by Ian Parker
SEPTEMBER 8, 2008 Relentlessly self-critical, Baldwin says, “I don’t think I really have a talent for movie acting.” Photograph by Martin Schoeller. PRINTE-MAILSINGLE PAGE
Baldwin, Alec; Actors; Movies; Television; “30 Rock”; Basinger, Kim; Baldwin, Ireland
Alec Baldwin, who stars in “30 Rock,” the NBC sitcomthat has revived his career and done nothing to lift his spirits, has the unbending, straight-armed gait of someone trying to prevent clothes from rubbing against sunburned skin. He is fifty years old, divorced, and lives alone in an old white farmhouse in the Hamptons and an apartment on Central Park West—feeling thwarted, if not quite persecuted. In conversation, he lets out an occasional yelpinglaugh, but he is often wistful, in a way that is linked to professional and romantic regrets, and to a period of tabloid notoriety last year, when an angry voice mail that he left for his daughter, who was then eleven, became public. He is very conscious of what is lacking in his life—a spouse, for example, and a film career something like Jack Nicholson’s, and the governorship of New York—andhis rhetoric can sometimes bring to mind a scene from “30 Rock” in which Baldwin, in his role as Jack Donaghy, a shameless but astute TV executive, stares at an equestrian painting by Stubbs and, in a growled whisper of longing, says, “I wish I were a horse—strong, free, my chestnut haunches glistening in the sun.” According to Lorne Michaels, the executive producer of “Saturday Night Live” and anexecutive producer of “30 Rock,” Baldwin “guards against enjoyment.” (Michaels is a friend of Baldwin’s and was a model for the Donaghy character.) “I’ll say, ‘Alec, you have one of the best writers in television’ ”—Tina Fey—“ ‘writing this part for you. It’s shot in New York, where you chose to live. You work three days a week, you get paid a lot of money, you’re getting awards. It’s a great timein your life. It’s an all-good thing. And, if you were capable of enjoying it, it would be even better.’ ” Or, as William Baldwin, one of Alec’s three younger brothers, said recently, “There’s always something for him to fucking whine about.”
On a Friday afternoon in April, at the end of a week making “30 Rock,” in a studio in Queens, Baldwin was on a quiet suburban driveway in northern NewJersey, moonlighting on a low-budget independent film being made by friends of his. The production did not have the funds to produce Hollywood bustle: the loudest sounds were birdsong and a distant wood-chipper. Baldwin was wearing hunting gear—a bright-orange vest and camouflage pants—and this disguised him; throughout his career, he has typically been seen in fitted suits that signal a menacingdelight in the exercise of power—perhaps most famously in “Glengarry Glen Ross,” which he made when he was thirty-three. (“Third prize is: You’re fired.”) Today, he was playing the owner of a suburban property business, a man in a troubled marriage. When I sat with him, he said, “I’m so fucking tired.” Besides performing in “30 Rock” and in this film, called “Lymelife,” Baldwin had just finishedwriting a book on divorce and the law—part memoir, part polemic about the legal barriers sometimes put between a divorced parent and his children—which drew on his bruising experience after separating from the actress Kim Basinger, eight years ago. He said that he had been falling asleep at night with a laptop on his chest.
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Tiffany Nishimoto, Baldwin’sassistant and producing partner, handed him a phone, and he immediately began speaking into it: “It sounds to me like you want to . . .” Then he stopped and started again: “First of all, hello.” He has a fast, heavily stressed, highly enunciated speaking voice, punctuated by frequent throat clearings—this can give the impression that you’re hearing a warmup rather than the event itself. When he had...