The bombing of so many franchise movies this summer will lead studio suits to become even more timid and conservative, forecast James Toback at TCA Summer TV Press Tour 2013. They’re sure to conclude that the reason so many of them bombed was because they “tried too many different things” and need to “go back just to cartoon characters…We were too adventuresome,” he predicted they were saying to each other in meetings at studios as he spoke. He said he thought the “crisis” in the movie industry was “much bigger” than the pundits are saying. Oh, and movie theaters? Dead.
Toback came to press tour with Alec Baldwin to discuss their upcoming “cinematic romp” for HBO, Seduced And Abandoned. Toback and Baldwin star in the docu, about their attempt to make a film deal during the Cannes Film Festival, for a new version of Last Tango In Paris, set in the Middle East. Among those with whom they met: Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and Roman Polanski. Among the actors they approached: Ryan Gosling and Jessica Chastain. Baldwin, who came to the tour via satellite from some vineyard on Long Island, also got asked The Franchise Movie question. “Yeah, I guess if I had any brains I would have stayed with the franchise knowing what I know now,” he said of his role in the late 80’s flick The Hunt For Red October. “It does give you some freedom,” he said, explaining “If you don’t find some way to work in films that are going to make some money then it’s going to be a tough road.” Hugh Jackman has done the best job of any actor, Baldwin said, at The One For Them/One For Me Program.
One TV critic asked Baldwin to advise them how they could do their jobs better, Baldwin having recently tweeted that the worst writers end up covering TV.
“What’s funny, I’ll never forget I went to the TCA I was given an award and I wasn’t that familiar with who the TCA was,” he began. “I was knocked out by how smart and interesting” a group the TCA is, he told the TCA, adding, “I’m not saying that for your benefit.” But, he explained, he noticed that when he reads the New York Papers’ coverage of TV, “I was always very 50-50.” That’s because, he explained, they were “always ascribing things to people that weren’t really there.”
The TV industry, he explained, is a showrunner’s game and actors don’t have that much power. “But they are often handed more of a piece of the bill when the thing gets skewered than they deserve. I found that good television critics are ones who really know what’s going on in the process, and sometimes, reading the writing of certain people, I don’t think they understand the process that well.”
Baldwin tweeted his comment about the lousiness of TV writers in response to the very last column I wrote — for The Washington Post. In the column I questioned why Baldwin had agreed to host a new franchise for NatGeo that would include a mix of new and rerun documentaries — among which was one about a big game hunter who paid a boatload of money to go to Canada to kill a polar bear that turned out to be the first known instance in the wild of a cross between a polar bear and some other bear. Scientists were thrilled, the hunter got back the dead bear from authorities, and everyone lived happily ever after – except the bear, of course. This seemed to me a little off-brand for Baldwin, who is so well known for his admirable work advocating for animals, and not cool of NatGeo execs, given Baldwin’s reputation on that front. I interviewed Baldwin for the column and ran his responses to my questions. The next morning, Baldwin began tweeting. Three in all — maybe four.