Here's The Thing with Alec Baldwin
Summary: From WNYC Studios, award-winning actor Alec Baldwin takes listeners into the lives of artists, policy makers and performers. Alec sidesteps the predictable by going inside the dressing rooms, apartments, and offices of people we want to understand better: Ira Glass, Lena Dunham, David Brooks, Roz Chast, Chris Rock and others. Hear what happens when an inveterate guest becomes a host. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts including Radiolab, Snap Judgment, On the Media, Death, Sex & Money, Nancy and many others. © WNYC Studios
Russ Tamblyn was born in Los Angeles in the middle of the Depression to a chorus girl and a Broadway "song and dance man." His father had moved his growing family west to press his luck in the talkies. Russ was a showbiz kid and found his talent young: Cecil B DeMille cast him as the young King Saul in Samson and Delilah when he was just 13 years old. Stardom came at 19 in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, where he stole scenes with his goofy enthusiasm and astonishingly acrobatic dancing. But the role that will go down in history is Riff in West Side Story. Tamblyn took a part that could have been just a young tough, and imbued it with such nuance, such balance between aggression and vulnerability, that every Riff since has been held up to him. In this funny, revealing conversation, Tamblyn tells Alec what it was like being part of the old Hollywood contract system (he was an MGM property) -- plus which major Golden Age director was "overrated," and why he didn't stay a movie star. And of course, Tamblyn recounts his return to featured roles at the request of David Lynch, who cast him as Dr. Lawrence Jacoby in Twin Peaks.
This week, in honor of the upcoming Academy Awards, Here's the Thing brings you a collection of conversations with Oscar-winners -- and, today, with a pair of 2020 nominees. They are Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts, the co-directors of For Sama, which is up for Best Documentary Feature. It's a movie pieced together from more than 500 hours of footage shot by Al-Kateab, a young mother in rebel-controlled Aleppo, Syria, as government troops closed in. For Sama is about what it's like for an ordinary, middle-class family to conceive and raise a child in a city under siege. As the San Francisco Chronicle puts it, "For Sama is a film made with the instincts of a journalist, the passion of a revolutionary, and the beating heart of a mother." Watts, Waad, and Waad's husband, Dr. Hamza Al-Kateab, joined Alec at a live taping of Here's the Thing at the Hamptons International Film Festival.
This week, in honor of the upcoming Academy Awards, Here's the Thing brings you a collection of conversations with Oscar-winners -- including one new interview, coming tomorrow, with the creative team of 2020 Best Documentary-nominee For Sama. Today, on Day 4 of our Oscars series, it's our live event with Spike Lee at the TriBeCa Film Festival. The two movie-veterans came prepared for a serious discussion about Place in the Sun and On the Waterfront, but get distracted very quickly. As BET put it in their roundup of the conversation, "The iconic director held nothing back." Spike Lee's first Oscar, shockingly, came last year for his BlacKkKlansman screenplay.
This week, in honor of the upcoming Academy awards, Here's the Thing brings you a collection of conversations with Oscar-winners -- including one new interview with the creative team of 2020 Best Documentary-nominee For Sama, coming Friday. For Day 3 of our series, we bring you our Julianne Moore episode, in which she and Alec bond over their shared past in soap operas. Moore won her Oscar in 2015 for playing an Alzheimer's patient in Still Alice.
This week, in honor of the upcoming Academy awards, Here's the Thing brings you a collection of conversations with Oscar-winners -- including one new interview with the creative team of 2020 Best Documentary-nominee For Sama. For our second installment, we bring you the Here's the Thing episode that may have generated our most enthusiastic listener feedback. That's Alec's conversation with director, screenwriter, and Rolling Stone journalist Cameron Crowe -- punctuated with great songs from Crowe's films. Crowe won his Oscar in 2001 for his screenplay for Almost Famous.
This week, in honor of the upcoming Academy awards, Here's the Thing brings you a collection of conversations with Oscar-winners -- including one new interview coming Friday with the creative team of 2020 Best Documentary-nominee For Sama. We begin, however, with a reprise of one of the HTT team's all-time favorite episodes, in which Alec enjoys a little miso soup at the home of Barbra Streisand in Malibu. Streisand has won two Oscars: first in 1969 for her turn as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, and then again in 1977 for her Best Original Song “Evergreen” from A Star Is Born.
Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey are the New York Times reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein story. For five months -- perpetually in danger of losing the scoop -- they cultivated and cajoled sources ranging from the Weinsteins’ accountant to Ashley Judd. The article that emerged on October 5th, 2017, was a level-headed and impeccably sourced exposé, whose effects continue to be felt around the world. Their conversation with Alec covers their reporting process, and moves on to a joint wrestling with Alec’s own early knowledge of one of the Weinstein allegations, and his ongoing friendship with accused harasser James Toback. The guests ask Alec questions about the movie industry’s ethics about sex and “the casting couch.” Over a respectful and surprising half-hour, host and guests together talk through the many dilemmas posed by the #MeToo movement that Kantor and Twohey did so much to unleash.
Wynton Marsalis was on the cover of Time as the avatar of the "New Jazz Age." His central role in reviving the genre is thanks partly to his gorgeous, virtuosic trumpet-playing, and partly to his founding of Jazz at Lincoln Center. JALC established jazz at the heart of American high culture. That "officialness" turned off some jazz musicians: wasn't their music supposed to be looser, smaller? But Marsalis tells Alec that the desire to relegate jazz to small underground clubs is "ghettoizing." In front of a live audience at JALC's Rose Hall, Marsalis also goes deep with Alec about his father's influence -- and his racially fraught interactions with professors and conductors at Juilliard when he showed up from Louisiana in 1979.
We often think of Julie Andrews as the prim nanny from Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, but her personal path may have the greatest resemblance to one of her Broadway roles: Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. Andrews grew up in a family strapped for cash during the Second World War, and her initial training as an actor was in the less-than-prestigious field of vaudeville. But right before opening night of her breakout role in The Boy Friend, it was producer Cy Feuer’s advice that we have to thank, in large part, for the level of excellence Andrews has brought to musical film and theater for generations. “Forget camp,” he told her. “Get real.”
Director Noah Baumbach is known for messy and realistic family dramas. The Squid and The Whale chronicles divorce within a family; Margot at the Wedding explores the relationship between two sisters; The Meyerowitz Stories tells the story of 3 adult siblings – different mothers, same father – negotiating resentment and love. And there have been plenty of comparisons between Baumbach’s own life and his movies – especially so with his most recent film, Marriage Story. Baumbach and actress Jennifer Jason Leigh divorced soon after they had a child. But Baumbach is quick to say his films are not autobiographical. They are personal, he says, and as he tells Alec, the process of turning real life into films is part of how Baumbach makes sense of things around him.
The last Democrat elected to the Senate seat Cristina Tzintzun has her sights on was Lyndon Johnson. Republican takeovers are just a fact of life in the South. And yet in some places, there's light at the end of the tunnel for beleaguered Dems. It's in the Lone Star State that they hope to reverse the trend. Texas is urbanizing, and it's getting more educated and more diverse. Tzintzun -- a political organizer who's the daughter of a Mexican immigrant and an Anglo-Texan -- tells Alec that by activating those Democratic base constituencies, she can win where others have failed. It's a trail begun by Beto O’Rourke, who almost won the state’s other Senate seat back for the Democrats in 2018, but it's a perilous strategy, too, in a state as conservative as Texas. Much of Beto's team has come over to help Tzintzun, and full disclosure: Alec, too, is a supporter, and hosted a fundraiser for her in October.
Alec wanted to know a few more things about Errol Morris's work -- so he set up a call!
Errol Morris’s documentaries are visually unmistakable, whether they’re about pet cemeteries or the morally bankrupt "great men" of American history. Thanks to his optical invention, the "Interrotron," Morris's subjects’ are looking straight at those of us in the movie theater and, sometimes, lying. He’s one of cinema’s most distinctive storytellers. In conversation with Alec, Morris recounts his meandering path to the top, involving deep debt, a master's degree in Philosophy, and a stint as a private investigator. "Film-making saved me," he says. Morris also responds to the heated controversy surrounding his new documentary, American Dharma, about Trump strategist Stephen Bannon, rejecting the argument that it was wrong to provide Bannon a platform for his ideas.
Edward Norton gets into every aspect of filmmaking, even when he comes to the set as an actor. He's helped rewrite scripts, and sometimes gets intimately involved in editing, as was the case with American History X. That has led to tension with directors, but Norton tells Alec that the Hollywood press has grossly mischaracterized many of those relationships. Norton himself directed Alec recently in his new film, Motherless Brooklyn. Norton stars alongside Alec's Robert Moses character, who tries to bend New York City to his will. Their shared experience on set sparks a conversation about directing, and all the great directors Norton has worked with, including Spike Lee, David Fincher, Tony Kaye, and Miloš Forman. A "cheat sheet" of all the movies and directors Edward and Alec discussed, in order, is available at https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/heresthething/edwardandalec.
Judith Light has an unequaled emotional and tonal range as an actor. She also has a shape-shifting physicality that made her entirely convincing both as the shuffling yenta Shelly Pfefferman in Transparent and as the lithe, aristocratic Hedda Gabler. But she only got to exercise those talents by saying "yes" to a lot of less intricate roles -- most famously the housewife-prostitute Karen Wolek on One Life to Live and Type-A divorcée Angela Bower on Who's the Boss. Her manager (a former Psychology professor) helped her arrive at that place of openness. After a few bad auditions, he sat her down and said, "You have an expectation that people should just be giving you stuff, and it's untenable. People feel it. You walk into a room and nobody wants to be around you." "And so," Light tells Alec, "when I walked into the audition for Who's the Boss, I was in a very different place."