Alec Baldwin Called This Star "Short" and "Scrawny" After He Took His Role
The 30 Rock actor carried a grudge after losing a film franchise.
Reprising the role of book-smart CIA operative Jack Ryan seemed all but certain for Alec Baldwin after originating the character in the 1990 film adaptation of the Tom Clancy bestseller The Hunt for Red October. The film grossed more than $200 million worldwide and four successful print sequels were waiting in the wings. Baldwin was also in negotiations to star again as Ryan, to the tune of an estimated $10 million, according to The New York Times. Decades after Harrison Ford was chosen instead to play the role in 1992's Patriot Games, Baldwin recounted the fallout bitterly and shared some harsh words about his replacement. Read on to learn more about the drama surrounding the iconic character that made enemies of two of the 1990s' biggest leading men.
It took Baldwin two decades to discuss how he really lost Jack Ryan.
While that 1992 NYT story reports that Baldwin lost the role after "indulging in a dangerous game of chicken" with Paramount Pictures, the studio producing Patriot Games, over his plans to star in a Broadway revival of A Streetcar Named Desire, a 2011 entry in his HuffPost blog on the subject of studio politics revealed more. Discussing the reason for departing the franchise, Baldwin wrote, "Usually, I have given a half truth as an answer, something about scheduling conflicts and so forth. But the truth is the studio cut my throat."
Paramount allegedly owed Harrison Ford.
Baldwin went on to describe how he was returning home to visit his mother following her breast cancer diagnosis when he received a call from The Hunt for Red October director John McTiernan. (The filmmaker did not sign on to direct Patriot Games, in part because of its focus on Irish politics and his own Irish-American background, per Den of Geek.) The actor wrote that the director informed him that "a very famous movie star" had just pulled out of McTiernan's latest project to appear in the very role Baldwin was in talks to reprise. Although Baldwin didn't name him in the blog, that star was obviously Ford, fresh off the success of the Indiana Jones films—and with Paramount Pictures supposedly indebted to him after pulling the plug on the never-made action film Night Ride Down.
"John further told me that Paramount owed the actor a large sum of money for a greenlit film that fell apart prior to this, and pushing me aside would help to alleviate that debt and put someone with much greater strength at the box office than mine in the role," Baldwin wrote in his blog. "I sat there mildly stunned because not only was I in an active negotiation with Paramount, but for them to negotiate simultaneously with another actor was against the law."
Perceiving the drawn-out negotiations now as "a way to gut" him from the film, Baldwin claimed it was only then that he chose to commit to A Streetcar Named Desire.
It was a setback for Baldwin's career.
While the franchise seemed poised to solidify Baldwin as one of Hollywood's top leading men, losing it—coupled with reputation-tarnishing reports of bad behavior on the set of the Disney flop The Marrying Man—put the actor on shaky footing that led him to fire his agent and lament of his career, "I'm starting all over again," as reported by Entertainment Weekly in 1991. He would steady somewhat with an unforgettable performance in 1992's critically acclaimed box office failure Glengarry Glen Ross, but it would be another 11 years before he received his first Oscar nomination.
Despite varied performances over the decades to come, including his award-winning run as Jack Donaghy on NBC's 30 Rock, Baldwin never really regained the lost potential of the Jack Ryan franchise. Still, he didn't seem remorseful in his 2011 blog entry, writing, "A lot changed in my life with that decision. And I do not regret it."
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He aired his grievances in a memoir.
Baldwin has expressed support of the actors behind some subsequent iterations of Jack Ryan. In his 2017 memoir Nevertheless (via USA Today), he called Ben Affleck, his Pearl Harbor co-star and Ryan in 2002's The Sum of All Fears, "a prince." Then, in 2019, he described John Krasinski, the star of Amazon Prime's TV series, Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan, as "a friend" to People.
In the same memoir, however, Baldwin minces no words with regards to those involved in Patriot Games. He dubbed director Phillip Noyce a "marginal talent" and openly shared his disdain for Ford, who he claimed offered an unsympathetic "[expletive] him," when McTiernan told him that Baldwin was still in talks to reprise Jack Ryan. Baldwin also posited that Ford had never recovered from not winning an Oscar and recounted seeing him in person and not being impressed. "I realized then that the movies really do enhance certain actors, making them seem like something they really aren't at all," The Departed star wrote. "Ford, in person, is a little man, short, scrawny, and wiry, whose soft voice sounds as if it's coming from behind a door."
At least one studio executive publicly countered Baldwin's version of events.
For his part, Ford has never really commented on the casting, saying only that he aimed to make the role his own by giving reference to the character's underlying conflicts. However, David Kirkpatrick, a studio executive characterized by Baldwin as "a beady-eyed, untalented too who seemed like he was up to something" in his 2011 blog entry, did offer a response to Baldwin's version of what went down. Beginning with an empathetic lament on the "cosmic struggle" of creatives, Kirkpatrick wrote on own personal blog that choosing Ford "over a lesser star Alec Baldwin" came down to a trust he and Ford had built while working on previous films. Claiming that they "amicably parted ways" after Baldwin would not approve the script, he wrote that the Hunt for Red October actor "would have been a great Jack Ryan if there had only [been] trust between everyone." Ford, meanwhile, would go on to play the role again in 1994's Clear and Present Danger before ceding it to Affleck eight years later.