Strange Bedfellows? Alec Baldwin & Barney Frank Together at Tribeca
By Evan Mulvihill
Photo: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for 2014 Tribeca Film Festival
Actor Alec Baldwin and retired politician Barney Frank are fast becoming strange bedfellows. The two argumentative figures appeared before a crowd at a Sunday Tribeca Talk in New York City to talk politics and history following a screening of the new documentary Compared To What? The Improbable Journey of Barney Frank. Baldwin surprised some with his executive producer credit on the doc, which follows Frank from his rise to prominence as a closeted Massachusetts Congressman in the ’80s to his 2012 wedding to husband Jim Ready (attended by the likes of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi).
In a red-carpet interview prior to the screening and talk, Out asked America’s first openly gay Congressman whether he had any qualms working with Baldwin (who has been accused of calling a paparazzo a “cocksucking faggot” in November 2013—an anti-gay slur that he appears to drop every once in a while).
“I do think that Alec Baldwin was interested to show that, outbursts to the contrary notwithstanding, he’s really very supportive of gay rights,” Frank said. “He just gets excited, you know?”
When asked about the slurs specifically, Frank responded: “I think they’re just him going off without thinking about what he’s saying. To be honest, there was an adjective and a noun... I have heard my gay friends use the adjective in question very frequently. I don’t think that saying cock-sucking brands you as anti-gay.”
During the Q&A session of the talk, one audience member asked Frank if Baldwin’s reputation was something he really wanted to associate with. Frank replied: “Each of us is perfectly capable of talking for himself. The notion that when you appear in some common forum, that you’re each adopting the others’ views, no I don’t pay much attention to that.”
Deflecting the question, Baldwin responded: “If I could answer that question in the prism of the film, I’ll let you know. I’ll get back to you on that. We’re here to promote the film.”
Interestingly, Baldwin started the talk by addressing Frank’s husband Jim Ready, a Maine handyman who put up awnings for work, if he could help him find a company that would provide a good tent for a gay wedding he’s planning for two unnamed friends of his.
Sheila Canavan, the doc’s director, explained that she secured Baldwin’s involvement by finding his contact info on IMDB and making a cold call prior to the media blowup last November. “We had, for a couple of years, been trying to find somebody who could help us raise the profile of the film,” said Canavan. “Last fall, I found an old HuffPost article by Alec in which he talked about Ted Kennedy after he died, and about the importance of Congress and how a good example of a legislator is Barney Frank. He said that he was interested but that he was really busy. But by October 2013, he had agreed to come on the film.”
“He was involved before his November kerfuffle,” continued Canavan. “As a matter of fact, he was such a mensch about it. He was concerned that he was going to burden the film once that happened. We assured him that we felt it was important for him to remain involved with the film.”
It appears Baldwin, whose politics have always been liberal to the core (earning him quite a few agonizing parodies from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone), isn't promoting this doc as a concession to the gay community or to save face.
Another somewhat unexpected show of support for Frank came from Republican Congressman Spencer Bachus, an Alabaman who was one of the only right-wingers interviewed on camera for the film. Bachus appeared and made comments at a private reception following the premiere, saying to the crowd that there were many things that he and Frank disagreed about in their time serving on the House Financial Services Committee together, but that bipartisanship was important to a functional Congress. He also pointed to Frank and his husband and wished them well on their marriage, now two years strong. Some partygoers pointed out that this could be seen as tantamount to an endorsement of gay marriage from Bachus.
The 74-year-old Frank concluded his speech to the reception crowd with a pithy paradox, one that he promised to flesh out in his memoir coming out next year. “At the age of 14, I realized I could never be gay and be a politician because being gay meant you would be unpopular,” Frank said. “Nowadays, it’s more socially acceptable to be gay than to be a politician.”
Watch the trailer for the film below: