I'm still afraid to let it flow. What started out as friendship has grown stronger, I only wish I had the strength to let it show.
BALDWIN: (as Dennis Dupree) (Singing) I tell myself that I can't hold out forever. I said there is no reason for my fear, 'cause I feel so secure when we're together, you give my life direction, you make everything so clear.
ALEC BALDWIN AND RUSSELL BRAND: (as Dennis and Lonny) (Singing) And even as I wander, I'm keeping you in sight. You're a candle in the window on a cold, dark winter's night. And I'm getting closer than I ever thought I might. And I can't fight this feeling anymore. I've forgotten what I started fighting for...
DAVIES: And that is our guest, Alec Baldwin, with Russell Brand.
DAVIES: Singing "Can't Fight This Feeling."
BALDWIN: Doesn't Russell sound great?
DAVIES: Oh, I think you manage to pull this off pretty well. Have you done...
BALDWIN: I think a lot of that's the computer. They put you through the sweetener there, I think - I think they put professional musicians through the sweetener, so why not me. But can't you see how Russell could be a real rock star? I mean, he is such an exotic animal. When I worked with him - I love him, first of all.
I had more fun with him than probably - I mean, I had one of the best times of my life with him. He's funny and smart. I had a ball with him. I mean, I think other than seeing Tom Cruise do what Tom did, which was so overwhelming - I mean Tom really, really became the character, and unlike me, who I don't think I really can sing, even though I might have it in my head or my heart, I just don't have the vocal cords really to sing well.
But Tom went and studied with a vocal coach and a dance coach, and he had all these people he rehearsed with and worked so hard for several weeks before they rolled the camera. And Tom came in and - I mean everybody's mouth was on the floor. He just knocked everybody out. You could have just made a movie about Tom.
DAVIES: It's pretty amazing. I mean he plays this iconic rock star who performs without his shirt and just, right, well, it's...
BALDWIN: Well, Tom, you know, it's funny because everybody thinks - I mean, I used to have the same attitude. I used to look at people in the business as I came up and saw them who were pure movie actors of a certain type, where a lot of technology is at the fore, and action, and the demands for them in terms of acting were not that great.
And I - you know, Tom is one of the biggest movie stars of the last 50 years, and he's had a great career in films, but he's taken time along the way to do other things, to - you know, whether it's "Magnolia" or whether it's "Born on the Fourth of July." I mean, he still has a career he has to tend to as a great movie star in that sense, but he stops along the way.
"Tropic Thunder" was something recently, and then he did this, and I can't tell you how impressed everyone was. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: Tom Cruise was in "Days of Thunder," not "Tropic Thunder."]
And I think Russell really knocked people out because he's so funny.
DAVIES: But I did want to get back to the scene where you and he discover your affection for one another. It ends with a kiss. Do you want to just talk a little bit about making that scene?
BALDWIN: I mean, I enjoyed kissing Russell more than most of the women I've had to kiss in the movies, you know, because I just really liked him so much, you know. I mean, some of the women I've worked with in film, not that I didn't like them, but they weren't - they certainly weren't anywhere near as interesting as Russell.
Some of them were, but some of them weren't, because Russell's just such a kind of a fascinating character. And you don't really think about that. I mean, I don't - in this day and age, you know, I mean I've been sent scripts, not now because I'm older, but I was sent scripts years ago, 10, 15 years ago, where they wanted you to have love scenes with another guy.
You know, before "Brokeback Mountain," there were people who were pushing that kind of an envelope, where they wanted you to have a - I'm not saying hardcore sex, but they wanted you to have intimacy with someone in a film. And that never really bothered me because I thought, well, it's not me doing that, it's the character.
Even though I might not have the predilection for that, you have to play the part. You know, it's the old line, you know, when you have to play Hitler, you're going to play Hitler.
DAVIES: Well, I'm glad that at least this kiss was with somebody that it meant something to you.
BALDWIN: It meant a great deal to me.
DAVIES: Our guest is Alec Baldwin. He stars in the new film "Rock of Ages" and also in the Woody Allen film "To Rome With Love." More after a short break. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
DAVIES: If you're just joining us, we're speaking with actor Alec Baldwin. He stars in the new Woody Allen film "To Rome with Love" and also is in the musical "Rock of Ages."
In the '80s and '90s, you did so many dramatic roles that got a lot of attention, you know, "Working Girl," "Glengarry Glen Ross," "Hunt for Red October." And I know that you started in TV - you know, you did a daytime soap and then "Knots Landing." Did you ever imagine that you'd be working in a TV sitcom?
BALDWIN: I didn't really think about it. I had put my toe in the water to do a television show, and most of it had to do with lifestyle. I was divorced and my daughter lived in Los Angeles, and I needed to have a regular schedule. And in the film business very often you have no idea where you're going to be six months from now.
You know, you wake up one day and someone says we're going to go to Australia. And there may be a creative opportunity there or even a commercial opportunity there, but I grew very weary of that. And television to me was - although it wasn't necessarily as creatively diverse as filmmaking can be, it was the lifestyle choice that I needed to make.
And then Lorne Michaels, who's been a friend of mine for years, came to me and said do you want to do this show. And I thought, well, it shoots in New York, Tina's the writer, and Tina's obviously an incredibly talented woman. And...
DAVIES: Tina Fey, yeah.
BALDWIN: Tina Fey. And the schedule was such where it really was easy for me to have time off to go see my daughter, who lives in Los Angeles. So I was commuting there a lot. I would go there every other weekend when she was much younger. And I did that show, and then the miracle was that it was creatively as successful as it was.
I mean, the ratings for "30 Rock" have never been big, but creatively it was a big, big bonanza. You know, there was a - like, after the second year, that second, third and fourth year, we won all these prizes again and again and again. And everybody was very gratified by that. And plus, there was the thing where we were up against Sorkin's show.
Sorkin wrote "Studio 60," and we thought, you know, they're going to win and we're going to lose, they're going to get rid of one of us. And we thought it was definitely going to be us because of Sorkin and Matthew Perry and Brad Whitford, and there was all these people who had these legacy relationships with NBC.
But we survived, and we were kind of blown away by that. So we did the show, and now this coming fall we have 13 episodes in a shortened seventh season, and then we're done, we're off the air, the show is over.
DAVIES: Let's listen to a clip. Your scene is Jack Donaghy, he's a, you know, a TV executive, and of course Tina Fey plays Liz Lemon, who I guess is the head writer of a show, kind of like herself. And the relationship between the two is fascinating. This is a scene from season six, where Jack Donaghy has seen Tina Fey kissing a man on the street and tries to find out who she's seeing.
Usually she confides a lot of her life to him. She suspects he won't approve of this new guy. Anyway, let's listen.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW "30 ROCK")
BALDWIN: (As Jack Donaghy) Lemon.
TINA FEY: (As Liz Lemon) I'm on top of the Tracy thing. I just spoke to him.
BALDWIN: Actually, I want to talk to you about something else. Because of my unfortunate situation with Avery, I'm alone. And I know of course that you're not seeing anyone. Therefore I've decided that you and I should become friends with benefits.
FEY: No, thank you, please.
BALDWIN: A-ha, the only reason you would reject that offer is if you had a secret boyfriend.
FEY: Right, that's the only reason.
BALDWIN: I saw you, Lemon, at the movies last night with your mouth on a man. Why would you keep this from me after all of our time together? This is hurtful, Elizabeth. What's his name?
FEY: I don't want to tell you.
BALDWIN: Why? Is it a stupid name like Dakota or Barack?
FEY: His name is Criss, and I'm sorry, but for my own reasons...
BALDWIN: And Criss is spelled?
FEY: No H and two S's. That! - right there, that's why I didn't want to tell you, because I knew you wouldn't approve of him.
BALDWIN: Why? What does he do for a living?
FEY: Criss is trying to...
BALDWIN: You can stop right there.
FEY: He's an entrepreneur. He is currently meeting with investors in the hopes of starting an organic gourmet hotdog truck.
BALDWIN: Lemon, I have said good God to you before, but I don't think I've ever meant it until now. Good God! Where does this person live?
FEY: Don't worry about it.
BALDWIN: How bad can it be, Jersey City? His parents' apartment? It's not a walkup, is it?
DAVIES: That's our guest, Alec Baldwin, and Tina Fey on "30 Rock." You've known a lot of entertainment executives in your days. Did you draw on any of them in creating Jack Donaghy?
BALDWIN: When the show first started, GE owned NBC, or they had the controlling interest in NBC. And so we spent many years sending up the GE culture, but I mean in a very funny way, and the GE people would laugh. Jeff Immelt would come to the set like once or twice a year and say, you know, you guys are funny.
And the character was kind of a prototype of a GE executive, and in his personal life, in his personal ethic, he's Lorne Michaels. He's going to live a certain lifestyle in terms of comfort and creature comforts. And as I always say, Lorne is someone who has a tuxedo in the glove compartment of his car.
You know, he goes to events, and he's very much in the - he's very much a pillar of the social network and the power structure of New York media and so forth. And so - and Lorne is a friend, and I adore Lorne. But we do stick it to Lorne a lot.
DAVIES: Alec Baldwin stars in "30 Rock," and he appears in the new musical "Rock of Ages" and the new Woody Allen comedy "To Rome with Love." He'll be back in the second half of the show. I'm Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross, who is off this week.
We're speaking with actor Alec Baldwin. He starred in dozens of movies, including "Beetlejuice," "Married to the Mob," "Glengarry Glen Ross," and "Hunt for Red October." He's appearing in two new films, the musical "Rock of Ages," and the new Woody Allen comedy "To Rome with Love," and for six seasons, he's played TV executive Jack Donaghy in the hit NBC series "30 Rock."
Baldwin said while his character is often described as arrogant, he doesn't see the role that way.
BALDWIN: To me, I never think of it as smug or arrogant or self-important. I just think of it as a guy who's in a hurry and he has no apologies. You know, he's someone who - I mean there's a lot of people today who you go into rooms with people and you're trying to convince people to do what you want them to do, you're trying to get permission from them to do what you want to do, and this guy is much more of a, you know, from the Patton school, you know, you don't ask, you tell. You don't wait to see how people feel about it. You know, we don't sit down and hold hands in some human resources meeting to make sure everybody's OK with the orders I'm giving. This guy is very old-school in that you just tell people what to do and you're just much more direct. And I never think of it, never do I think oh, how can I make this guy more arrogant, bombastic. I think to myself, there's something he wants, there's something he wants to get done and there's a way that he does it.
DAVIES: For him, life is simply more efficient if everyone recognizes that the way he sees things is the way they are.
BALDWIN: If everyone would just do what I tell them to do, when I tell them to do it, the way I tell them to do it, everything would be fine.
BALDWIN: And you would benefit too. All of you would benefit from it too if you would just listen to me, everything would be great. That's kind of, he's from that school.
DAVIES: I want to play one more clip. This is a clip from the third season of "30 Rock," in which Liz Lemon, Tina Fey's character, has been dating a guy, Drew, who is played by Jon Hamm, who is very handsome, and she has come back from lunch with a doggie bag from a very exclusive restaurant called Plunder and she's just amazed at the way life is when you're with someone who is this attractive. And your character, Jack Donaghy, explains about "the bubble." Let's listen.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "30 ROCK")
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
BALDWIN: (as Jack Donaghy) You went to Plunder for lunch? How did you get a table?
FEY: (as Liz Lemon) I don't know. It was packed, but they just gave Drew a table. It is ridiculous how people treat him. The chef sent over food. Ladies sent drinks. Mayor Bloomberg asked him to dance.
BALDWIN: Well, beautiful people are treated differently from moderately pleasant-looking people.
FEY: It's true.
BALDWIN: They live in a bubble - a bubble of free drinks, kindness and outdoor sex.
FEY: How did Drew turn out as well as he did going through life like that?
BALDWIN: The bubble isn't always a bad thing. Look at me. I turned out OK, didn't I?
FEY: Jack, I want you to pay close attention to the following over-the-top eye roll. Oh brother.
BALDWIN: Lemon, I don't share this often but this is a photo of me when I was 25 years old.
FEY: What the what? You have a Superman chest.
BALDWIN: I know.
FEY: Oh my God. The lady will have two tickets to the gun show. And your eyes were so much bluer. What happened to your eyes?
BALDWIN: My point is, Lemon, the bubble doesn't last forever, so get in there with Drew and enjoy those perks while you can.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
FEY: Can I keep that?
BALDWIN: No. It's my only copy.
BALDWIN: How awful.
DAVIES: Our guest, Alec Baldwin, with Tina Fey on a season three scene from "30 Rock." When you got that script, did you think about your days - I don't know - in a different kind of bubble when you were like that?
DAVIES: In your 20s and a hunk of Hollywood?
BALDWIN: When I made films, I really didn't kind of understand what I had gotten myself into. You know, and that's another thing I love about Tom, when we did "Rock of Ages," was Tom was someone who - he had a better understanding of what he had gotten himself into, you know, like and how to ride that wave and because moviemaking is a very unique thing and making movies on that level is a very unique thing. And I did that for a few years and I realized that you really do need to make it the most important thing in your life, which I guess I wasn't willing to do.
You know, starring in films for studios and, you know, those kind of big-ticket films, you get a period of time, especially when you're younger, and then when that doesn't work out, your career evolves into something else. You go do independent films and there's less money at stake and it's more - I think it's less risky, the investment for people, obviously. And then you turn around and you're 40 and then you turn around and you're 50.
I think the thing to try to do along the way is just to try to learn more about acting and how to do it better, you know, whatever that means, to economize and to commit and to be more honest and to try to vary it and not duplicate what you've done before. That's the one thing about the TV show that is tough is that you do play in the same key all the time. And even though the writing itself is clever, when the show ends - I guess it is ending at a good time because I do find myself very, very ready to stop playing in that key because it has been seven years.
DAVIES: You know, I read an interview with you in 2009 when you said you thought that your acting career would end with "30 Rock," and sort of imagined yourself maybe growing old with a kid who didn't even know you were in the movies.
DAVIES: Now I look and I see you've got I think five movies in production or pre-production. I guess your thinking changed on this?
BALDWIN: No, I don't. I mean I don't know where people - I think IMDb sometimes just prints, you know, your name is attached to anything if your name comes up.
BALDWIN: You know, you can...
DAVIES: That's the Internet movie database that everybody uses, including us and maybe should less, you're telling us.
BALDWIN: Right. Well, no, no. I love IMDb. I think it's a great resource, but I think that sometimes they just have a tendency to say any film that you're even remotely discussed doing, they put that down as pending, but I - the only film I'm going to do is Woody's new film this fall.
BALDWIN: And then I'm supposed to do a play in New York. I can't say what it is yet, but I think I'm going to do a play in February. And then the - yeah, I mean I would like to do something else for a while. I'd like to stop doing this for a while because I've done it for 32 years and I'm very, very intrigued by that idea, to have a nice big piece of time off and do something completely unrelated to what I'm doing now.
DAVIES: But you have done some interesting things lately in radio. You still host the New York Philharmonic show on W, the classical music station in New York?
BALDWIN: "The New York Philharmonic This Week"...
DAVIES: Right. Yeah.
BALDWIN: ...which is their program that airs on QXR in New York, it's produced by WFMT in Chicago. I've been the radio announcer for them. This is my third - the end of my third season just ended. That's one of my favorite things I've ever done because just to be a part of that, such a soothing and an elegant world of the classical repertoire is such a joy for me. And then I have my own show on WNYC, "Here's the Thing," that podcasts on the NYC website, and then we're going to go to broadcast I think this fall. And that I've really enjoyed as well because I love to talk to people and get down to a different kind of conversation about, you know, not so much the facts like well, then you did this and then you did this, and then you did this, and more talk about how they feel about what they do and what they're really - and try to ask questions that I know I don't get asked that often and I had a hunch that they didn't either.
DAVIES: You know, you've talked about running for office also at times, mayor of New York, the Senate. Is that something you still think about?
BALDWIN: Well, I think that it's tough these days, I mean I've had these difficulties lately with the press. I've had this stuff here in New York where I was - this guy almost hit me in the face with a camera here in New York the other day. And I find that it's very, very difficult now to navigate those waters. I mean everybody I've ever worked with, you know, 99.9 percent of the time I've had a successful or at least, you know, a very agreeable experience with. And there are these legit press opportunities you have that you do. And then there's what I call the illegitimate press and they, in the age of the Internet, they're very strong. They're very omnipresent. And dealing with them becomes, I think for me, what I'm learning now in this last go-around is that my desire to live a normal life - like to have an apartment in New York and a home in New York and to walk out the door like any other New Yorker does and just live my life, it - sometimes it's not possible. And I know people who live this much more insulated life in Los Angeles where their feet, like, never touch public ground. They walk out of their bathroom, they walk out of their living room, they walk into their garage, they get into their car and the next thing you know they're at the valet parking of the restaurant or the store or the office. They're just never - they're in a bubble the whole time. It's very hermetic. And I never wanted to live that kind of life. I hated that idea. But I'm beginning to see now how it really does becomes necessary, kind of. It's sad. It makes me sad, but it's true.
DAVIES: Well, Alec Baldwin, it's been great. Thank you so much for joining us.
BALDWIN: Thank you.
DAVIES: Alec Baldwin appears in the new musical "Rock of Ages" and the new Woody Allen comedy "To Rome with Love." And he'll play TV executive Jack Donaghy for the seventh and final season on the NBC series "30 Rock." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
The star of 30 Rock has two films out this summer. He plays a club owner in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical Rock of Ages. And he travels to Italy with an ensemble cast for Woody Allen's To Rome with Love.
Alec Baldwin stars in two movies this summer — and they couldn't be more different.
In Woody Allen's To Rome with Love, Baldwin joins an ensemble cast including Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Roberto Benigni and Penelope Cruz as they romp around the Eternal City — running into trouble, weathering existential crises and falling in — and out — of love.
Meanwhile, in Adam Shankman's Rock of Ages, the big-screen adaptation of the jukebox Broadway musical, Baldwin dons long locks and joins Tom Cruise, Russell Brand, Bryan Cranston, and Catherine Zeta-Jones in homage to '80s rock 'n' roll.
And, of course, he's still playing TV executive Jack Donaghy on the NBC hit sitcom 30 Rock. It's a far cry from his more dramatic roles in the '80s, '90s and 2000s, when he starred in movies like The Hunt for Red October, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Departed and The Cooler.
He tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies that he decided to make the switch from movies to TV a decade ago, mainly because it better suited his schedule as a father.
"Often in films, you have no idea where you're going to be six months from now," he says. "And I grew very weary of that. And television, although it wasn't necessarily as creatively diverse as filmmaking can be, it was the lifestyle choice that I needed to make."
Playing Jack Donaghy for seven seasons has established Baldwin as a tour de force in the comedy world. He based the character, he says, on several already-existing GE and NBC executives — and SNL creator Lorne Michaels.
"Professionally, he's a prototype of several GE executives, but in his personal life, he's [SNL creator] Lorne Michaels. As I always say, 'Lorne is someone who has a tuxedo in the glove compartment of his car.' And Lorne is a friend, and I adore Lorne. But we do stick it to Lorne a lot," says Baldwin.
He says he also thinks of Donaghy as a guy who's always in a hurry — a guy who likes to get things done.
"I never think, 'Oh, how can I make this guy more arrogant or bombastic?' " he says. "I think to myself, 'There's something he wants, and he wants to get it done.' You have to think, 'What does he want? And how does he go about getting it?' "
On public scrutiny
"I've had these difficulties lately with the press. This guy almost hit me in the face with a camera in New York the other day. And I find that it's very, very difficult now to navigate those waters. Everybody I've ever worked with — 99.9 percent of the time, I've had a successful or very agreeable experience with. And there are these legit press opportunities that you do, and then there's what I call the illegitimate press, and in the age of the Internet, they're very strong and they're very omnipresent, and dealing with them becomes — and what I'm learning in this last go-round is that my desire to live a normal life — to have an apartment in New York and to walk out the door like any other New Yorker does, and just live my life — it sometimes, it's not possible. I know some people who live this much more insulated life in Los Angeles, where their feet never touch public ground. They walk out of their bathroom, their living room, they get into their garage, their car, and the next thing you know, they're at the valet parking of the restaurant or the store or the office. They're in a bubble the whole time. It's very hermetic. And I never wanted to live that kind of life. I hated that idea. But I'm beginning to see now it really does become necessary. It's sad. It makes me sad."
On working with Woody Allen
"You don't really need [a backstory] with Woody. With Woody, it's all there. There's a lot of times, if the film is not as well-written, you end up hungering for things that aren't there. As an actor, you get very proppy. I've done films where it's been like, 'Let's talk about my character's luggage.' You go crazy because you're struggling to fill in these holes because there's not enough on the page for you to play. I think if it's well written and you have a clear understanding of what everybody wants, you just say the words to the best of your ability and it pretty much takes care of itself."
On location-based shoots
"There are some times when you make films and you travel places, and the take that people in the business have is that the worst way to see a city is to shoot there, because you work these long 12-, 13- and 14-hour days, and you go home to the hotel, you eat and you pass out. And you don't have a chance to explore, unless you have a lot of days off. But Woody shoots very civil days. You work 10 or 11 hours, and they're never long, long days. He likes to work at a very moderate pace. He wants to work hard and he wants everyone to know their lines and get to a better take. We can't luxuriate. But this was an opportunity to relax and see Rome. Every night my girlfriend and I would walk around Rome. And I just love Rome. It really does cast a spell on you."
On his musical interests
"I turned popular music on the radio, and I never listened to it again after that, in about 1985. That's when I switched over to classical music, and I pretty much stayed with that since then. There's almost no popular music I listen to now. I'll hear it because it's everywhere. ... Music is ubiquitous now."