Alec Baldwin has never been afraid to speak his mind – and that’s probably also why he’s often been a lightning rod for controversy.
But the star of everything from The Hunt For Red October to 30 Rock to The Departed announced Sunday that he is retiring from public life, following a string of misunderstandings, misfortunes and standoffs between himself and his recent collaborators.
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In an interview with Forbes late last year, Baldwin suggested that the key to maintaining a career in Hollywood is waiting until “they forget how much they hate you.” Whether he’s truly gone for good or just giving himself space to be forgotten, the actor offered an elaborate statement to New York Magazine in which he outlined the problems he experienced, and people whom he suggested were at least partially responsible.
After recounting his version of the incident from 2013 where he was accused of calling a photographer “faggot,” Baldwin reiterated that he never used the word, and detailed his efforts to clarify that to the press, if not also make amends. “Am I a homophobe? Look, I work in show business,” Baldwin said.
“I am awash in gay people, as colleagues and as friends. I’m doing Rock of Ages one day, making out with Russell Brand. Soon after that, I’m advocating with Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Cynthia Nixon for marriage equality. I’m officiating at a gay friend’s wedding. I’m not a homophobic person at all. But this is how the world now sees me.”
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Baldwin indicated that the increasingly insidious nature of the press, in particular, tabloid journalism of the TMZ variety, partially provoked him to withdraw. “Harvey Levin exists in his own universe,” he said of the site’s founder. “He’s this kind of cretinous barnacle on the press. Levin told the world that that muffled sound on the video—Levin wanted everyone to know he knows what it is. You don’t know, and I don’t know, but Levin knows, and he tells the world that it’s ‘faggot’.”
He next described his experience working with Shia LaBeouf on the play Orphans, from which LaBeouf was eventually fired. “I said don’t fire the kid, I’ll quit,” Baldwin recalled. “They said no, no, no, no, and they fired him. And I think he was shocked. He had that card, that card you get when you make films that make a lot of money that gives you a certain kind of entitlement. I think he was surprised that it didn’t work in the theater.”
Following the news of his alleged gay slur, Baldwin found his newly-minted MSNBC show on the verge of cancellation. In addition to accusing the network of cowardice, he criticized network head Phil Griffin and his producer, Jonathan Larsen, of kowtowing to the bottom line and failing to support his vision for the show, which focused on actors and other public figures Baldwin found intriguing, as opposed to ones that he knew would attract good ratings.
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“We got to the point where he asked, “So you really meant it when you said you wanted to do your podcast on the air, on TV?” And I told him, yes, that was my idea,” he remembered. “That was when he explained to me that TV, with its visual component, was different. When viewers turn the channel, they want to see something. They want to see Robert Redford. They want to see Justin Timberlake.”
Questioning the value of MSNBC, much less TMZ, Baldwin suggested that much of the media is not just irrelevant, but toxic. “If MSNBC went off the air tomorrow, what difference would it make? If the Huffington Post went out of business tomorrow, what difference would it make? … They’ve gotta have clicks for their advertisers, so they’re going to need as much Kim Kardashian and wardrobe malfunctions as possible.”
“The other day, they had a thing on the home page about pimples,” he observed. “Tripe. Liberal and conservative media are now precisely equivalent.”
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Although Baldwin gives no quarter to media figures and the industry people with whom he worked over the past several years, he trains his unflinching eye on himself as well, ultimately recognizing that the best way to take responsibility for his behavior is by removing it from view of people he believes will mischaracterize it.
“There’s a way I could have done things differently,” he admitted. “I know that. If I offended anyone along the way, I do apologize. But the solution for me now is: I’ve lived this for 30 years, I’m done with it.”
Watch Al Jazeera, one of the few news networks that Baldwin might not include as a target of his tirade, on FilmOn:
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