At HIFF: Matthew Broderick and Alec Baldwin Reflect on Brando, Hughes, Career Misfires and More
Don't let the audience hijinks fool you: This weekend's chat between Matthew Broderick and Alec Baldwin at the Hamptons Film Festival gave the two old acting chums almost a full hour to catch up -- often hilariously so, with Saturday's ostensible tribute to Broderick generally resulting in a freewheeling gab session between the guys.
Baldwin, a longtime HIFF supporter, introduced Broderick with a brief appreciation capped by a bit of chop-busting, which set the tone for the event as a whole. "In the world we're in now," he said, "there's a lot of stuff that's funny, but it's not exactly the smartest material. It all seems to be kind of dumbed-down. And here's someone who's made his reputation by being very funny and clever and smart at the same time, and never going for the cheap laugh. Well, I shouldn't say, 'Never.' If you comb through all his films you might find a couple examples. But never lunging for the cheap laugh or whatever."
Much of the early discussion was in fact focused on Broderick's early stage career -- landing his first role in a play by Horton Foote (the Southern author and playwright who was a friend of Broderick's actor father James), then breaking through in Harvey Fierstein's watershed Torch Song Trilogy. Asked by Baldwin why he wanted to actin the first place, Broderick replied, "That I don't know. I guess I saw it and thought it would be easy money."
"It is, really," Baldwin said.
Their repartee continued through the discussion of Broderick's early film work -- Max Dugan Returns, Wargames and Ladyhawke in particular. "I remember seeing Michelle Pfeiffer leaning out her window," Broderick said of the latter's production in Rome. "I think with a cigarette. She's long since quit that. She was so incredibly gorgeous in this Italian light, and I was like, 'I have made it.'"
"In the beginning," Baldwin said, "for me, and I wonder if it was the same for you--"
"This is more about me, though," Broderick interrupted, prompting laughs from the crowd.
Most in the audience were of course waiting for Baldwin to grill Broderick about Ferris Bueller's Day Off and writer-director John Hughes, with whom Baldwin also worked on She's Having a Baby. Baldwin broached the subject following a brief aside about Martha Marcy May Marlene, the festival darling opening this weekend and acclaimed by Baldwin for the director-actor partnership between Sean Durkin and breakout star Elizabeth Olsen. Broderick hadn't yet heard of Martha, but he could immediately trace a similar phenomenon back to Hughes.
Here's video of Broderick and Baldwin's exchange, followed by a few text excerpts of the exchange:
"That's an example of someone who's so tuned into your performance," Broderick said of the 1986 classic. "It's so important. He knew what to use with me in that part. He knew how to get it out of me and how to edit it. He was hilariously funny and quiet. And sometimes he could be very quiet. And you'd think, 'Is John mad at me?' And people would say, 'I don't think so.' And two weeks later, he would, 'I know you think that I was mad about something, but I'm not anymore.' But ultimately he was extremely easy to work with. He was the most easy person for me to work with by the end of that. Not that it wasn't a little difficult getting there. By the end, I'd get an idea, and I wouldn't even finish explaining the idea."
Meanwhile, Baldwin claimed, Hughes tried cue cards on the cast of She's Having a Baby. "I was doing a scene where I was talking -- I was with my girlfriend," he explained. "And we were supposed to be horrifying Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth McGovern with our debauched lifestyle. And she would say to me, 'Where [have] you guys gone recently?' and John would write notes on cue cards as the cameras were rolling."
"Oh, God!" Broderick laughed.
"So, 'What cities have you been to?' or, 'Which ones do you like?'" Baldwin continued. "And John would write, 'Berlin... Lesbians...' 'Well, you know, Berlin's so full of lesbians.' He'd hold it up where you could see it. John's the only one who did that. It was amazing."
"He would write while you were shooting all the time," Broderick said. "It ultimately was a wonderful experience."
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