With his latest project Supercell, Alec Baldwin is going up against Mother Nature.
The film, whose international sale is being handled by Highland Film Group at the virtual Cannes market, follows William (Daniel Diemer), a good-hearted teenager wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps, the legendary storm chaser Bill Brody killed by a massive super tornado. His father’s legacy has now been turned into a storm-chasing tourist business, run by the greedy and reckless Zane Rogers, played by Baldwin. After William runs away from home, he teams up with his dad’s old partner Roy (Skeet Ulrich) and enters into the world of storm chasing, as Zane leads the group deep into the eye of the most dangerous supercell ever seen. Herbert James Winterstern directed Supercell from a script he wrote with Anna Elizabeth James, and marks the first film greenlit under a first look deal between Highland Film Group and newly-launched Short Porch Pictures.
After having recently wrapped shooting, Baldwin spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about researching the storm chasing business, creating a tornado on a budget and choosing projects with a family-first mindset: “Whatever work I can find that allows me to stay home, that’s what I’m likely going to do.”
Why was this a film you wanted to be a part of?
Anjul Nigam, one of the producers on the film, is a friend of mine who I produced another film with, a film I was supposed to be in but the schedule didn’t work out, Crown Vic. He contacted me and I read it and I thought well, there’s a certain genre of film, in this case a Twister-style film, you always ask yourself is an audience ready for another round of that? Every so often people dust off a format and bring it back again, which has been very successfully depicted before, like Twister obviously. They sent me the script and then gradually it just kind of seeped into my brain. I really love Skeet Ulrich, and just as they were putting the pieces together I said, why not?
They said come shoot adjacent to Billings, Montana for just a week, they compressed all my scenes into a week. Once I got there was a group of people who they were really on to something, a young director Jamie Winterstern, his brother Ryan’s a producer. You could tell nobody’s making a lot of money here, they’re all running around chasing the sun and they’re swinging cameras over their shoulders. It was a very, very concentrated effort they made to get everything and I hadn’t done that in a while — I haven’t been running across a field trying to chase the sun for a shot in quite a while, it might be 20 years or so. Their enthusiasm was infectious, especially Jamie. It was a great group of people, it was a great crew. Everybody was down to business, we really had to get the shooting done quickly and everybody worked very hard. I really grew very fond of the group, the cast, Daniel and Skeet. It turned out to be a very gratifying experience.
What kind of research or prep did you do before shooting?
I would look at these documentaries about all these famous storm chasers. Tim Samaras, he was the person who I really really tried to build my understanding, I kind of used his career as the prism through which I could understand the whole thing. Samaras died in what apparently was some horrible anomaly where two funnels are combining to make a supercell and then you don’t see the other funnel out of corner of your eye. The storms were closing it on him and he lost the opportunity timing-wise to drive around the storm, he couldn’t get out of it. It came and picked him up, they found his son and he crushed in a car like half a mile away from the site, the car rolled for like half a mile. He and his son were killed. I looked at the footage of him, I watched the TV shows about him and I read about him.
This seems like an action-heavy film, are you doing big stunts or action sequences?
We did little stuff, it’s like simulation. You’re standing there and they’re blowing fans on you and they’re taking gigantic handfuls of hay and throwing it into the fan and they’re hosing you down and spraying the hose into the fan, so it looks like just this giant storm and the wind is blowing all this farm terrain and dirt on you. We got very dirty, I haven’t been that dirty in quite a while. They just sprayed all this shit on us all the time. But that’s what I like is the ingenuity, the necessity of making everything very, very simple. They don’t have money for a lot of effects, this is not a Spielberg production. They have to find ways to simulate it and render it at a low cost, and they did that. We’d say “action” and get out of this van and oh my god, they were blowing this stuff on us like you couldn’t believe it. But it was a lot of fun.
Were there challenges to shooting during the pandemic?
I was vaccinated and most of the people there were vaccinated, and we’re out in the wide open spaces there in Montana. People wore masks and they were very cautious because in the shooting world now nobody wants to be responsible for bringing the whole thing down, you don’t want to be the one that gives the crew some illness. So everybody was very conscientious and I don’t think anybody got COVID when I was there so it seemed pretty good.
What looking for in future projects at this point?
To not work — to retire, I want to retire. I have six kids, I don’t want to work anymore. I’ve got six kids and the oldest is seven. My wife and I had six kids in seven years. I don’t want to work, I want my kids to go to work and support me. I want them to get into the movie business and they can take care of me. That’s my goal. We’ve got a real gang here. I’m auditioning them every day, I make them do scenes from movies. I’m like, “Come on, do it again, do it again.” I’m forcing them into a career in moviemaking so we’ll see what happens.
Is there anything you haven’t done that you still want to do at this point?
I think that for me work is something which at my age, I’ve become thoughtful about you want to make sure things are not duplicative of other things you’ve done. I’ve done a few things and made a few movies and TV shows and so forth — if people come up to you with something that’s original, and I have some share of that, but I mean, for me, it really is about my family. It’s not even close. Having this many children at my age, one of the beautiful things about it perspective-wise is it makes everything very simple. It’s like my family and my wife first, everything else is a distant second. So you say to me, come do this TV series, this streaming series, and it’s a really great part, and you say we’re going to go to Vancouver for five months. The answer is no, I’m not going to Vancouver five months. I’m going to stay home with my family and whatever work I can find that allows me to stay home, that’s what I’m likely going to do.
By Kirsten Chuba, The Hollywood Reporter