After Harrison Ford completed work on 1989’s “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, he took a break from playing the kind of rogue charmers that he had become known for. He began taking vulnerable roles in poignant dramas and mysteries.
While some critics enjoyed his work in films like “Regarding Henry” or “Frantic”, audiences didn’t seem to take much notice. While Ford’s acting skills were on the rise, his box-office appeal was in decline.
During Ford’s early 90’s, box-office downturn, a new actor emerged as the prime candidate to step into the spotlight that middle-aged stars like Stallone and Bruce Willis were beginning to vacate.
The stunningly handsome Alec Baldwin was capable of providing audiences with both intensity and machismo (Malice) while wielding a gun and cracking wise (Miami Blues).
He was a natural choice to take the role of “Jack Ryan”, a character created by national security novelist Tom Clancy.
Jack Ryan was a post-Soviet, James Bond type, American hero- prepped to fight the information age’s war on… what ever came next.
When Baldwin appeared as Jack Ryan in 1990’s “The Hunt for Red October”, America enjoyed it so much that they completely ignored Sean Connery’s abysmal Russian accent.
What is it about submarine movies that requires so many terrible accents?
With a decade of novels on store shelves, Clancy was set to be the next Ian Fleming, and Baldwin was set to be the next Sean Connery.
But then Alec Baldwin lost the role.
To hear Baldwin tell the story, Harrison Ford wanted back into “big movies” and Paramount pictures owed him one.
Baldwin didn’t fight the maneuvering. He decided to do Shakespeare on Broadway instead.
“October’s” sequels, 1992’s “Patriot Games”, and 1994’s “Clear and Present Danger, went to Harrison Ford; who returned to the forefront of the American consciousness as a “bankable name” for years to come.
It wasn’t the end of Baldwin’s career though, he continued to be offered many choice parts in feature films.
In 1993 he was offered the role of Dr. Richard Kimble in the big screen adaptation of television’s greatest serial: “The Fugitive”.
He turned it down.
We all know that Harrison Ford took the job because if you were alive in 1993, you and most of the world, watched him take the dive off of that dam.
It was a blockbuster
It would be another 10 years before Baldwin became a household name. In that time three of his brothers became celebrities and disappeared.
During that span Baldwin honed his craft while appearing in middling productions (“The Edge”) and critically acclaimed small features (“The Cooler”, “State & Main”).
On the surface it might seem that Baldwin can’t “pick projects” because we can name opportunities that “he should have taken”.
“He could’ve been in The Fugitive!”
“He’d be as big as Harrison Ford!”
“He’d be part of film history!”
Hollywood is filled with stories of untold stories, images of people who “lost” their shot at the big time:
Like this picture of Stuart Townshend as Aragorn.
Eric Stolz as Marty McFly in “Back to the Future”.
But would you have gone to see Kurt Russell as Han Solo and William “Greatest American Hero” Katt as Luke Skywalker?
One look at their screen test reveals that “Star Wars” wouldn’t have been the same movie without the same people in the lead roles.
There’s no way to know that “The Fugitive” would have been a blockbuster had Alec Baldwin taken the role. In fact, most of the parts would have been recast to accommodate a man 16 years younger than Ford.
The best actors don’t take roles based around whether or not they think the movie will be a hit, they take roles because they think that they have the ability to convincingly play a part in telling a story they believe in.
Consider this quote from Nicholas Cage:
“The reasons I tend to pass on a movie… I don’t think I’m right for the material and can’t play it honestly, or because of time constraints… There were two movies that asked me to go to Australia or New Zealand for long periods of time… while I was trying to raise kids”
Cage turned down “The Matrix” AND “The Lord of the Rings”.
We are taught, and instinctively desire, to go after what we think will make us great, to posses it and find fulfillment in making it ours.
We ridicule people who “miss the boat” by not “striking while the iron is in the fire”, but do we consider that sometimes we actually aren’t supposed to have something?
Is it possible that taking something that we aren’t supposed to have, not only keeps us from having what we are supposed to, but also prevents others from having what they are supposed to have as well?
Harrison Ford walked away from “Harrison Ford roles” to become a better actor.
During that time Alec Baldwin got jobs that could have gone to someone else.
Then Baldwin turned down “Alec Baldwin roles” while Harrison Ford came back to Hollywood a better actor.
The Baldwin we are looking at now isn’t the man who stuck around to play the same parts over and over again…
(that kind of actor killed the Clancy franchise in “The Sum of All Fears”)
…he’s the one who went away to get better.
There’s plenty of good work out there for people who are interested in getting better, but that means taking time away to get better at what you do.
We may think that saying “yes” gets us closer to what we want, but it’s saying “no” that gives us the time away to make improvements to “who we need to be”.
The best hitters know when not swing at a pitch,
The best salesmen know what products to avoid,
The best mothers know what battles to fight,
and the best “us” knows when to say “when”.
“Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-restraint.” -Proverbs 25:28