If you’ve watched Alec Baldwin’s life unspool through the tabloids, then you “know” all kinds of things about his first marriage, his cocaine abuse, his paparazzi anger issues, and the infamous voicemail he left long ago for his daughter Ireland. In his long-awaited memoir Nevertheless, Baldwin doesn’t shy away from those stories — they’re all here, and he takes responsibility for the things he has said and done. But they aren’t the focus; they’re side notes in a rich, fascinating, occasionally irascible chronicle that starts with his hardscrabble Long Island upbringing and winds through his TV, movie, and stage roles.
Here are the seven best celebrity anecdotes we culled from Baldwin’s memoir.
On Whitney Houston
“One year I hosted [SNL] when Whitney Houston was the musical talent. After her dress rehearsal, I was introduced to her backstage. ‘You truly are the most talented singer out there today,’ I said, a bit starstruck. She paused and said, ‘I know, baby,’ then walked on.”
On Harrison Ford
When filmmaker John McTiernan told him that Paramount was negotiating with Harrison Ford to replace him as Jack Ryan in the Red October movies: “John told me he spoke with Ford and asked him if he was aware that Paramount was in an active negotiation with me. Ford’s reply, according to John, was ‘F— him.’…In the need of the next franchise to keep the flame of his stardom burning bright while earning him tens of millions more, what choice did he have?”
On Anthony Hopkins
“On the set of The Edge, [Anthony] Hopkins and I had played a game of dueling Richard Burtons. The goal was to not only impersonate Burton but to distill the self-destructive genius down to his essence. Eventually, Tony won the game for all time with his almost haiku-like incantation: ‘Elizabeth! Baubles and stones. White wine. Marbella.’ Then he feigned passing out.”
On Jeffrey Katzenberg
When shooting The Marrying Man, he was dressed down by then-studio-head Jeffrey Katzenberg, who “wasted no time telling me that it was their studio, their money, and their movie. Actors were employees and expected to do their jobs and create as little trouble as possible. ‘I can get the guard at the gate to play your role. It makes no difference to me. The film itself is the star,’ he exhorted.”
On Tim Burton
When he read for Tim Burton for Beetlejuice, “I asked Tim if he was getting what he wanted from me. He murmured something about the living characters being scarier than the dead ones. I thought of my character as a milquetoast antique collector and told him I thought I’d channel Robert Cummings. Tim just stared at me and said, ‘No. Don’t do that.’”
On Oliver Stone
“I shot the film Talk Radio, Eric Bogosian’s hit stage play adapted for the screen, with [Oliver] Stone. … Working with him felt like being trapped with the Barton MacLane character from Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Stone’s ‘technique’ was to generate as much tension on the set as he believed the film required. With sarcastic asides and a passive-aggressive tone throughout, Stone drove the cast and crew to drink a lot each night to blow off steam…”
On President Clinton
He once hosted President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary at his East Hampton home for a political event: “That night, the Secret Service wanted a dedicated bathroom in the house for the president, so we had designated a powder room in the hallway and marked it as off-limits. When the president was eventually escorted to it, he found it locked. The Secret Service men knocked on the door crisply, and a muffled reply came from inside, and after what felt like an eternity, the door opened and revealed my mother standing there. I moaned the most theatrical ‘Moooooooooom’ you could imagine. The president of the United States put his arm around my shoulder and said, ‘Don’t worry, Alec. I understand. I’ve got a mother, too.’”