The handsome actor started out with a string of hit films and Kim Basinger at his side. A series of flops and one divorce later, the most famous Baldwin brother is fighting back.
Alec Baldwin’s full name is Alexander Rae Baldwin III. He is the second of six children, and was born into an Irish-American Catholic family in Massapequa, Long Island, New York.
Baldwin has three brothers, Daniel, Stephen and William, and two sisters, called Jane and Elizabeth. Baldwin and his brothers were all educated at Alfred G. Berner High School in Nassau County, and Baldwin graduated in the class of 1976. His younger brother Daniel both played football at High School under the tuition of the famous coach Bob Reifsnyder, who is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
Although Baldwin’s background is usually described as Irish-American, he is actually of very mixed ancestry indeed. He has English, Irish and German forbears on his father’s side of the family, and French and Canadian ancestry on his mother’s side; his maternal grandmother came from Nova Scotia, and his paternal great-grandmother, Helen Irene McNamara was born in Ireland!
After graduating from high school, Baldwin enrolled at George Washington University in 1976, but then transferred to New York University to read for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Drama. He curtailed his studies, however, and didn’t actually return to complete his degree until 1994. Instead, he opted to study acting at the famous Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, where his tutors were Elaine Aiken and Geoffrey Horne.
He also worked as a busboy at the famous New York night-spot, Studio 54, which gave him the opportunity to rub shoulders with celebrities of all stripes. Drama is clearly in the Baldwin blood, for all three of his brothers are also well-known actors. His brother Daniel has acted in 'Homicide: Life on the Street', his brother William had a role in the movie 'Backdraft', and brother Stephen has acted in 'The Usual Suspects'.
Since finishing his drama studies, Baldwin has pursued a multi-level acting career, and has divided his energies equally between screen acting for film and TV, and performing live on stage. His first major role on TV was as Billy Aldrich on the daytime soap called 'The Doctors', which aired from 1980 - 1982. Baldwin then appeared briefly in the short-lived series 'Cutter to Houston' before landing a major role in the new series, 'Knot’s Landing', which turned out to be his first really big break. In 'Knot’s Landing', he co-starred as the preacher son of Julie Harris. Baldwin then spent the next few years appearing widely on TV, before turning his attention to film acting in 1986. He made his big screen debut with a minor role in the feature film, 'She’s Having A Baby', which he swiftly followed with key roles in 'Beetle juice' (1987) and 'Working Girl' (1988). These two latter movies both both became high earners at the box office, which served to raise Baldwin’s profile considerably as the Eighties drew to a close.
Baldwin's next starring role was as Jack Ryan in 'The Hunt for Red October', which proved to a box-office blockbuster, grossing over $100 million! But sadly, he wasn’t invited to continue playing the role of Jack Ryan in the subsequent Tom Clancy movies, and his character’s role went to Harrison Ford instead.
But the 1990s were not without critical film success for Alec Baldwin. In 1991, he played a leading role in the ensemble movie 'Glengarry Glen Ross', alongside Jack Lemmon and Al Pacino, and was generally considered to have given the best performance in that highly challenging role. Also in 1991, he had a lead role in a movie called 'The Marrying Man', where he also happened to meet his future wife, Kim Basinger. The movie was lambasted by the critics, but since romance had blossomed, Baldwin was not phased by the harsh reviews! He appeared opposite Kim again (who had by now become his wife) in 1994 in a film called 'The Getaway', which was a remake the original movie that had been shot 22 years earlier. In 1993, Alec also played the part of Lamont Cranston AKA The Shadow in the movie of the same name.
Baldwin’s critical reception has fluctuated at times since the late 1990s, when his movies included several drama-packed thrillers, such as 'The Edge', and 'The Juror', where he starred opposite Demi Moore, as well as 'Heaven’s Prisoners'. Since 2000, he has tended to focus his career energies on playing character roles. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in the 2003 movie, 'The Cooler'. Since then he has also worked with Leonardo di Caprio in 'The Aviator' and in the gripping drama movie, 'The Departed', directed by Martin Scorsese. Like many other leading Hollywood actors, Baldwin has also played several key roles as a voice actor, including the films 'Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within' and 'Thomas The Tank Engine and Friends'.
Baldwin is famous for having hosted 'Saturday Night Live' no less than 15 times (as of 15 May 2010), and is allegedly one of only two people who have standing invitations to come and host the show whenever they like, the other person being fellow actor Christopher Walken!
Baldwin returned to the small screen in 2006 to star in the NBC sitcom '30 Rock', opposite Tina Fey, and his work on this production earned him several awards. Teaming up with Sarah Michelle Gellar, he starred in the romantic comedy 'Suburban Girl' (2007), which received mixed reviews. The same year saw the release of his film 'Brooklyn Rules'.
Sticking with comedy, Baldwin starred in 'My Best Friend's Girl' in 2008 and it was during this year that he was rewarded with a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor, an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award for his role in 30 Rock. He also returned as Makunga in the animated movie 'Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa' and produced and starred in independent comedy entitled 'Lymelife' in the same year.
After starring alongside Cameron Diaz in 2009 drama 'My Sister’s Keeper', Alec went on to receive a BAFTA Award nomination for best supporting actor in 'It’s Complicated', which also featured Meryl Streep and Steve Martin. A box office success, the romantic comedy received generally mixed reviews and was nominated for a number of awards.
Although he did not appear in any 2010 feature film releases, Baldwin was in the spotlight as a co-host of the 82nd Academy Awards alongside Steve Martin. He then joined Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in 3D sci-fi action comedy 'Men in Black III', which was released in 2012.
Baldwin has punctuated his television and movie career with frequent stretches of acting on Broadway and the New York stage. In 1986, he made his Broadway debut playing in Joe Orton’s 'Loot', alongside Zoe Wanamaker, Joseph Maher and Charles Keating. In 1998, he starred in the title role of Macbeth at the public theatre, playing opposite Angela Bassett and Live Schreiber. Other Broadway productions that Baldwin has starred in include Caryl Churchill’s play 'Serious Money', with Kate Nelligan and an acclaimed production of Tennessee Williams’ 'A Streetcar Named Desire'. Baldwin’s stellar performance in this play, which also featured Jessica Lange and James Gandolfini and Aida Turturro, won him a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor. He also received an Emmy Award nomination for the television version of this play, which once again also starred Jessica Lange.
Although Baldwin has achieved considerable success with his acting both on the stage, and in movie and television, his personal life is frequently marked by scandal. He is often depicted in the tabloids as having a volatile temper and is noted for his fiery outbursts of anger. Whilst starring in an off-Broadway production of 'Entertaining Mr Sloane', his co-star Jan Maxwell allegedly quit the show early on account of Baldwin’s temper tantrums, which he later blamed on the high temperature in the theatre.
Baldwin's divorce proceedings with Kim Basinger have also attracted many column inches in the tabloids. His high-profile marriage to Kim came to an end in 2000, when the couple sought an official separation. Newspaper reports of the subsequent divorce proceedings featured allegations that Kim Basinger was physically and emotionally abused during the marriage - all of which are totally unproven. His attorneys issued several counter-claims, denying Basinger’s charges, and stating that she herself had a wide range of mental and psychological problems which remained to be treated, and also claimed that she was an alcoholic. In 2004, Baldwin was awarded ongoing custody of his daughter Ireland, as well as joint legal custody. Baldwin is on record as stating that he would like to re-marry and have more children, as the only time he feels truly happy is when he’s spending time with his daughter.
Baldwin also has a keen interest in politics, and is an active Socialist - so much so, that it has frequently been rumoured that he may one day run for public office. Baldwin has attracted a great deal of media attention on account of his strong criticisms of the Bush Administration, and was once publicly forced to recant a statement he had made saying that Dick Cheney was a terrorist! Baldwin has strong left-wing views, and serves on the Board of an organisation called People for the American Way. A reporter for the New York Times once asked Baldwin what would be his ideal office to run for, and he replied: 'If I ran for anything I would like to be Governor of New York.'
Time alone will tell whether Baldwin’s political dreams will come true… watch this space.