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
In 1993, tens of thousands of native Ecuadorians filed a civil suit against oil giant Texaco, alleging that the corporation's activity in the country's north-east Lago Agrio oil fields resulted in the poisoning of drinking water, land toxicity, and biological defects and cancers among local communities. A young Harvard-trained lawyer named Steven Donziger first visited Ecuador in 1993 as part of the plaintiffs' legal team. After decades of litigation — still ongoing — Donziger has ultimately become the Ecuadorian plaintiffs' primary American legal counsel, as well as an outspoken critic of the legal tactics employed by Texaco (which was absorbed by Chevron in 2001). In 2011, Donziger won in Ecuador, resulting in a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron. But a federal judge in New York ruled that the judgment could not be enforced due to what he described as the “dishonest and corrupt” measures of Donziger’s team. Donziger is currently appealing that decision.
Joanne Liu is the the International President of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), a non-governmental organization that administers humanitarian medical aid and assistance to war- and disaster-ridden areas. They don't just treat victims of bomb blasts or famine; MSF also makes public pronouncements about the political forces exacerbating oppressive conditions for innocent civilians. MSF's resolve to work in the world's most dangerous places has been tested lately. Last October, a U.S.-led airstrike in Kunduz, Afghanistan, devastated a non-partisan hospital run by the organization, and killed dozens of people. And this February, at least seven people were killed after another airstrike hit an MSF-supported hospital in Syria's Idlib province. Despite the blows her organization has incurred over the last year, Liu tells host Alec Baldwin she still believes that wars have rules about the treatment of non-combatants and civilians, and articulates MSF's role in addressing protracted political conflicts that compound injury to innocent people.
For movie fans who came of age in the 1980s, Molly Ringwald is the definitive "it" girl. As the creative inspiration for director John Hughes, Ringwald was the de facto center of generationally-significant films like 'The Breakfast Club,' 'Sixteen Candles,' and 'Pretty in Pink' (written by Hughes and directed by Howard Deutch). Her red hair and sardonic wit became cultural icons all their own, and made Ringwald one of the greatest teen stars in film history. But she tells host Alec Baldwin that these films, as important as they are to a whole generation of movie fans, are passing moments in her growth as an artist and an actor: she's written two books, acted in numerous films and television shows, and released a jazz record, 'Except Sometimes,' in 2013.
Mickey Rourke started boxing as a young man as a way to cope with a rough home and a rough neighborhood. He was undefeated as an amateur in the ring, before coming to New York to study at The Actors Studio. Working with renowned acting coach Sandra Seacat, Rourke found success on the screen in the 1980s, starring in The Pope of Greenwich Village, Body Heat, Angel Heart and others. But there was a string of disappointments, too — and a reputation for being a pugnacious collaborator — and Rourke disappeared from Hollywood for much of the 90s and early 2000s. He resurfaced in the acclaimed 2009 drama The Wrestler, and was nominated for an Academy Award. Rourke tells host Alec Baldwin about how he learned to throw punches in his childhood, and why boxing is still the source of his pride and his renewed on-set discipline.
In 1985, Steven Avery was convicted and imprisoned for sexual assault in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. He served nearly two decades of his sentence before being exonerated on the basis of new forensic evidence. Shortly after launching a multimillion dollar lawsuit seeking compensation for his wrongful detention, Avery was arrested and convicted for a horrific local murder. The ten-part Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer examines both cases, and asks whether and in what ways the criminal justice system has failed Avery over the last thirty years. The series, written and directed by Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, has caused an uproar, and the case is undergoing new public scrutiny based on the film's interviews and narrative heft. The filmmakers tell host Alec Baldwin why the current case against Avery is inconclusive, why they're disappointed in public statements from officials familiar with the case, and how a decade of collaboration has changed them as professionals and partners.
In anticipation of a new season of Here's The Thing, we're looking back at some of our favorite interviews from 2015. The Graduate. Midnight Cowboy. Lenny. That's just the beginning of Dustin Hoffman's legendary Hollywood career. Over the last five decades, he's stretched and contorted himself into dozens of defining roles, earning recognition as one of the most talented actors in cinema history. Hoffman tells host Alec Baldwin that he savors each new opportunity like it's the first, and recalls his salad days when he was mis-cast, underestimated, and, on at least one notable occasion, sick on a co-star's shoe. Edie Falco says she is nothing like Carmela Soprano. Nor does she have much in common with Nurse Jackie. But Falco made these characters two of the most identifiable and human women in television history. She has an armful of Emmys, Golden Globes, and Screen Actors Guild Awards—and a cadre of dedicated fans—to prove it. Along the way, she's battled cancer, raised two children on her own, and is a recovering alcoholic. She credits her multiple successes to good luck, great mentors, and says there's no predicting which way her career could have gone—or will go yet.
It's a new year — and soon, a new season of Here's The Thing. So today we're looking back at two of our favorite interviews from 2015. After shooting the pilot for Sex and the City, Sarah Jessica Parker told HBO she didn't want to go through with the project. But after the first day’s taping, she says, she "didn't want to be anywhere else." Parker is now indelibly linked with her character Carrie Bradshaw—one of the most prominent women in the history of television. Ian Schrager is in the hospitality business. Hotels or nightclubs, uptown or downtown, Miami or Manhattan, Schrager defines luxury and leisure. In 1977, he co-founded Studio 54, which quickly became the epitome of the disco era's cultural mores. It was Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol, Cher, and as Schrager recalls, "serious, sweaty dancing." Today, Schrager says nightclubs are a young person's business; he's long since reinvented himself as one of the pioneers of the boutique hotel.
The London Philharmonia is one of the world's great performing ensembles; over its seventy year history, it has engaged conductors as distinguished as Wilhelm Furtwängler, Arturo Toscanini, Richard Strauss and others. Today, Finnish composer Esa-Pekka Salonen holds the baton. He has, of course, absorbed the great traditions of the Old World, but found fresh inspiration in a somewhat unlikely setting: Tinseltown. Salonen spent almost twenty years at the helm of the Los Angeles Philharmonic before landing in London. "It was incredibly helpful to be away from the European, arrogant intellectual canon," Salonen says. "Of course when I started out, I had some residue of that 'culture as medicine' thing. Which is vile." As if all of this wasn't enough to keep busy, now Salonen is also the Composer-In-Residence at the New York Philharmonic. He joins host Alec Baldwin to talk about his passion for composing; the psychological difference between conducting and composing; and why he has a complicated relationship with Italian opera.
When Jimmy Fallon landed a spot on Saturday Night Live in 1998, he told executive producer and comedy kingmaker Lorne Michaels, "I'm going to make you proud." Six years later, Fallon departed as a audience favorite, the show's go-to impressions guy, and the co-host (with Tina Fey) of SNL's "news" unit, Weekend Update. But he became famous without "working blue," and has always wanted everybody to be in on the joke. It's a trait that makes him a perfect television personality. Now, he occupies the most coveted seat in the business, as the host of The Tonight Show. He tells Here's The Thing host Alec Baldwin that he got his start in Saugerties, New York, practicing the stuff that every comic needs in their toolkit: impressions, musical numbers, and...a troll routine. In this clip from SNL in 1998 (referenced in the above interview), Jimmy Fallon and Alec Baldwin unwittingly predict a future success:
Growth comes with costs. On this episode of Here's The Thing, Alec Baldwin talks to two individuals who are protecting places that are most vulnerable to development and destruction. Andrew Berman has been called one of the most powerful people in New York real estate, but not because he's a deep-pocketed developer. Berman is the Executive Director of The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, where he advocates for the protection and conservation of historically important buildings and sites, including cultural touchstones like the Stonewall Inn. Rob Synder works with thousands of individuals living on islands off the coast of Maine. His organization Island Institute develops community alliances, economic programs, and sustainability initiatives to ensure that island culture remains vibrant, and that local resources remain intact as climate changes and development encroaches.
Amy Schumer says she's been called the "girl next door, fastest-rising comic" for ten years. But it's more true than it's ever been, given three high profile successes in 2015: her increasingly hilarious and transgressive Comedy Central television show "Inside Amy Schumer;" the feature film "Trainwreck" (written by Schumer); and a new HBO comedy special filmed at the Apollo Theater. She talks to host Alec Baldwin about growing up on Long Island, playing the worst person ever, and the Pilates class they shared a decade ago.
Dan Rather was the host and anchor of CBS Evening News for more than twenty years. He resigned the post in the wake of an investigation into then-President George W. Bush's Vietnam-era military service. A new film starring Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett, 'Truth,' explores that period and the outstanding questions raised by Rather's journalistic inquiry. Host Alec Baldwin spoke with Rather at a recent screening of the film at the Hamptons International Film Festival, where they discussed Rather's days as a White House correspondent, recent attempts to re-assess Nixon, and the state of news today.
Carol Burnett's stage and screen career is one of the great showbiz success stories. From her early days on Broadway, to the 11-season run of The Carol Burnett Show, to her luminous big-screen turn as Miss Hannigan in Annie: Burnett's numerous Emmy and Golden Globe awards and nominations speak to her plasticity, her genius -- and her hilarity. Carol Burnett sits down with Alec Baldwin to talk about the unlikely origin of her show, recall her roster of A-list friends, and to explain how nudists dance.
William Friedkin is the director of more than twenty films, among them "The Exorcist" and "The French Connection." For the latter, Friedkin won the 1971 Academy Award for Best Director, based on the film's stunning action sequences and incandescent appearances by Roy Scheider and Gene Hackman. "I would like to tell you it was all my genius," Friedkin tells host Alec Baldwin at the Turner Classic Film Festival, "but I had nothing to do with casting the two leads in that picture." Friedkin goes on to explain why he doesn't audition actors, how knowing a Sicilian helps with location scouting, and why learning to play tennis killed his career.
Andy Warhol gained fame and notoriety as the godfather of Pop Art. His electric-colored screen prints of Coca Colas, Marilyn Monroes, and electric chairs are iconic pieces, despite their iconoclastic origins. But there's more to Warhol than Day-Glo portraiture: he was an author, commentator, filmmaker, sculptor, and socialite. Host Alec Baldwin talks to Eric Shiner, director of The Andy Warhol Museum, about the hyper-inventive multimedia star, and learns about the surprisingly deep emotional basis for Warhol's obsession with Campbell's Soup.