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Last of the Line

Stephen Baldwin, the youngest of Hollywood's four Baldwin Brothers, takes cigars seriously, not acting.
Michael Kaplan
From the Print Edition:
Sylvester Stallone, Mar/Apr 98

(continued from page 2)

"If there are any two people I admire tremendously, they're Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford," gushes Baldwin. "They've had enduring careers and they're regular Joes. I'll never forget being in the Grand Havana in Beverly Hills at 1:30 in the morning on Oscar night when Mel Gibson comes walking in with a statue in each hand. That picture is burned into my memory forever. He walks up to his locker, pulls out a box of Cohibas and starts handing them out."

The tenor of Baldwin's voice ratchets up a notch, showing his surprise. "Mel Gibson is giving me a Cohiba Robusto on the night that he won two Oscars!" he exclaims. "I have the cigar in a Baggie, thumbtacked to the wall of my locker in the Grand Havana. I have a note in there saying that on the night I win my Oscar, I will go to the Grand Havana in Beverly Hills and I am going to smoke that fucking cigar. Then I can say, 'Mel, I know how you feel.'"

Stephen is the youngest of the four Baldwin brothers. The talented brood was raised in the middle-class town of Massapequa, New York, where Stephen quickly established a reputation for being a gifted kid with an impressive singing voice. He won a state award for a cappella singing and considered pursuing a career as a vocalist before getting a clear grasp on the level of discipline that would be required.

Acting must have appeared easier, and it would be difficult to deny the destiny of his gene pool. Like most talented young actors, Baldwin bopped around Hollywood and appeared in small films that few people saw; then he landed bit parts in Last Exit to Brooklyn and Born on the Fourth of July before winning a role on the TV version of "The Young Riders." "That was the biggest and quickest exposure that I got early on," he says, adding that the show came at a point in his career when Alec was still serving as a father figure and doling out advice. "He told me, 'Shut up, know your lines, don't walk into the furniture.'"

However, while the two Baldwins relish spending time together, smoking cigars ("Alec," Stephen says, "calls them 'dogs'"), the paternal aspect of their relationship seems to be waning. "These days," the younger Baldwin continues, "I give him more advice than he gives me. Of course, he'd smack me if he heard me say that. But the reality is that about two years ago he was in a meeting and a producer said, 'So, I hear you're Stephen's brother.' That was a rude awakening for him."

Whatever the case, in talking to Stephen Baldwin, you get a strange feeling that he's somehow locked himself into a "kid brother" mode. Even though he is himself a family man with a wife and two daughters--Alaia, 5, and Hailey, who turned 1 in November--and loads of responsibility, he has long seemed weirdly hung up on remaining rebellious. But that may soon change. While continuing to embrace life with the unbridled joy of a teenager--evident in everything from his cutting-edge fashion sense to the thrill he gets from motorcycle riding and bungee jumping to the tattoos that cover a chunk of his body--he seems to think that it's about time to grow up.

In Hollywood, growing up means producing pictures. Though Baldwin has yet to get a project off the ground, he's working diligently at it. "Getting movies made is not as difficult as people think," Baldwin says, watching the afternoon get dusky over Manhattan through floor-to-ceiling windows that line a wall of the Grand Havana. Mentioning that he is working with a partner on acquiring interesting properties and that he already has his eye on a Salvador Dalí biography, he continues, "Making movies is easy. You get a script, you get a director, you raise the money, you make the movie."

Baldwin quickly shoots the kind of look that says he's half-joking, that he realizes the big difference between making a movie and making a good movie. "I am trying to position myself with a finance company in Los Angeles that will allow me to be the captain of the ship within the production scheme of things. I'll need to know that I will have a lot to say about the financial process. I've had a lot of experiences where the financial people involved are steering the ship, and usually they are people who have absolutely no idea how to make movies."

Clearly, it's a craft that Baldwin hopes to master. When considering his future in the industry, he acknowledges that a long-rumored western starring all four Baldwin brothers is still in the offing. Whatever comes up next for Stephen Baldwin, whether he sits in the producer's seat or occupies an actor's trailer, you can bet that he is one star who will not be going Hollywood in the narcissistic sense of the word.

After stating that he'd rather hang with the siblings of celebrities than with the celebrities themselves--"When you're a celebrity, what is there to talk about other than the fucking business or what your next gig is?"--Baldwin becomes a bit somber. "There is not a lot of reality to Hollywood; it's very superficial, very meaningless," he says. "I act in movies because I think I have a talent and a gift for making the believable from nothing. I do it because I can make people laugh and I have fun. Everything else that comes with it--except when I need a table at Nobu--I don't take it seriously." He enjoys a final draw on the waning Cuban. "I really don't."

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