Ready to ride

Alec Baldwin plays dis­graced car mogul John DeLorean

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ENTERTAINM­ENT - NA­TIONAL POST STAFF

It’s the film that ev­ery­body wanted to make, but nobody quite could.

Now, after decades of misses by var­i­ous pro­duc­tion teams, Alec Baldwin plays dis­graced auto mogul John DeLorean in the newly re­leased Fram­ing John DeLorean. The movie blends doc­u­men­tary and drama to break down some mis­con­cep­tions about the car en­gi­neer whose fall is the stuff of legend.

The film ex­plores DeLorean’s sto­ried ca­reer, all the way to his get­ting ar­rested and tried for drug smug­gling after an FBI st­ing en­snared the car man who was des­per­ate for cash. In late 1982, he was charged with con­spir­ing to dis­trib­ute al­most 25 ki­los of co­caine, but was ac­quit­ted two years later.

Detroit na­tive DeLorean was a top ex­ec­u­tive at GM in the early 1970s who worked on Pon­tiac’s GTO and Fire­bird. Never fit­ting into the car cul­ture of the time, DeLorean was more likely to wear a half-but­toned shirt than a suit and tie, and keep the com­pany of movie stars, not stuffy ex­ec­u­tives.

As head of the DeLorean Mo­tor Co. he was forg­ing his own path by 1978, de­sign­ing the DMC-12, a su­per­car with wings for doors that en­tranced au­di­ences in 1985’s Back to the Fu­ture. But his high­rolling life­style — com­plete with huge New Jersey es­tate and four mar­riages — proved un­sus­tain­able and DeLorean’s ven­ture im­ploded.

His North­ern Ire­land car fac­tory, which had over the course of a decade re­ceived $138 mil­lion from the U.K. gov­ern­ment, was drained of fund­ing by new Prime Min­is­ter Mar­garet Thatcher, who re­fused to res­cue the firm from re­ceiver­ship as ru­mours about DeLorean’s fi­nan­cial af­fairs swirled.

At $25,000, his cars had been too ex­pen­sive, too — they didn’t sell and didn’t han­dle much bet­ter than the far less ex­pen­sive Corvette.

The DeLorean plant’s clo­sure was a bit­ter blow for North­ern Ire­land, at that point a con­flic­trav­aged area in which DeLorean’s 2,600 jobs had been a rare high point. By the time the firm shut­tered, just 70 posts had re­mained .

“John was a leg­endary au­to­mo­tive de­signer who had great suc­cess at GM,” Baldwin told Peo­ple mag­a­zine as he pro­moted the film.

“John made his name in the busi­ness and that busi­ness was like a movie. You re­lease some­thing and if it’s a hit, you’re the king for the time be­ing. The be­gin­ning of his prob­lems is nar­cis­sism that’s grounded in a cou­ple things.

“One is plas­tic surgery — a level of manipulati­ng your pub­lic persona that we iden­tify with the Kar­dashi­ans. John DeLorean was ahead of the curve do­ing that then, in or­der to make peo­ple be­lieve about him what he needed them to be­lieve.”

Iron­i­cally, Baldwin told NPR of a phone call he once fielded from the mogul him­self, in the early 1990s.

“He said, “Alec, it’s John DeLorean here and I was won­der­ing if you’d con­sider play­ing me in a part in a movie they’re go­ing to make about my life.”

The film, of course, never made it.

“If that phone call was at all an in­di­ca­tion of how John op­er­ated, then part of John’s suc­cess was he asked peo­ple to do some­thing that they were pre­dis­posed to do,” Baldwin told NPR.

“He said to me, ‘You want to play me in a movie, don’t you?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, yes, I do ac­tu­ally.’ So John kind of knew peo­ple very, very well.”

Now, DeLorean’s flaws — and what some still in­sist was ge­nius — have been made re-fa­mous in a style de­scribed as “semi-doc­u­men­tary.” The new film blends doc­u­men­tary el­e­ments with re­con­structed drama un­der di­rec­tors Sheena M. Joyce and Don Ar­gott.

Along­side Baldwin, Morena Bac­carin plays Cristina Fer­rare, DeLorean’s su­per­model wife. The film sees DeLorean’s own chil­dren de­scribe their fa­ther in glow­ing terms, in be­tween dra­matic scenes and ex­per­i­men­tal takes where Baldwin (as Baldwin) de­scribes how he wants to play the DeLorean role.

Talk­ing to NPR , Baldwin de­scribed driv­ing a sur­viv­ing DeLorean car for the film, call­ing it “kooky” but “ahead of its time.”

After the co­caine saga DeLorean’s trou­bles were by no means over, as fraud and tax cases dogged him for years. Var­i­ous ef­forts to restart car ven­tures failed.

DeLorean died in New Jersey in 2005. He was 80.


Alec Baldwin in Fram­ing John DeLorean.

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