I've always liked Alec Baldwin (yes, yes, as an actor, not as a political commentator), and his mid-career reinvention as a rumpled, heavyset character actor has been wonderful to watch. So I was sorry to see he doesn't feel the same way:

Turning back to me, he said of the film, which he was helping to produce, "This kind of stuff, it's so hard"--the tiny budget, the tight schedule, no more than two or three takes. "It's a domestic drama, and, as you might suppose, I've had my fill of that subject. This is the last time, in this movie, I assure you, you're ever going to see me arguing with a spouse." For a moment, he imagined life at the center of a big-budget drama, and remembered watching Leonardo DiCaprio at work in the lead role in Martin Scorsese's "The Aviator," in which Baldwin had a supporting part. "To be Leo!" he cried out. (Baldwin can be quite earnest, even as he keeps an ironic eye on his earnestness.) "To have a huge role like that! To play the role that is the fizz in the drink, you know what I mean? You are the movie! I wish I could play the lead role in one movie, one great movie." According to Baldwin, "The Insider" was the most recent "great opportunity" for an actor of his kind. "It was smart, it was relevant, it was topical," and the part went to Russell Crowe.

Read the whole thing. It made me like Baldwin even more, actually. And his self-awareness is appealing:

"Do you want to know the truth?" Baldwin said to me not long ago. "I don't think I really have a talent for movie acting. I'm not bad at it, but I don't think I really have a talent for it." He described the film actor's need to project strength and weakness simultaneously. "Nicholson's my idol this way. Pacino. There's a mix you have to have where the character is vulnerable, the character is up against it, but there's still a glimmer of resourcefulness in his eye--you look at him and the character is telegraphing to you this is not going to last very long. 'I'm down'--Randle McMurphy, Serpico, whatever it is--'but it's not going to last, I'm still going to figure my way out of this.' " In contrast, he referred to Orson Welles. "Welles was a powerful actor, but he wasn't always a great actor," Baldwin said, with, perhaps, a faint nod to his own career. "Even when Welles was lost, he was arrogant."

This is a fine description of why Baldwin will never be a great leading man. But there are other virtues for an actor, whether in film or television, and he has quite a few of them. I only wish they made him feel better about himself.

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