How Alec Baldwin Made His Own Rules & Won
Credit: Photograph by Mark Seliger

Though these days Alec Baldwin is probably best known as a television comedian, he remains a movie guy at heart. In his home screening room, there is a no-phone rule. You watch the movie straight through, without interruption, and the world goes away. As a young actor, like all of his peers, he wanted to be Brando, "in the back seat of that car with Rod Steiger" (he's referring to the famous "I coulda been a contender" scene from On the Waterfront) or Pacino, whose career he obsessively studied, watching classics like Serpico and even misfires like Bobby Deerfield dozens and dozens of times. Now, though, looking back, Baldwin wishes he'd been more like William Holden – Baldwin says Bill Holden – who might not have reached the outer bounds of acting virtuosity, but who had perfect pitch when it came to both dramas and comedies, and was such a charming leading man, in classics like Sunset Boulevard, Stalag 17, Network, The Wild Bunch, and Sabrina, that to Baldwin's mind he certainly "reached the outer bounds of movie stardom."

Baldwin, on the other hand, never really did. Or at least he hasn't yet. There's still time, though less and less of it, a mordant fact that Baldwin likes to joke about. "I'm entering now, and in the next five years I will be fully into, what I call the Judge Phase of my career," he will say. "I'm the judge on Law & Order. That's the only role they'll let me play." When the subject of the contemporary Hollywood blockbuster comes up, Baldwin fixes you with those chilling blue eyes. "I get offered to play the superhero's father," he says. "His lawyer."

As much as we love Baldwin's Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock, that's not Bill Holden, 40 feet across and 20 feet high. Still, Baldwin wants to make something very clear. "Everything we're saying," he says, "it sounds like there's a tone of lament, or regret. And if this is written in a certain way, it will sound like I'm looking back and saying, 'I could have been this, I could have been that.' And I want to genuinely say, the wonderful thing about the age I'm at now? I couldn't give a shit."