Alec Baldwin (New York, 63) once used the words of one of his most admired colleagues in the profession ―“the incredibly intelligent and wise Warren Beatty”― to explain his continuing image problems. “What happens is simple and happens a lot between actors. The moment we stand in front of a camera, we feel the need to appropriate that moment and make it our own. It’s the instinct, almost unconscious, to transform that moment in front of the camera into something dramatic,” said Beatty.
On Thursday, during the filming of Rust, the last film in which Baldwin is the protagonist and producer, the moment could not be more dramatic: he was the one who pulled the trigger of the scenographic weapon that took the life of the 42-year-old Ukrainian director of photography Halyna Hutchins, and who wounded in the same blast the film’s director, Joel Souza, 48 years old. This tragic moment left the actor silent for hours until he expressed the “shock and sadness” he felt on Twitter, offering his support to the family of the deceased and stating that he was “fully cooperating” with the police in the investigation of the accident. Gone from their social media accounts was a photo published days before dressed as a cowboy as his character in Rust and all stained with blood.
With Alec Baldwin the scandal always appears, thanks to him or not, if what one is looking for is that drama that Beatty talks about. He is the eldest brother of a middle-class family of Irish and Catholic origins, made up of six brothers, of whom the four men are part of the world of cinema, even though they cannot be more different from each other. Daniel had drug problems. Stephen is now part of an evangelical church and his ideas are biasedly conservative. The other, William, defined his brother Alec in a profile published in The New Yorker as “someone who always finds something to complain about”. Alec is the oldest, the smartest and the most disciplined, but also the one who protected them from the abuse of other kids, since he was the most quarrelsome. He entered the university with the idea of becoming president of the United States, but when he saw the few opportunities for success in this plan, he changed and enrolled at the Lee Strasberg Institute, where he took years to graduate.
His career could have been like that of Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino, actors he admires, but his generation was not the same. Maybe not even your talent and, of course, the movie world. Baldwin has managed to be compared to his idols for his Broadway performance of the famous theater play A tram called Desire, who three years later also starred in a television movie. Not only did he get a Tony nomination, his name was compared (positively) to Brando’s. At that time, he played Jack Ryan, the CIA agent, protagonist of The Hunt for Red October, alongside Sean Connery.
As time went on, Baldwin’s name began to appear more for his social life and his scandals than for his professional achievements. His Hollywood marriage to fellow star Kim Basinger, whom he met in 1991 while filming a blonde in my life, ended badly, as did the relationship with the couple’s only child, Ireland, to whom he dedicated in a 2007 phone message unloving epithets released to the four winds, possibly as part of a bitter divorce.
Then comes the other Alec Baldwin. “Bitter, defensive and more misanthropic than I think”, as defined in a soliloquy published in the magazine Vulture in 2014. At the time, he already had a reputation for being violent and self-centered, as well as homophobic, as a result of several incidents aired in the press. And, of course, mouth-mouth. Still, the actor managed to resume his career in the most unexpected way: laughing at himself.
The role of the ridiculous and vain television executive Jack Donaghy who played on television for seven seasons (from 2006 to 2013) on the series 30 rock, inspired by Baldwin himself, made him regain his lost popularity. In 2011, he started a new personal stage with his current wife, Hilaria Baldwin, with whom he has six children. But as one of the actor’s best friends, Lorne Michaels, producer of the famous night show, said Saturday Night Live, where Baldwin has had new success in recent years with his impersonations of President Trump “”everything would go better if he were able to enjoy what he has.”
His fights, sometimes physical, often verbal, with the paparazzi and anyone who in the star’s opinion violates his intimacy were frequent even in the productions he worked on. In 2013, actor Shia LaBeouf was fired from the theatrical work Orphans, performed on Broadway, when Baldwin said, “It’s either him or me.” And years earlier, an actress abandoned another theatrical production with Baldwin after writing a comment in which she said she feared for her “physical, mental and artistic” safety.
Each of Baldwin’s reinventions seems inexorably followed by another downfall. Alongside the actor who has repeatedly stated his desire to leave public life is this other in love with social media, with the impulse to write a tweet for every occasion. Many of these network interventions take their toll, as in 2017 when along with the video of a police incident in which the suspect was shot dead he wrote: “How does someone feel who kills by negligence?”.
There are unresolved unknowns in Halyna Hutchins’ death. The investigation did not reveal whether the gun was fired at random or while Baldwin was pointing it, although the transcript of the police call appears to indicate that it happened during a rehearsal. Even though there are no charges against the actor so far, it is not known if they will come forward. The assistant principal’s affidavit indicates that Baldwin received confirmation from the staff that the weapon was not loaded. There are many who wonder if the filming of Rust will be completed. And the same about the actor himself: will he be able to stand up after this new dramatic moment?
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