His turn as John DeLorean will probably be less parodical than his others.
If his presidential stints on Saturday Night Live are falling flat in the White House, Alec Baldwin can console himself with the idea that his impression skills are at least impressing someone. As per Deadline, the actor has been cast to take on the likeness of John DeLorean for “a series of scripted scenes” in an as yet untitled documentary from XYZ Films about the man who gave us the iconic Back to the Future car.
Baldwin’s ability to slip into someone else’s skin will be supplemented by the hair and makeup artists he’s bringing to this project (the same team who help craft his signature tangerine tone as Trump on SNL). There’s a passing resemblance between DeLorean and Baldwin anyway, but with the help of some sideburn extensions and a faux-chin, the actor is likely to surpass the technical requirements demanded by roles like this.
In the driver’s seat on this project are Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce, a director-producer duo who have worked with Baldwin in the past: The Atomic States of America features the actor in a non-scripted capacity. Interestingly, the filmmaking pair’s latest project — they’re contributing to 11/8/16, an upcoming, segmentally structured doc about last year’s election day — suggests there’s a shared interest in the current president on both sides of the camera here. (They also made The Art of the Steal, an unrelated 2009 doc that bears a Trump-influenced title. Maybe “The Art of the Steel” could work here…)
There have been quite a few DeLorean-related docs before, but these have generally been more heavily geared towards his car creations, rather than the man himself. The dearth of films exploring DeLorean’s sensational history is especially conspicuous, given just how colorful his life was: a pre-Steve Jobs nonconformist, the charismatic young DeLorean enjoyed a meteoric rise at General Motors before dramatically leaving to form his own automotive company.
Following a £100 million loan from the British government, the maverick launched production of his DMC-12 (also known as the eponymous DeLorean) in Northern Ireland, but the brakes were slammed on when the FBI stung him with a cocaine trafficking charge and his company went bankrupt. After becoming a born again Christian and successfully proving he had been the victim of entrapment, DeLorean was free to return to business, but his Icarian past had tainted him with the reputation of a conman. His last years were marred by fraud cases that saw the likes of Margaret Thatcher give testimony for the other side.
The shortage of DeLorean docs and biopics produced during his lifetime may have been down to the man himself – according to a 2001 article in a UK magazine, the DMC creator’s lawyers were allegedly putting the kibosh on the idea of a DeLorean movie by threatening legal action against any circling production companies.
His 2005 death seemed to lift this embargo, though, and a raft of attempts to explore DeLorean’s life and investigate its more scandalous elements ensued. In 2010 alone, four separate projects were announced, but ultimately, none came to fruition. Notably, XYZ Films and DeLorean historian Tamir Ardon were named as being behind one such dramatized project, described at the time as “an updated Citizen Kane story of the great American entrepreneurial hero and how it all went wrong.”
It looks like XYZ’s current project, which Ardon is also producing, is an evolved version of their previous attempt. Shifting from fully dramatized film to a part-documentary, part-scripted compromise is a smart move, since it matches the strengths of all involved. Argott and Joyce’s mastery of documentary, as well as Ardon’s extensive knowledge of the man, will likely lend itself better to this project, while the “previously un-produced John DeLorean narrative projects that never got off the ground” will help to provide grist for Baldwin’s scenes.
The history of John DeLorean biopics is certainly confusing, being marked by stops and starts of the kind that allegedly forced Johnny Carson to a halt when the battery went dead in his DMC-12. But this year, there is real acceleration: aside from the untitled documentary, there will be Driven, a Nick Hamm-directed thriller about the FBI sting that threatened to put DeLorean behind bars. Argott and Joyce’s doc will be a fuller portrait, though, covering “the enigmatic automaker’s rise to stardom” as well as the “shocking fall from grace” that chiefly informs the narrative of Driven.
Despite his acquittal, opinion of DeLorean remains quite divided, given the scandalous nature of the allegations levelled against him. Although it’s too early to tell exactly what tone this documentary will take, Argott and Joyce’s previous work has indicated a desire to cast aspersions on the morality of institutions most people would otherwise deem positive social forces. It’s quite possible, then, that this doc will work to vindicate DeLorean in the face of his prosecution by the FBI. The involvement of DeLorean’s family is another hint that this doc will express sympathy with the disgraced tycoon, given that some family members have been especially protective of his image in the past, rejecting requests if they don’t properly honor DeLorean’s genius.
Whatever stance it will take, the involvement of Alec Baldwin (who also was recently cast as automaker Enzo Ferrari for a true biopic) is a promising sign for this project, since it indicates that these filmmakers are the first to successfully travel the long, bumpy road to making a John DeLorean film.