Two decades ago, when one of many biopics about the disgraced automaker was in development, he received a call from DeLorean himself, asking the actor to portray him.
"It was a very short conversation, and it never went anywhere. I don’t know why these projects died," Baldwin says. "But whenever a living historic figure anoints you to do a project like that, that's a cool thing. I'm not really that intoxicated by any of the work I do, but when he called, I thought, 'That’s pretty cool.' "
Baldwin, 61, appears as the playboy car mogul in reenactments in the new documentary "Framing John DeLorean," which hits theaters in New York and video on demand Friday, before expanding wider. The hybrid narrative film traces DeLorean's rise through the ranks at General Motors in the 1960s as an engineer, before splitting off to form his own DeLorean Motor Co. in 1973. But the manufacturer went bankrupt by the mid-'80s, after DeLorean was arrested by the FBI and charged with trafficking cocaine, irrevocably tarnishing his reputation even though he was found not guilty. He died from a stroke in 2005 at age 80.
Before the documentary's premiere at Tribeca Film Festival in April, Baldwin chatted with USA TODAY about cars, DeLorean's missteps and why he's ready to retire his President Donald Trump impression on "Saturday Night Live."
Question: What do you remember about seeing "Back to the Future" for the first time?
Alec Baldwin: I thought, "Damn, that Michael J. Fox has got it all." (Robert) Zemeckis and Christopher Lloyd made a great film. But the interesting thing to me is that DeLorean could have had a successful car company. He was a great automotive innovator, but he wouldn't admit that he didn't understand how to finance the car company. Everything he did to (get money) when the sludge hit the fan, if you will, that’s when all his problems began.
Q: Have you always been into sports cars?
Baldwin: No, not compared to other people. We live on Long Island in the summertime, and you've got to have a good (car) out there that you can get into when you're wet, your dogs are wet and there's sand. I have a great bomb car: an ’84 BMW. It’s completely falling apart. If you saw me driving the car, you’d go, "Oh, God, no."
Q: What was your first car?
Baldwin: The first car I owned was a Karmann Ghia convertible, and I drove it cross-country (from New York) in the dead of winter with my soon-to-be roommate in LA We nearly died from the cold, it was unbelievable. ... It’s so funny: I'm driving a Mustang one day, and the next day I got married and had my daughter Ireland, and I had a Chevy Tahoe. Things change.
Q: Who would you like to see play Trump on "Saturday Night Live" after you?
Baldwin: I don't know. Darrell Hammond did it and is a far better impressionist than I'll ever be. When Anthony Atamanuik (started impersonating Trump on Comedy Central's "The President Show"), all these people were attacking me, saying, "Oh, your impression sucks and you suck. Please go away." It also was something I thought to myself: "I really don't have a lot invested in my Trump impersonation, so please find someone and convince Lorne (Michaels) to replace me." I'm completely down with that. Winning the Emmy for that show aside, it was not some career goal of mine.
So if (Atamanuik) wants the job, it's his. He can have it. I've done that. I mean, I had a lot of fun with (the cast), and when Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider wrote (Trump sketches in 2016 and 2017), that was new, it was fresh and the ratings were good. But I feel like I'm done with that now. I'm so done with that.
Q: So you don't think you'll return next season?
Baldwin: I can't imagine I would do it again. I just can't. They should find somebody who wants to do it. They're all my dear friends and I love going there, but the other thing is that I'm going to go to work this fall in a way I haven't done in a while. My wife and I had a son a year ago, and since he was born, I've worked minimally because I wanted to be there for my wife and kids. But the party's over this fall and I'll be traveling. "SNL" just crushes my weekends, and now weekends are going to become much more precious to me because that's time with my kids.
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