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Back On Track

Alec Baldwin has emerged from every actor's nightmare—a career downturn and a nasty, public divorce—with the ultimate accolade, an Oscar nomination.
Gordon Mott
From the Print Edition:
Alec Baldwin, May/June 2004

(continued from page 5)

Lawyers get a specifically harsh indictment. "A lot of this was the lawyers. They got in there and said to my ex-wife, 'You are going into the adversarial thing with him and you better start treating him like your enemy. He is your enemy.' One day I woke up, and I was the enemy; it hurt," Baldwin says. But he acknowledges that the way the system is set up, you almost have to be confrontational. He says that he had hundreds of conversations with men who've been through divorce, and he realized that he couldn't be accommodating.

"You have to fight. If you don't fight to maintain your role, the long-term consequences will be disastrous," Baldwin says, recounting the story of one man who did "everything his wife asked and lost his children in the process." He is convinced that the lawyers in his and Basinger's case "looked at two people and said, 'She's worth this much and he's worth that much, and we're not done until we get this amount of money.' They want a million of your money and a million of her money, and if you have to sell the house, they don't care," Baldwin says. "Some of them don't feel they've achieved their goal until you've had to sell your house."

In the end, Baldwin says the divorce has turned him into a crusader on several issues. One, he argues, is that society should encourage prenuptial agreements. Although he doesn't believe they should be mandatory, couples about to be married should be educated about the advantages of working out the details beforehand should their union fail. "It's not so much about the obvious purpose of segregating your assets," Baldwin says, "but as one of my friends says, 'it's about pre-negotiating an agreement while you still have a shred of respect for each other.' And it's really about keeping the lawyers out of it."

He's also become evangelical about his friends, marriages. "It makes you a missionary," he says, reciting an admonishment he'd given a friend over some rhetorical slight he had given his wife. "That's the kind of thing that adds up to where I am right now."

In truth, where Baldwin is currently isn't a bad place. He's survived a nasty divorce and has worked out the details on maintaining contact with his only child. He's been critically praised for a performance in The Cooler and can be seen strutting his talents under the big lights of Broadway.

While he refers specifically to his role in Twentieth Century, Baldwin unconsciously describes the arc of his life in the last six years: "This is more of a physical endurance test. It's very challenging mentally as well, to really drive it. You have to infuse it with an enormous amount of energy. You have to blow so much wind into the sails, and at the same time, seem gracious and relaxed and poised throughout. It's hard."

But Baldwin knows it's worth it.

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