Exclusive Interview: Alec Baldwin Talks ‘Nevertheless’ Memoir, Authors Night & More

Alec Baldwin approved photo
Alec Baldwin, Photo: Courtesy El Dorado Pictures

By his own admission, Alec Baldwin is currently riding high, personally and professionally, in a career that’s had its share of peaks and valleys over the last 37 years. The longtime Amagansett resident and actor is blissfully married and besotted with his wife Hilaria and their three young children—Carmen, 3, Rafael, 2, and baby Leonardo—and he’s more than mended fences with eldest daughter Ireland, 21.

His animated film The Boss Baby was a smash hit, earning $494.9 million at the box office, with a sequel already in the works. And, aside from those who resent him for it, Baldwin’s Donald Trump impression on Saturday Night Live garnered high praise from a public that can’t seem to get enough. He even picked up an Emmy nomination for the role in July, and his satirical book about it (with Kurt Andersen), You Can’t Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year as President Donald J. Trump, is due for release on November 7. The actor’s first book this year, Nevertheless: A Memoir, hit shelves in April and was hailed as “Beautifully written and unexpectedly moving…” by The New York Times.

With this deluge of good fortune and a full schedule of television and film roles, including ABC’s Match Game and Mission: Impossible 6, Baldwin still makes time for projects that feed his soul, like his Here’s the Thing interview podcast and hosting The New York Philharmonic This Week. But the actor remains steadfast about putting family before career and saying no to anything that might stand in the way of the happy new life he’s created.

Thankfully, supporting local arts and culture institutions, such as Guild Hall, the Dan’s Papers Emerging Young Writers Prize for Nonfiction and the Hamptons International Film Festival, fits into that contentment, so Baldwin will don his writer’s hat and sign copies of Nevertheless at this year’s East Hampton Library’s Authors Night this Saturday, August 12. It probably helps that his wife Hilaria will join him there, signing copies of her book, The Living Clearly Method: 5 Principles for a Fit Body, Healthy Mind & Joyful Life.

Baldwin sat down with us for an interview at the Amagansett Free Library last month to discuss his memoir, Authors Night and more.

You wrote Nevertheless without a ghostwriter. What was the writing process like for you?
For like a year I would write in my phone, I would dictate passages in my voice message … it was all these recollections and people. There was a whole list, a whole avalanche of bullet points. Then I’d stop and say, what’s the most illustrative?

The thing that was the easiest for me to write about was my childhood. I don’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but I remember my fourth grade teacher, what she said to me. … A lot of people said, “Why don’t you write more about your career?” And I thought, God, my career is so boring to me.

People find it interesting to see someone’s path to success, and how they got there.
I do find people discussing their careers in some sense [interesting]. I could probably think of half a dozen people off the top of my head I’d really like to know what their early days were like, and what their kind of apprenticeship was like. But for me, it wasn’t that interesting to me to write about my own career. I put that in there, but I tended to talk about other people and other actors.

At the end of Chapter 7, you talked about bailing on doing Prelude to a Kiss on Broadway to instead do The Marrying Man for this big contract—it was your first million-dollar paycheck—and you said, regretfully, “Once you abandon your instincts and start polling people about your choices, once you attempt to reshape yourself into something you’re not, it affects nearly every decision you make.” Do you still worry about decisions that could undo your career?
The decision to not do Prelude, and to go do The Marrying Man and chase the money, was the turning point in my life. … Up till then I went after the jobs I was submitted for, and I tried to get certain things, and took the ones I got. I was kind of moving up a ladder, but once I didn’t do Prelude on Broadway to just chase money, that was a huge mistake.

Did you realize it right away?
No, no. … I wasn’t naïve, but I wasn’t as focused on it as I might be—they were encouraging me to play a different game. They were playing the movie star game, which is all about perception: how much money you’re paid and that kind of thing. It’s not about the quality of the work.

Now you’ve got Hilaria and the kids, and all this great stuff happening with you personally. How much does that sway your career?
In every way. It overwhelms my career. There are three men, who shall remain nameless, who asked me to do projects, and I swore on the deepest level that if those men ever asked me to come, it wouldn’t matter about schedule, location or money… In the last four years all three of them called me, and I had to say no because of my family and my kids. What I’m signed onto now, work is a sideline.

Yet your career is doing really well right now. Maybe one feeds the other?
I am enjoying this appreciation of people for the whole Trump thing, because I’m channeling everybody’s confusion and hatred about Trump. I’m not Daniel Day Lewis playing Lincoln…I’m putting on this costume and doing this very quickly rendered [impression]. We’re not doing an Oliver Stone film. What we’re doing is sketch comedy, but I’ll take it. Everybody seems to really think it’s funny, so I’ll take it.

It came at a time when more than half the country was so devastated.
We’re still devastated…a fresh devastation every day. If you want to talk about politics, in our lifetime we have had the opportunity to view something which is very rare…that this country is so great it will survive this idiot and these horrible people that are with him.

Did you enjoy the writing process at all?
[John] Cheever’s kids, and I think [William] Styron’s kids the same thing…I read interviews where the mother said to them when they were children, whatever you do, don’t go near that room during the day. Like, when daddy goes in the room to write, don’t even think about knocking on the door. And the guy would go in the room…get in the bubble and strap into the cockpit and get it going for the next four or five hours. Now if I could do that, that’d be fun. I didn’t have any time for that.

You must have found yourself getting better at it as you went along?
When I got in the groove, and you get in the zone where a little bit’s flowing and it’s starting to come a little bit—or even that first draft you can kind of hone—it was thrilling. I really did enjoy it. I’d like to do it again. I just don’t know what I would write.

You air a few grievances in the book, like Harrison Ford replacing you as The Hunt for Red October protagonist Jack Ryan.
I’m telling a story about what happened to me. Why didn’t I do the sequel for The Hunt for Red October? There’s a guy named Barry London, who was the head of publicity … When the whole Red October thing blew up he went to the press and said, “Alec Baldwin is not going to do the movie because he overplayed his hand at the negotiating table.” Nothing, I repeat, nothing, could be further from the truth. These guys cut my throat and threw me over the side. And that’s cool, but I wanted to explain to people: Here’s what really happened.

When Nevertheless came out, the press focused on a lot of the scandalous moments in the book. Did you expect that?
I just ignore all that. I didn’t care. I knew full well what I was saying. Any book you read from anybody who has a career—number one, you can’t have a career if you walk around just throwing acid in the face of anybody you’ve ever worked with, and throwing them under the bus. I have a lot of clichés here, but just kind of ranting about them, you can’t work. What happens is, every single one of these books you read, people really pull their punches. I’m not going to tell you what I really think about this, and this and this.

So I picked a few stories where there were people who were going to get hurt. So what?

In the book I say, [the director, John] McTiernan called Harrison Ford and said, “You realize we’re in negotiations with someone else,” and Ford’s response was, “f__k him.” Everybody is doing what they’ve got to do. I did what I had to do. I don’t think it’s going to hurt Harrison Ford’s career. Old age might hurt his career more than my writing.

You recalled your drug addiction in the memoir. It was a pretty gripping story, the whole cocaine psychosis thing. You wrote, “People use [drugs and alcohol] for fear of what they want to do or accomplish, or what they might lose.”
The Seventh Step of AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] is a self-centered fear based on the idea that we will either lose something we already have, or not get something that we want. In my readings of the [Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book] over the years, or going to book meetings, that always resonated. That’s the definition of what bothered me. There was this constant state of agitation and want. When I was younger back then, my dad had died and I didn’t really have anybody I could trust to council me. I was going through a lot of changes in my life. I think the thing that I wanted was people I could trust. I was very anxious because I was surrounded by people who—I don’t think they were bad people, or malicious people, but they just never cared on the level that your parents might.

My dad was a pretty smart, pretty tough guy. He’s the one, not my mom, who could’ve given me some sound advice about my work, but he was gone.

How about your brothers or your sister?
Yeah, my sister Beth has always been very thoughtful toward me, and caring. My brothers are literally—even though their careers are separated by just a handful of years…that difference is profound. They come from a completely different generation of actors.

Do you still find yourself falling in love with certain men? You talk a lot in Nevertheless about men who you found had something really special about them.
David O’Brien who played my father on the soap—there are actors who I admire: Gary Oldman and Daniel Day Lewis, I just admire him so deeply. I really enjoy on the deepest level someone who occupies the place they’re in, and they’re obviously very talented, and they’re obviously having a good time and you sense that. Like when we did Saturday Night Live once, when I was doing the Trump schtick. You’ve got to go back and look at the one that Bruno Mars did. Go back and see Bruno Mars’ entrance.

You think you’ll work with Tina Fey ever again?
I don’t know. What Tina wants to do acting-wise is a mystery because she spent so much time doing just [Unbreakable] Kimmy Schmidt, I mean it’s a real acting role, doing the movie she did [Whiskey Tango Foxtrot]—she was very good in the movie. She was very, very sensitive. All she’s doing now is Kimmy Schmidt and producing Mean Girls the musical.

How did you come to love the East Hampton Library so much?
I could give a million dollars to the New York Philharmonic and I’m the poor relation there—all those guys are super rich dudes giving five and 10 million. A million dollars isn’t what it used to be, especially in Manhattan, but I came out here and I said to myself, I’m going to start to change my commitments in the city where I think it has less of an effect. … Out here it really made a difference—the Film Festival, Guild Hall, the Library. Now that I have little kids, it’s all about happy little kids. My kids go to that library and they just have a ball. I thought, this is so important to this community. I love the work they do. I swear to God, if I had a billion dollars, I’d give 100 million of it to the East Hampton Library.

Tell me about Authors Night. Will you be sitting next to Hilaria?
I have relationship with my wife where I’m happy when I’m with her and I’m less happy when I’m not with her, so we’re going to be there together, and we decided we’re probably going to sit right next to each other and sign our respective books. It’s a great event. We do the dinner afterward. … I come out here and I enjoy myself and I relax, and I have some menu of things I’m doing, all of which I love, so the summer to me is like this really wonderful time.

Hilaria seems to help you open up and embrace the public in certain ways that it seems like you wouldn’t have done otherwise. You guys regularly post pictures on Instagram of, say, being at Hank’s Pumpkintown with your children.
My wife is much more kind to the media.

How did that conversation go? Clearly she must have convinced you to go along with this. Has opening yourselves to the public like this been positive for you in any way?
I’ve always been somebody who…I would walk red carpets and go to film premieres and do interviews with people. Paparazzi photographers who get too close are the issue. That’s a profound distinction. Someone who’s as far from my daughter with a camera as you and I are now, that troubles me. It frightens my kids, but there are people who are across the street from our apartment—I never have a confrontation with people who are 50 feet away. We’re in public and it’s the press. It’s the guys who get really close and want to talk to you. I think we should have a law in this country literally where…if I’m not a government official or a criminal defendant in a trail—if I’m a private citizen and you walk up to me on the street and you say, “Can I ask you a question about your divorce?” and I say no, you have to go. We’re done.

My wife is somebody who would make a plate of sandwiches and lemonade for these people and take it out to them on the street. My wife is very kind. She’s exceedingly kind.

And you’re OK with it?
It’s always better to be more like my wife than me in that department.

Was there ever a conversation where it was like, “Eh, I don’t know if we should be posting these pictures?”
No. By no means by intention, but Instagram and social media postings like that bypass paparazzi photography. You literally preempt them and you wind up getting the pictures up there yourself, so we have a bit less of them coming after us because the pictures are all over the place. Photographs of my family don’t have as much value as they used to. Number two: You can select what you want. You get to select what it is and what it says. You put the caption. My wife is a very good editor for things that are an insight into our family.

I’m 59 years old, and my kids now—it’s everything. It’s the thing I’m signed on to. … I’m going to shoot a movie for a week in October and we’re all going to go. Seven people—me, three kids, my wife, two nannies over there, the baby nurse with the baby—and when we travel, people know the crew is seven people and three hotel rooms. It’s a three-room suite, a three-bedroom suite, and it’s a ball. When I’m not with my family, I’m sad. I like my kids.

You’ve been coming out to the Hamptons for ages. What stands out as the things you absolutely love about this area, aside from the institutions you mentioned?
In spite of speculative real estate concerns and businesses, and in spite of UpIsland builders’ associations that want to come out here and make money…I’m very admiring of what [local municipalities] were able to accomplish. It could have been a lot worse. A lot of the character of this area was saved. Where has there been more pressure speculatively than this area?

RELATED: 10 Questions with Alec Baldwin, Actor, Author

Meet Alec and Hilaria Baldwin at East Hampton Library Authors Night this Saturday, August 12 at 159 Main Street, East Hampton. For tickets and info, including a complete list of participating authors, visit authorsnight.org.

More from Our Sister Sites