Baldwin memoir pulls no punches
A single paragraph in Alec Baldwin’s 272-page memoir, “Nevertheless,” recently ignited a Twitter feud between the actor and one of the producers of a 2006 movie co-starring teenage Nikki Reed as a scheming seductress.
The vitriolic volleys — about just when Mr. Baldwin learned Ms. Reed was 16 or 17 (even her age is disputed) — should come as no surprise, given how bracing the book is. In an entertainment universe where nary a discouraging word is heard, “Nevertheless” is surprising, candid, sometimes discomfiting and well written.
Mr. Baldwin, 59, apparently used no ghostwriter but says he is grateful to Mark Tabb for lessons learned during their collaboration on 2008’s “A Promise to Ourselves: A Journey Through Fatherhood and Divorce.”
In largely chronological fashion, Mr. Baldwin recounts his childhood, parents’ financial
struggles providing for four sons and two daughters, decision to pursue acting rather than the law, cocaine overdose (vividly detailed) followed by 32 years of sobriety, success in film, theater and TV, two marriages and four children, one ugly divorce, one uglier voicemail, later-in-life family joy, political activism, and, of course, Donald Trump.
Mr. Baldwin, who parodies the president on “Saturday Night Live,” writes the Republican “must go, either in 2020 or sooner.”
Most of the book, however, deals with the journey from early movie lover, watching late at night alongside his high school teacher dad in Massapequa, N.Y., to aspiring lawyer turned New York University transfer student working as waiter, busboy, lifeguard and men’s shirt salesman until he was cast in the daytime soap “The Doctors.” He fell in love with show business, its colorful characters and the satisfaction it provided, especially on stage.
The theater “was the only place I could bring what I had to offer and believe that it mattered. Often in filmmaking, the people in charge don’t even understand what you do, let alone appreciate it. … Performing onstage in ‘Prelude to a Kiss’ was the first time I ever believed that I had any talent for acting.”
After Mr. Baldwin played Jack Ryan in “The Hunt for Red October,” Paramount “illegally” negotiated with Harrison Ford to take over as the CIA analyst in “Patriot Games.”
“The carpenter [Ford] who walked onto a set and then into movie history knew that these roles were his legacy. … One thing he does not have is an Oscar, which must frustrate, if not burden him, after his long career.”
When the two met years later, Mr. Baldwin found: “Ford, in person, is a little man, short, scrawny, and wiry, whose soft voice sounds as if it’s coming from behind a door.” Ouch.
Others in the book — lawyers (“Jurassic Park” and Jabba the Hutt are evoked), former HLN host Nancy Grace (“screechy hen”), some studio execs (rapacious, cookie-cutter), and despised TMZ founder Harvey Levin and intrusive paparazzi — are scorched by his wrath.
Mr. Baldwin refutes, convincingly, charges of racism and homophobia. He writes little about his adult brothers and does not kiss and tell about women he dated, although he recalls his disastrous marriage to Kim Basinger and bruising custody fight for their daughter, Ireland.
He can be downright sweet, however, when talking about his mother, who is a breast cancer survivor, or the giddy chance to meet the Kennedys, idolized by his late father. He applauds “30 Rock” costars , “SNL” creator Lorne Michaels, and performers such as Julie Harris, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary-Louise Parker, Amy Madigan, Phil Hartman, Andre Braugher, Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino and William Holden.
It’s wife Hilaria, who was 27 when they met in 2011, who receives his most effusive praise. They had three children in slightly over three years and have reaffirmed the sentiment engraved in Spanish inside their wedding rings: “We are a good team.”
In an unusual publishing postscript, Mr. Baldwin has blamed editors at HarperCollins for several typos and errors (or statements that could be misconstrued) and has set up a Facebook page for corrections, amendments and supplemental material. Managing a memoir in the internet age can be a never-ending job.