I worked in Los Angeles for three months when I was in my 20s and never even saw a movie star, never mind hung out with one. But then, Caren Jeskey is living a far more interesting life than I am. Her Saturday report:
Summer 1995. A handsome young man walked into our regular little coffee shop on Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica. He was overdressed in the rumply elegant way of a rich person wearing fine fibers, juxtaposed by our cut-off jean shorts. My friend and roommate Jayne and I spent hours at that shop. We’d play backgammon addictively, smoke Marlboro lights, and drink coffee for hours on end on our days off.
With a warm smile and bright, beaming eyes, the tanned, brown haired stranger asked if he could join us. “Of course,” we said. Why not? The three of us sat around an oval table drinking coffee and tea, and he got a scone. He and Jayne talked The Birthright Israel and Kibbutzim.
He leaned back in the sturdy wooden chair a few times, and rested the back of his head on clasped palms in a pleased way. I was not privy to the thoughts in his head, but can imagine them now. “This is nice. They don’t know who I am. I can just be another guy today.”
After a while he looked at the time and said “I have to get going. My wife was getting her hair cut next door and she’s probably done by now.” We said our goodbyes. When he left the owner looked at us, laughing. “That was Alec Baldwin.”
My first thought was “Kim Basinger is next door.” I just loved it. I’d always rather liked Alec, especially in "Glengarry Glen Ross." During my time in Lalaland I managed to meet Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Sinead O’Connor, and now a Baldwin brother.
This must have been shortly before Alec assaulted a photographer a few days after Kim gave birth that October. It was 12 years before he called his 11 year old daughter a “little pig” and threatened to “straighten [her] ass out” with a strangely cool tone. It was 16 years before he was removed from an airplane at LAX when he became belligerent after being told to stop playing Words With Friends on his phone.
I had not listened to the aforementioned message, nor did I know much if anything about his list of aggressive outbursts, until this week. Halyna Hutchins’ death hit me really hard, as I am sure it hit a lot of you. I actively followed the story this week, compelled to learn more. I sobbed at the horror of it all. Ms. Hutchins should not be dead. As I learned more about the chaos on the set, it got even sadder. Someone should have pulled the plug before this fatal disaster.
In 2008 I read a long profile Why Me? about the now infamous Baldwin in The New Yorker. I remembered thinking, at the time, “this poor guy. What a mess.” My heart went out to him back then.
I revisited the piece this week and could not stomach reading much of it this time around. The writer describes Alec as full of regrets and “very conscious of what’s lacking in his life.” It’s revealed that his brother William says, for Alec, “there’s always something to whine about.”
In the piece, Alec imagines himself as successful at Leo DiCaprio and declares ““I wish I were a horse—strong, free, my chestnut haunches glistening in the sun.”
He also dreams of versions of himself as a restaurant critic, the owner of an inn, and a radio DJ. Anyone but himself. With multiple awards and a great deal of financial and career success, he was still discontent. He pondered what it could be like to live a simple life rather than trying so hard to steer himself to an imagined better place.
There are multiple instances of Alec using aggressive language and glorifying violence. When he biked the wrong way down a New York street and got stopped by the police in 2014 he Tweeted “New York City is a mismanaged carnival of stupidity that is desperate for revenue and anxious to criminalize behavior once thought benign.” Um, just don’t bike the wrong way man.
He suggested beating the shit out of a drunk driver “for a couple of hours" as a just punishment. He claims that he is “not afraid of anybody. I don’t have a drop of fear in my whole body. Never. Never.” Clearly I’m not buying it. It seems that his whole life is based of a fear of not being seen. How ironic.
A chilling Tweet he published in 2017 is circulating on the web: “I wonder how it must feel to wrongfully kill someone.” I just wish Alec had grown up sooner, admitted his part in things that have gone wrong in his life, gotten help to learn to manage his anger, and perhaps gained some humility. If he had stopped chasing his elusive version of fame sooner, the world would be a happier place today.
I'm disappointed you are already rushing to judgment. Alec Baldwin is an entitled ass and likely a horrible human being to be around, but it's uncertain at the moment if he's more culpable in this incident than just being an unfortunate gunmen.ReplyDelete
Thanks for your comment and please see my response below.Delete
I'm not sure the point of this but have to say that it utterly missed the mark for me. Whatever Mr. Baldwin's issues, there is no current evidence that the fatal problems on the set of his movie were related. The guy was told that the gun he was handling was "cold"....that it did not even have blanks in it. It is not even clear that he pulled the trigger on the gun and there is no evidence at all that he had any idea there was real ammunition anywhere around. Several top propmasters have said that it is not the actor's job to check the gun. And it is unclear that he even touched the trigger. His "executive producer" title could lead to some ultimate responsibility, but as that is a non-active title in movies...mostly just a title (unlike on television shows), it has almost nothing to do with his personal actions. This seems like piling on a guy who had something pretty terrible happen to him. Why in the world did you feel a need to do that?ReplyDelete
What you're missing, and Caren didn't mention, is that Baldwin is also the producer of the movie. Everything that happened on the set is, ultimately, his responsibility, and the cutting corners the result of his lax management, false economy, and poor practices. So even if someone else had fired the fatal shot, he would still be, in a real sense, responsible.Delete
Agreed. This seems out of character for Caren who is almost always a champion of compassion. This certainly was not one of Alec’s transgressions. No anger involved. Just a tragic series of errors.Delete
I'm quite perplexed by your response. Not only was I not missing the part about Baldwin being a (not 'the') producer but I SPECIFICALLY discussed it, including the fact that, in general, in the movie industry (TV is different) an "executive producer" has NO involvement or responsibility for the production of the movie. It is often a title only for those who have provided resources (money, a path to money or a "name" to the movie). The "executive producer" has, in most cases NO "management" responsibility or even the ability to manage the production. We don't know if that was the case here. but given that there is no information at this point, the column seems quite mean spirited and unnecessary. And I believe the words are looking for are "oops, it was I who "missed" what you wrote."Delete
Oops, you're right. We're going out to brunch and I haven't made coffee. Not to blame lack of caffeine, mind you. Since this conversation is about taking responsibility for errors, I will own this one. My apologies.Delete
Don’t give Alec so much credit for the sad state of world affairs. There are others who are far ore culpable. The common thread of this group is narcissism, something Alec has no shortage of.ReplyDelete
Alec also finds himself in a group where one may “love the art but not the artist”. He’s in good company with members such as Eric Clapton and Mel Gibson.
Regarding the tragic shooting and Alec’s responsibility, my thoughts are no one should ever trust a gun that someone says is safe. Alec should not have taken that person’s word and checked for himself. He didn’t and now there are many damaged people (except for the lawyers).
I wonder how many actors check their guns before pulling the trigger.Delete
Wow, Les, what an odd response. Why pick on Clapton who also experienced a terrible tragedy (a truly horrific one) which was in no way related to any problematic behavior on his part. As for Baldwin's responsibility in checking the gun, my friends who work on movie sets say that the "standard in the industry" on most set (which is what negligence is judged by) is that the actor is not to check the gun him or her self. That unlike in almost every other circumstances where a person is handling a gun, there has been someone explicitly hired to take that responsibility on and that they don't want the actor handling the gun in that manner (spinning the chamber etc...). I don't know if those were the production rules on Rust but it's far too early to determine that at this point. My guess is that production rules may change in the future, but just because Baldwin in a kind of icky guy we don't get to make new rule post hac.ReplyDelete
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Sorry it had you feeling that way. I didn't mean to offend anyone with my opinion. It was just an observation.Delete
The thought of Clapton losing his young son in such a tragic way never crossed my mind.
What did cross my mind that he too, although supremely talented, is quite flawed. He is an outspoken vaccine skeptic. He even wrote a song about it called "This has Gotta Stop". Also on his list are the numerous racist things he has said through the years.
Thanks for you comments. I have a busy weekend so not sure I’ll be able to check back much, but I’ll do my best.ReplyDelete
I did a fair amount of research before wring my post, and to the best of my knowledge, these are the facts that I was responding to. Alec made a series of bad decisions by 1) Hiring and keeping assistant director David Halls on his set when the guy has had complaints since 2019 about issues regarding "safety and behavior” that’s cited in multiple sources. 2) Allowing producers to overrule the armorer's safety requests and ignoring her when she complained. 3) The set did not hold required safety meetings, according to what we know thus far, and the crew complained. 4) According to multiple sources the camera crew walked off the to set to protest safety conditions hours before the prop shooting. This is when Alec should have put his pride aside and thoroughly assess the situation. There are also questions about who should be handing guns to crew (I read in one piece that it should have only been the armorer, but I read somewhere else that it might be the assistant director at times, so not sure about that).
I am sure there are more facts that support my main point, which is that Alec Baldwin, on the set of his movie, allowed unsafe practices. The rules and safety measures are there for a reason and he, at the helm, was the ultimate person responsible. My heart goes out to him deeply, but I also feel that his “poor me” attitude only serves to allow bad behavior. I want him to get through this. I do not wish him ill. I’d help him if I could But this time it's not just yelling and ranting and raving.
It was clearly an accident but the same kind of accident that occurs when you allow a child to play with knives, from what I know now. I don’t care why, but there was live ammo in the gun and it should not have been there, and would not have been there if the rules were adhered to. If the truth fleshes out differently I will admit where I was wrong, but this is where I stand now.
Please cite to information that Mr Baldwin’s title as Executive Producer ( often a pure title with NO management responsibilities or abilities ) was acting in a management role on Rust. I have not seen information other than pure speculation about what his role is. EP credit is often “non-monetary compensation” for an actor. It gives that actor no ability to control hiring or production procedures in any way shape or form. The latest article from the NYT indicates that Mr Baldwin was spending his time learning and rehearsing his horse riding and gunslinger actions. The research you discuss involves those with management responsibilities. There is no indication Mr. Baldwin had been granted any ability whatsoever to control any aspect of the production or was aware of the details of it.Delete
Truth be told, Caren, I don’t even know who his siblings are. Nor do I care. I loved Alec’s Trump parodies on SNL, but otherwise, I see him as just another angry and entitled and violent Hollywood asshole. I have felt that way about him for a very long time. Sure, I could try to read that 2008 New Yorker profile, especially in light of the recent tragedy, but why waste my time on him? I don't like him enough to bother.ReplyDelete
Does he also have a history of abusing women? I'm surprised he was so nice to a couple of twentysomethings. He could easily have hit on you and picked you up and possibly assaulted and raped you. Or your roommate. Or both of you. Maybe he could have even wrongfully killed you. But he was in a good mood that day, so it all went well.
This may sound harsh, but I'm sorry that Alec Baldwin was not the one who was ventilated that day. The whole thing was a disaster waiting to happen, especially after he and his sidekicks tried to film on the cheap. They're called low-budget Westerns for a reason. They took shortcuts and they cut corners. And that stinginess cost a woman her life.
They hired a young blonde ditz, somebody's daughter. with little or no training or experience in handling weapons on a movie set. And then they gave her total responsibility for the firearms and ammo. What could possibly go wrong?
While many people seem happy to have this grief land on Baldwin's head simply due to his past misbehavior, it's a stretch to make him responsible for this, regardless of his co-producer credit. There is a clear-cut line of failures through a specific chain of crew command, beginning with having any live ammunition on-set to begin with through failure by the armorer to doublecheck the gun load (and really, people: it was a revolver. Not hard to check. Dump the cartridges into your hand and look at them. It's not even a 9mm automatic that could have a live round hidden in the chamber.). The gun could have been handed to any cast member with exactly the same result. Schadenfreude is going into overload here.ReplyDelete
“‘More than anything, it actually is the producer’s job to know what’s going on on your set,” said the producer who asked not to be named, “and if there’s problems, you have to deal with it right away. And it seems like there were these problems, and either these people weren’t experienced enough to know there was a problem or they didn’t care or didn’t have enough money. It just sounds really screwed up.’” https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2021-10-26/rust-alec-baldwin-producer-explained%3f_amp=trueDelete
While anonymous sources have their place, I'm swayed more by the people willing to go on record by name with different views in that same article.Delete
For example, "When you have a bunch of executives and managers and actors and people who aren’t really producers in a hands-on way, where you’re seeing to the cast and crew and the safety and the liability of the production, then who does the buck stop with?" (Film producer Mynette Louie) Also, "I don’t think on the ground there was any confusion about who’s in charge of what. I believe that, on most sets, it’s very clear. [...] Even though in the credits there might be an awful lot of EPs and producers on this, on the ground when something’s being produced, it’s very clear what the hierarchy is." (Tom Nunan, UCLA lecturer and executive producer)
Jennifer Gelfer, credited as Lead Producer on the 2016 Baldwin film "Blind," is more positive: "In terms of being careful and making sure everybody was taken care of, Alec, just as an actor, was always caring about that."
So depending on who you ask, he was either more or less culpable than those in the direct chain of supplying the movie armaments. Nevertheless, it was the crew holding the guns who messed up on their responsibilities, any one of whom could have averted disaster by simply checking their work as they were supposed to do. While Baldwin was a co-producer on the film, he was not one of those assigned to secure the weapons.
It was clearly an accident but the same kind of accident that occurs when you allow a child to play with knives, from what I know now. I don’t care why, but there was live ammo in the gun and it should not have been there, and would not have been there if the rules were adhered to. If the truth fleshes out differently I will admit where I was wrong, but this is where I stand now.ReplyDelete
(This duplicate is an error).Delete
Thanks again for your comments. I’m going to give this a rest.ReplyDelete