Alec Baldwin made two movies with James Toback — “Seduced and Abandoned,” the 2013 HBO documentary that followed the pair roaming the 2012 Cannes Film Festival pitching a sexually explicit update of “Last Tango in Paris,” and “The Private Life of a Modern Woman,” which premiered last month at the Venice Film Festival. Baldwin has a small role opposite Sienna Miller in the film.
But after the Los Angeles Times published a story in which 38 women alleged that director James Toback had sexually harassed them, Baldwin, who is famously outspoken on social media, remained silent. As more than 300 women contacted The Times with similar stories, while others did the same with other outlets, Baldwin’s only public comment on the allegations surrounding Toback came last Tuesday in a post made from the Twitter account of the ABFoundation, an arts group Baldwin runs with his wife, Hilaria.
The next day, The Times contacted Baldwin’s publicist, asking whether he’d care to add any further remarks, addressing the number of women who had accused Toback of sexual misconduct. Baldwin declined comment.
But the 59-year-old actor followed up with phone call on Sunday night. The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
What did you think when you read the initial report that so many women had come forward accusing Toback of sexual misconduct?
In all the time I’ve known Jimmy, I never had one conversation about his sex life, which is not unusual for me because I’m not sitting down with some guy and he’s saying to me, “Man, you should have seen what I did last night with this girl in this hotel.” I don’t go there.
I’d always heard Jimmy was peculiar. I remember years ago, with [the movie] “The Pick-up Artist,” Jimmy had this reputation 20, 25 years ago or more of hitting on [women], going up and saying provocative things to them. I’d heard of that. But in my time with Jimmy, it was absolutely, positively business. We talked about Cannes, we talked about our interviews with [Bernardo] Bertolucci, [Roman] Polanski, [Martin] Scorsese and [Francis Ford] Coppola [filmed for “Seduced and Abandoned”]. And all we did was go around and make the movie. I never had one conversation with Jimmy about his sex life. Never. Never.
What about with this last movie with Sienna Miller?
He wanted me to shoot a film with him and Sienna and James Franco with a script he wrote. We had done the documentary for HBO a few years ago. And my wife and I had three children in three years and a month. So my growing family has put the damper on most of my socializing. My relationship [with Toback] is no different than my relationship with a lot of people. All my relationships have contracted as my family has grown.
So Jimmy says to me, “Do this one scene, this cop thing with Sienna.” So I go in and do this one scene … I’m not going to say as a favor because I love Sienna, and it was a joy to work with her.
But now this stuff comes along with Selma Blair. She talks about how she was assaulted by him, how she felt, all these different things. I’ve never known anything about that in my entire life. I never knew of anything where Jimmy assaulted or bullied or pressured. I’ve never heard anything other than that Jimmy was somebody who hit on a lot of women in a very vague way.
What do you mean by “vague way”?
Meaning that he had an appetite for going up to women and saying salacious and provocative things to them and introducing himself with his credentials and so forth and laying that on people to seduce them. I never knew any details of what he did that was assault in nature or rape in nature or criminally actionable. Never, never, never.
And now I see stories about people that came up with me in my class of actors, like Annabella Sciorra. She was my neighbor in New York in the East 50s in the 1980s. And I find out she’s telling her story about what happened with her and [Harvey] Weinstein. [Sciorra says Weinstein raped her in the early 1990s.] It is overwhelming for people to grasp the magnitude of this. Daryl Hannah. Probably half the actresses I’ve ever heard of in my life have from these recent generations have come forth to talk about Harvey or this one or that one.
But I’ve got a lot people coming after me because I don’t come out there and attack Jimmy or make a comment about him. I don’t have any information firsthand about what I’m hearing. These are everybody else’s secondhand assertions about what he did. And, granted, you [he is referring to the reporter] are a lightning rod and hundreds of people have contacted you. That’s the reason I’m calling because I can’t assume that all these people are lying. And I feel terrible.
For the initial story, there were 38 women, 31 going on the record. That’s an enormous number of women going on the record. Since then, the number is up to 325, probably more. We corroborated the stories in the initial piece. Do you —
Where we are now … I would be heartbroken if you didn’t print this angle of this in its entirety — and I’m not the first person to say this — but many many people are rightfully focusing on this, but there is some veneer to it of complexity because they can’t get the guy they really want to get. [Donald] Trump is a sexual predator. On the record, there’s all kinds of evidence that Trump has behaved this way, and he’s the president of the United States and that being just one of the things that is horrifying people about Trump, his opinions, his behavior, his methodology and there’s nothing you can do about that. You cannot touch him.
These people I see who are genuine victims of something that happened to them … of course any right-thinking man or woman feels horrible for them. I think we’re at a point now where you have writers online saying to me, “Why aren’t you condemning Jimmy?” Well, I’m going to get around to that in my own way and in my own time. Just because I’m not doing that in a knee-jerk way to save myself … my agent contacted me and said that they’re concerned that people who are quiet are going to lose work as a result of this. Because they’re going to find some photograph of you with [someone who has] been accused of something untoward and I just hope people proceed with this very carefully.
I don’t know that Jimmy has done anything criminal. It sounds like many people are saying that he has. That he has assaulted them. If that’s true, that’s news to me. I never had any idea that Jimmy’s appetites took him in that direction. I had no idea.
Does that 300-plus number stagger you?
I guess for me, knowing Jimmy as I do … I was told years ago … you can go online and there are numerous articles about Jimmy that mention this very thing. And, yes, they did dress it up in some kind of silly way. So does it surprise me, knowing about Jimmy’s approach to all that? Jimmy is one of these guys whose attitude is, “If I bed 10 of every 100 women I approach, then if I want to sleep with a 100 women, I’ve got to ask 1,000 women.” It’s all very much like that. A quantitative thing. And knowing that with Jimmy, 300 doesn’t surprise me.
I just want to say, I go to Cannes with my wife — and this is going to sound strange — Jimmy to me and my wife and my family, Jimmy is one of the smartest people. You separate Jimmy’s strangeness about his sexuality, Jimmy is one of the smartest, he’s one of the cleverest. He went to Harvard, super-intellect. Jimmy is one of the greatest conversationalists in the world. My wife and I went over to Cannes with him, and we had the time of our life with him and Michael Mailer. We had a great time. We made a film. We were very happy with the film we made. We sold it to HBO when it was done.
And my trip to Cannes with Jimmy was one of the greatest times of my life. And Jimmy was a very, very dear friend. I spoke to Jimmy twice, three times a week or more. I spoke to him about other projects we would do. And then as I started to have kids, I had a little bit less time. But now you tell me this, it’s heartbreaking.
How do you think these stories are going to change the industry?
What will happen is, at the insistence of the actress and [also] the insistence of the artist who’s going to meet with people for a job, at the insistence of the employer themselves, there will be people in the room at all times. At least for a considerable amount of time in the future, you will almost never see an unchaperoned casting session again. Ever. Everybody’s going to want to have somebody in the room with them to make sure nothing questionable is going to happen.
Have you spoken to Toback since these allegations were made?
I spoke with him a couple of times. He’s obviously crushed by all of this. I did call him, and I think he understands how people are. There’s not much people can do for him now.