From his unwavering support of the Hamptons International Film Festival (which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year!) to his enlightening performances at Guild Hall, Alec Baldwin frankly owns the East End cultural scene. Add to that the not-to-be-missed signing of his memoir, Nevertheless, at the East Hampton Library and his dance card is full. Meet the maker of your summer plans.
How did your relationship with Guild Hall begin?
I’ve been involved with Guild Hall since Mickey Straus was alive. I would watch performances and readings there. The board of Guild Hall is heavy in favor of the museum crowd, the art crowd. And the theater has often been the redheaded stepchild of that operation, where people don’t support the programs as much; they’re much more interested in art and the gallery and so forth.
And for you it’s about the theater, about creating a place for performances?
I saw there was a need to bolster the theater operations. I had left the board of Bay Street Theater—that was also a critical thing for me. When Steve Hamilton and Emma Walton left Bay Street Theater—they were my touchstones there. For a while I wasn’t on any board in the Hamptons. I then decided to join the Guild Hall board so I could have my hand in something theatrical out here in my limited spare time.
Speaking of limited time, you have a very busy summer here in the Hamptons. In July you had the reading of Gross Points by Ira Lewis at Guild Hall, where you reprised the lead role of Johnny Checco. How was this piece selected?
I had done the play in 2001. Our first invited dress rehearsal was on September 11 itself, so we canceled the show. We went on stage the next day and did the show on Wednesday, September 12. It was a very intense experience—people were crying and thanking us for giving them something to take their minds off that. We did the play for four weeks—it was very successful, people thought it was very funny. Hamilton [who directed it] and I both had this odd obsession with that material because we thought it was so weird and funny. And so we, just as a joke, said, “Let’s do an anniversary reading.” It wasn’t really an anniversary, it was 16 years ago, but he was very keen on that. We got a group of friends and people we all knew in the theater out here, and we did the reading for fun. We loved it.
Your relationship with the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) has deep roots.
About 10 years ago, I got a pass to go to the festival, just to check it out. I had a weekend in the fall that I wasn’t working, and I decided to spend some time examining more closely what they were doing. I thought, Who needs another film festival when you’ve got plenty in New York? And then I attended, and I really grew to like it a lot, and they invited me to join the board. I went to see four or five films in a weekend, which is not a lot, but that completely changed my mind because there were [films] that I thought belonged out here that were indigenous to here, that were more of the culture here.
It was Stuart Match Suna, the president of Silvercup Studios, who asked you to join, correct?
Yes, Suna, who was the head of it, asked me to join the board. When I shot 30 Rock with Suna at Silvercup, he would come down to my dressing room and we had a lot of chats about HIFF and coordinated things to grow the festival. Eventually [we got] Anne Chaisson to come on.
You also host SummerDocs as part of HIFF, this year presenting the film Trophy and hosting the screening of Icarus, on August 26.
As my commitment to HIFF has grown, this program is what I’m most keen on. SummerDocs was something that David Nugent and I created as a very simple idea about a documentary film festival. But the landscape and the marketplace for documentary films has changed a great deal in the last several years—the competition to book great documentary films has changed so much. Now it’s a surging market.
Trophy is one of those pieces I have worked sporadically on in the animal rights field, [focusing on] animals in performance—circuses, zoos, rodeos—and battling on that front. I work with the Performing Animal Welfare Society in San Andreas, and I work with PETA doing voice-overs for them about beef, poultry, and pork production and the environmental hazards involved there.
At Guild Hall this week, you kicked off a three-part series with Tracy Marshall. “Climate Change in a New ‘Environment’” was on August 8, followed by “The Trump Presidency and the Constitution” on August 14 and “The New Normal in News: Ideology vs. Fact” on August 21.
What Tracy Marshall and I did was revive, at the request of Andrea Grover, executive director at Guild Hall, the old Hamptons Institute that Mickey Straus had put together. Mickey and another benefactor had laid out all the money to bring the talent, the participants and panelists, here. When Mickey passed, it was a huge blow to the organization, and the Hamptons Institute died for a couple years. So we raised some money and we are redoing the Hamptons Institute—the one that Mickey had done. We did it with a little bit of trepidation, because I thought it’s [something] where you live or die by who you cast. Who are you going to get to do this? Are they well known or are they really just these dazzling authorities? Who’s going to show up, and therefore what kind of a program are we going to have? How are we going to be received? We have a tremendous group this year. The second [presentation] is with Michael Klarman, the professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, who is the most blazingly bright man you have ever met. The final one, “The New Normal in News: Ideology vs. Fact,” which I am moderating, is all about the discussion of fake news versus mainstream media.
You also have East Hampton Library’s Authors Night on August 12, where you will be signing your memoir, Nevertheless. Can you tell us about it?
The book, for better or for worse, is the only kind of book I really knew how to write. I wanted to write about what was important to me—my childhood, what excited me in my career. And a lot of that was just other people and famous people that I had known. Work is something that when I do it, I am very engaged in it, unless the material is terrible. But when it was over, it was over. I didn’t really care to think about it too much after it was done. I never sit back and talk about when I made this movie or made that movie, only in the context of admiring people that I’ve worked with. Any self-referential thing has zero interest to me. And I think doing what I’ve done for a living has mostly been about the joy of working with other people.
You and your wife started the Hilaria & Alec Baldwin Foundation, which is sponsoring many of the works you’re supporting.
I’ve been giving to organizations as an individual for a while, and then I decided to form a foundation. I [wanted] to go out there and more aggressively try to secure funding for these projects. I started doing some distinctive things to raise money for the foundation, like the Capital One commercials I did for five years. I had never done an on-camera commercial in my life prior to Capital One, nor did I want to—it was always frowned upon in the business. Then suddenly I said, “I really don’t give a shit. I’m giving all the money away; I really don’t care what people think of me. If they think I’m a whore because I’m doing these commercials, okay, then I’m a big whore, I’m a giant whore.” So I went and did that.
You have given so much to the Hamptons community; what do you love about being here? I
love going to Indian Wells Beach. I live in Amagansett, and one of the great things about it is that it’s small. You can live where my wife and I live and be near the beach, or you’re near the bay and the little village, where you can shop and have lunch. The other thing I love is to go out on my boat. When you have a boat, you are really, really lucky [because] you see all of the real benefits of being here and you have peace and quiet away from the crowds. But I have to say my favorite thing to do is absolutely nothing, just be with my kids. My wife and I have three little kids, and everything in our life is about them. In fact, I’m going to go out on the boat with the kids right now...