Rise Of The Guardians: A Conversation With Alec Baldwin
Alec Baldwin may have come on board to voice the children's movie, Peter Ramsey's Rise Of The Guardians, but in the act of immersing himself in the character of a grouchy Santa known as North, he's obviously not kidding around. Though Baldwin was in a joking mood for this get-together, as he tossed around anecdotes touching on dissing Christmas when he was a kid himself a long time ago, and how he'd much rather be watching movies at home with his brand new bride and yoga instructor, Hilaria Lynn Thomas, than starring in them.
What enticed you into Rise Of The Guardians, and this new and different kind of Santa as North?
Alec Baldwin with his wife Hilaria Thomas in 2011. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
And god knows what she's watching now, it's kind of frightening! But I think it was when I was shown that these characters were going to be kind of edgier versions.
You know, when you see the Santa Claus figure, it's usually Wilford Brimley as like a rosy-cheeked, saintly man. And without a lot of dimension to it.
They don't cross a line, but these characters have little touches. Like Isla Fisher's tooth fairy hitting on another character when she meets him. It's real. So I loved that.
What was your own relationship with Santa Claus when you were a kid, and how did you find out the truth about it?
AB: Santa Claus, yeah. I walked into a room when I was seven or eight, and my sister was wrapping presents with my mother. And I was like, wait! What?
And they were like, shh! Then they told me what was going on. And I think the only reason they told me, was the more kids my mother had, the more wrapping they had to do.
And there became that line where then I became enlisted as a wrapper of gifts! So my mother would tell me, pick up those scissors and let's go!
Were you devastated?
AB: I was only devastated because it meant more work for me. I mean, I had to wrap presents all night.
Was there a thing going on, that if you weren't nice you wouldn't get any presents?
AB: Well, that sort of thing lives on. Katzenberg said if we're not nice, we don't get paid! So that's why I'm here!
But I think it's difficult these days, in this digital reality we live in. And the way we have that electronic leash on children.
I mean my friends with young children, the adults have found a way, quite frankly, if they want to like have dinner with friends, they hand whatever device to their kids. And the kids go off into another world.
And I sometimes wonder if all of us are not kind of abdicating a responsibility. And not doing the hard work, which is to raise a child in a more intimate way.
And we're consigning that with this generation. And I think you either raise them, either that or you want to put them in a hot air balloon. And release it into the atmosphere, and just be done with them!
And I sometimes have felt that way! I would just give them a nice basket of food, and let the thing go! And let them land somewhere. Hopefully safely!
What about telling your own child about believing in Santa Claus?
AB: My daughter is on a beach in Hawaii with her boyfriend right now. So there's a whole other fantasy that's going on there!
Which you know, has nothing to do with stockings and candy canes. And so, it's a different world!
If you opened up a matryoshka like in the movie, what would you most want to find inside?
AB: If I had to open up - what did you call it?
A matryoshka, a nested doll...
AB: Uh, if I opened up my own personal matryoshka, I would have to say that obviously Hugh Jackman would be inside!
AB: Because he is the greatest actor. In the world! And the greatest character, certainly in this film. Perhaps the world.
He's just, what else could it be! Um, next question!
Well, what kind of magic do you believe in?
AB: The magic I believe in, is that I want this movie to make a lot of money! A lot of money. That would be magical to me.
Because that would be a good thing for Boris Badenoff here, for it to make a lot of money. No! The cynicism of that aside, I hope it's a great success.
And movies like this, are very creative and are different. And the tone of it is just spot on. And an excellent children's film. So I hope it has the success it deserves.
I'll never forget when I was offered an exorbitant amount of money, a huge amount of money, to voice a character. In one of these video games.
And where I was going to play this contract killer from the mafia. Who killed a police officer. And I said to them, that's never happening.
And so when people think that it's all about money, and that actors are like, hey man, I didn't write this. And blah, blah, blah.
But I think most people have a conscience about it. And I knew that I wanted to do this one, because it's good for kids. It's very sweet, and it reinforces the idea of believing in yourself.
Now about that accent of yours as North...
AB: What accent! Well, I tried to do the whole Rocky and Bullwinkle thing. You know, you want to make it silly and fun. And child friendly.
What place do you feel imagination has in this movie?
AB: For me, the key is to work your way toward a much warmer, kind of humanistic place. And literally, with your voice. And someone else will render the physical dimension for us, and draw that.
And with children's movies, because I've voiced others as well, you do want to make sure you keep it warm. Especially with Santa Claus, there was a chance to make it very strident.
But if I played it like that, people would be exhausted ten minutes into the scene. They wouldn't be able to take it.
So for me, it was about trying to vary the tone. Where this guy is roaring, but in other scenes he's like, 'Vere are ze cookies!'
How did this movie first find you, or the other way around?
AB: I had a small role in Madagascar 2. And when you get a phone call from Katzenberg and they want you to do one of these Dreamworks things, the answer is always pretty much, yes.
Because they're really the best at this in the business. So they called me, and asked me if I wanted to do it. And I said, sure. I didn't really think about it too much. Yeah.
Now for a devil's advocate question, do you think there's too much preoccupation going on with dreams?
AB: I don't think that dreams are overemphasized anywhere. I know that my reality just becomes more and more about making everything more simple. Every day.
And I'm at that stage in life now, where it's more like when you were a child. Where you're very present. My god, I'm a thousand years old now!
But when you grow up, the world gets broader. And more complicated and distracting. And you have your ambitions, and your sexuality.
And your fantasies about money and power, and whatever you want to do with your life. Then you turn fifty, and life becomes narrow again!
So the world has become a lot smaller. And you'd rather do less things, and do them well. And have a more satisfying personal life, than the way I was.
AB: For twenty years of my life, I was like chain smoking my ambition. Like going here and here, and doing this and that. And trying to cover as many bases as I could.
And for me now, I'd rather just stay home with my wife and two dogs, and watch TV. I'd rather watch a movie than make a movie any day!
Prairie Miller is a NY multimedia journalist online, in print and on radio, and on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network's Arts Express. Read more reviews by Prairie Miller. Contact Prairie through NewsBlaze. Read more stories by Prairie Miller.
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