Alec Baldwin was on location in New Mexico, playing the role of an outlaw with a bounty on his head in a film called Rust, when the catastrophic prop-gun incident that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza took place. Baldwin is the producer and star of the picture, which was filming at the Bonanza Creek Ranch just outside Santa Fe.
Ever since emerging as a bona fide leading man in 1990 in The Hunt for Red October, playing CIA agent Jack Ryan opposite Sean Connery’s bearded Russian submarine captain, Alec Baldwin has remained one of Hollywood’s most engaging performers, even if he has not quite attained the superstar status that had been widely predicted for him. His presence on Rust demonstrates the peripatetic nature of his career: this year, at 63, he has just released the sequel to the animated family comedy The Boss Baby, and played a neurosurgeon on the trail of a killer medic in the true-crime series Dr Death.
Baldwin, famously, is the eldest in a family of actors, with his brothers Daniel, Billy and Stephen all achieving varying degrees of excellence and celebrity in Hollywood. But Alec, who grew up in Long Island in New York state, was the first of the Baldwins to get into acting, and has evidently had the most success as well as career longevity – although his confidence in his trajectory has not always been impermeable, having told a magazine in 2009 that he considered his film career a failure: “The goal of movie-making is to star in a film where your performance drives the film, and the film is either a soaring critical or commercial success, and I never had that.”
However, his impersonation of Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live during Trump’s spell in office between 2017 and 2021, as well as a continuing role as TV network boss Jack Donaghy on the Tina Fey sitcom 30 Rock, which ran from 2006 to 2013, helped to cement Baldwin’s current status. Baldwin, an outspoken supporter of the Democrats, has been openly contemptuous of Trump and his circle, telling the Observer in 2019: “Not only did I never dream a man like him would become president but, also, I didn’t imagine that he would be able to find so many like-minded people to come and serve him. It’s kind of a gallery of monsters.” Of 30 Rock, which re-established Baldwin’s credibility after a string of underperforming movies and crises in his personal life, he told the Guardian after it ended in 2013: “I was very grateful. I knew the show was funny. They were great lines and I think I found a way to play them.”
Baldwin’s off-screen life has been tumultuous, to say the least, and has played a part in affecting his acting career as much as any box-office hiccups. After establishing his reputation with a string of highly regarded films in the late 80s and early 90s, including Beetlejuice, Malice, and probably most famously as the sharp-suited and abusive salesman Blake in Glengarry Glen Ross, Baldwin married Kim Basinger, who he had met on a film set in 1990. However, they separated in 2000 and after an acrimonious divorce, Baldwin’s reputation was badly affected in 2007 by a leaked recording of an angry voicemail message he left for his and Basinger’s then 11-year-old daughter Ireland, in which he called her a “rude, thoughtless little pig”. Baldwin later characterised the divorce and its aftermath as exceptionally difficult, telling the Guardian: “I can barely tell you what I did for those six years. It was a period that was so painful, I was staring off a cliff.”
Moreover, Baldwin has earned a reputation for displays of anger in public, including a series of confrontations with paparazzi, being removed from a flight in 2011 for refusing to turn off his phone and arguing with police after being stopped in 2014 while riding a bike the wrong way down Fifth Avenue. In 2019 he was convicted of harassment after an argument outside his apartment block.
Baldwin’s post-30 Rock acting revival took in roles in acclaimed films such as It’s Complicated!, playing the ex-husband/lover of Meryl Streep’s bakery owner, Still Alice, as the husband of Julianne Moore’s linguistics professor diagnosed with dementia, and the CIA director in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, a role he reprised in its follow-up Mission: Impossible – Fallout. He also found himself the subject of a Comedy Central roast in 2019, in which Ireland joked that her father was “more than some lunatic that loses his temper. He also loses Emmys and Oscars and custody of his firstborn child.”
In 2012 Baldwin married Hilaria Hayward-Thomas, a former yoga instructor who recently triggered a social media controversy after apparently overstating a family connection to Spain; they now have six children together.