(Daniel Baldwin—“Homicide: Life on the Street,” “Born on the Fourth of July,” “Celebrity Fit Club,” “Celebrity Rehab with Dr.Drew”—has had long-term problems with drugs; Stephen Baldwin, now a born-again Christian, has come to hold some conservative views, whereas Alec Baldwin is an active, highly informed Democrat and a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.) Nevertheless, for all his affection, he also calls them “very different people.” If a generation gap opened up when they were children, it expanded in adulthood, when the younger brothers—gate-crashing Stooges—joined him in the profession for which he had trained.It was “an Irish-Catholic, rowdy, rambunctious upbringing,” in Billy Baldwin’s phrase. My father broke his hand on a guy’s head once in school. The older I got, I learned to behave as he did, which was to not be afraid of anybody. Wherever I go, I don’t have a drop of fear in my whole body. Never.”According to Billy Baldwin, “Alec put my father on a pedestal.He described Alec as smart and disciplined but noted that “he ran in a crowd that was a little rougher than I did.” He was a good athlete, “but nothing special—I may hurt his feelings saying that.” Alec’s tales of boyhood, delivered with uncannily precise sound effects of the everyday (screen doors, beer cans), sometimes place him in cars and on furiously pedalled bicycles, on his way to settle, with violence, points of teen-age honor. The kid was drunk; it was a big masculine challenge for him to pick a fight with my father. He really idolized him.” Alec Baldwin said that he deliberately molded a relationship with his father (who died, of lung cancer, in 1983, when he was fifty-five and Alec was twenty-five), in a way that the others, who were younger, did not: “If you wanted to communicate with my father, you had to share his view of politics and culture.“I had three younger brothers committing me to things,” Baldwin said, laughing. My father wasn’t a violent or mean-spirited person, but he was a very strict disciplinarian in school and he knew that some of these kids only understood one thing. He was very well read, a very bright guy; you had to watch Cronkite, and ‘How Green Was My Valley,’ and after that five other Donald Crisp movies.” His brothers “didn’t meet him halfway.They’d go out the front door and play Wiffle ball.” Baldwin speaks fondly of his siblings, despite the potential sources of friction.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 finished writing 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. ”Turning back to me, he said of the film, which he was helping to produce, “This kind of stuff, it’s so hard”—the tiny budget, the tight schedule, no more than two or three takes.
But, you do a television show, you become a pastry chef.
He cares about classical music; he began to take an interest in his twenties. ”Alec Baldwin once wrote a screenplay for a Western, derived from “The Fastest Gun Alive.” He and his three younger brothers—Daniel, Billy, and Stephen, all of whom have had acting careers in film and television—were to portray a family of unnaturally skilled gunfighters.
(Perhaps not surprisingly, he adores Mahler and can’t quite see the point of Mozart.) “To sit there in the studio and just say”—a rich radio voice—“ ‘And now Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. As Billy Baldwin, who appears in “Dirty Sexy Money,” the ABC drama, recently recalled, “Basically, it was: Daniel’s the outlaw; I’m the riverboat gambler who gets all the pussy, the shallow, good-looking sap; Stephen’s the village idiot; and he’s the fucking hero!
At the end of his junior year, he split up with a girlfriend and lost a student-body election. He was lean and intense, and had chest hair in which one could lose a telephone, and within a year he was in the New York-based daytime soap opera “The Doctors.” In 1983, he moved to Los Angeles and was soon offered a role in “Knots Landing,” the hit spinoff of “Dallas,” on CBS. Billy Baldwin tentatively connects that blow—along with later career and relationship difficulties—to a general darkening of Baldwin’s mood, and an occasional habit of “grenade launching.” Alec Baldwin does not regard himself as unusually volatile—one wonders if his verbal facility has sometimes stood in the path of introspection—but he acknowledges that he used to have a sunnier self.
His memory is that it survived until the end of the decade: “Pre-1990, I was just candy canes and lollipops and ice-cream cones and unicorns; I was happy-go-lucky!