It Wasn't Easy For Alec Baldwin To Talk Down To Screen Legends Like Jack Lemmon In Glengarry Glen Ross

The old saying goes, "Never meet your heroes because they're sure to disappoint you." But what if you have to scold your heroes when it's part of the job? That's exactly the situation Alec Baldwin found himself in while filming the 1992 film "Glengarry Glen Ross."

Despite the somewhat confounding name, "Glengarry Glen Ross" is a phenomenal film about the psychology of sales. In it, four salesmen are expected to use deceitful methods to sell real estate in two titular land developments, Glengarry Highlands and Glen Ross Farms. An intense salesman (Baldwin) from "downtown" is brought in to use scare tactics and other abusive methods to motivate the group. The film is based on the award-winning David Mamet play of the same name.

Despite only being in one scene in the entire film, Baldwin made the most of his single monologue. In an obnoxious display of imposing masculinity, complete with a literal pair of brass balls, Baldwin berates characters played by some of Hollywood's biggest legends. Understandably, it was a scene the young actor found quite difficult.

Legends in a legendary scene

The majority of "Glengarry Glen Ross" takes place in the dingy suburban sales offices of Premiere Properties in what's commonly known in the sales world as a boiler room. The office is populated by some desperate salesmen going through various slumps. The desperation seeps through the screen because the cast was made up of some of Hollywood's heaviest hitters at the time: Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, and Ed Harris. Kevin Spacey rounds out the ensemble cast (long before he was charged with sexual harassment) as the office manager, dangling the film's MacGuffin, promising real estate sales leads.

The scene featuring Baldwin, known infamously as the "coffee is for closers" scene, is as memorable as it is uncomfortable. Perhaps it's so memorable because it makes you uncomfortable. The scene is made even more intense with the use of long takes, minimal cuts, and deliberate camera movements that make you feel like you're in the office. So, you can imagine the pressure a 34-year-old Alec Baldwin felt coming in to give several Hollywood legends a dressing down, even if it was scripted.

Baldwin can't watch the scene today

In Hollywood, it's not always about your screen time but rather what you do with it. Many people forget that Darth Vader only had around 8 minutes of screen time in the theatrical release of "Star Wars: A New Hope." For his role as the villainous outsider Blake in "Glengarry Glen Ross," Alec Baldwin had a mere 7:45 of screen time. Baldwin's character was asked to motivate the three least successful salesmen with a dressing down so insulting, he threatened to take away basic office amenities. Coffee, after all, is for closers only.

Not surprisingly, Baldwin found the scene arduous to perform. He shared an anecdote with Vanity Fair that also drew comparisons between his character and Darth Vader. Baldwin said:

"I came in the second day and [the cast] were all gathered around and laughing, and as I came walking by, they stopped laughing. It was like Darth Vader walking down the corridor of the spaceship. They didn't like my character. It was really hard. [...] Being so verbally and psychologically abusive to these guys was not something I was looking forward to."

Baldwin found the role especially difficult to play next to Jack Lemmon. "When you have people who are as admired and gifted and iconic as those people in that cast, my first task is to sweep that away," Baldwin noted. "To be so caustic to Jack Lemmon, who I loved and wished I could have had another chance to work with, was not easy."

It is ironic that the film is most remembered for Baldwin's "coffee is for closers" scene because it wasn't in Mamet's original play. But for Baldwin, he'd rather not watch it again. "I love the movie," Baldwin admitted. "But I always fast-forward through that scene."