Peter Bart: Alec Baldwin’s Multimedia Hot Streak Comes With Laughs & Controversy

NBC/20th Century Fox/Associated Press

Whether lending his voice to a tyrannical baby or convulsing Saturday Night Live viewers as a muddled president, Alec Baldwin is defining a new level of celebrity. His movie, The Boss Baby, sits stop the box office chart; his candid new memoir is being praised by reviewers; he glowers from the cover of Vanity Fair — and besides all this, Donald Trump hates him. Say this for Baldwin: For a guy who acknowledged he would never become a movie star, he has managed to become a force in our pop culture.

In his new book Nevertheless: A Memoir, Baldwin insists “I don’t hate Trump and didn’t want to play him,” which is fascinating in that the two men share a high quotient of attitude. Indeed in Baldwin’s new movie, when Boss Baby arrives at his new home replete with suit, tie and briefcase, we hear Baldwin’s voice announcing, “I’m the boss. And I could kill for a spicy tuna roll.” Hello, Donald.

Both Trump and Baldwin can be notoriously oblivious to the impact of their public remarks; both have displayed bouts of bad manners. Baldwin’s talk show on MSNBC quickly tanked because of his apparent lack of awareness to the sensibilities of guests, or viewers. Over the years he has boycotted the Emmys, made inappropriate threats about stoning public figures, and publicly fought out some of his domestic traumas.

Alec Baldwin Nevertheless

His memoir, published Tuesday, has triggered a pubic shouting match with Dana Brunetti over an obscure 2006 movie titled Mini’s First Time – Baldwin claims Brunetti, the producer, misled him about the age of Nikki Reed, his co-star. Reed was 16 at the time she shot a love scene with Baldwin, who wrote that he was led to believe she was older (there was no nudity in the scene). Brunetti claims Baldwin has played Trump so many times he has lost track of the truth.

Baldwin’s podcasts and Daily Beast columns, however, have drawn loyal followers, and his memoir reflects a mature understanding of his volatile career. “I now focus on trying to do my best in whatever role I land,” he declares. Still he looks back fondly on that period of Hollywood when scripts were tailored for certain stars. Baldwin clearly yearned to be William Holden because he was “tough and resourceful” and movies were created to display his traits. As a young actor, Baldwin wanted to cultivate the “snarl” of Edward G. Robinson, the “silky” moves of Bogart and the “zingers” of Jack Nicholson. However, Baldwin most admired the range of Al Pacino and his “reservoir of truth, pain and love.”

“The Hunt For Red October” (1990) REX/Shutterstock

To be sure, Baldwin’s performances were constrained by the demands of being a working TV actor in 30 Rock and Will & Grace. Martin Scorsese helped rescue his film career, offering him supporting roles in The Aviator and The Departed. Baldwin played Jack Ryan in Hunt For Red October but was replaced later in the series. In his memoir, Baldwin critiques some of the filmmakers he worked with. Oliver Stone, he reports, created constant tension on the set of Talk Radio. Still, some filmmakers have asserted that Baldwin’s wall of attitude prevented him from establishing a warm rapport with his audience.

Hence the irony of his present stardom: Just as Baldwin registers perfectly as the brash baby ordering his parents around, so his imaginings as Trump hit a satirical bull’s-eye. In his memoir, Baldwin insists “I’m not funny. The SNL writers are funny.” And he expresses his gratitude to Lorne Michaels for fostering his role and to “the people’s republic of Manhattan” for venerating him.

Baldwin is still not Al Pacino, but he’s found his own unique standing in the annals of show business.

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