Alec Baldwin says he's done with public life.
In a lengthy essay in New York Magazine, the 55-year-old veteran actor explains how the media — the paparazzi especially — made 2013 both his best year personally and his worst year publicly.
"For me,  was actually a great year, because my wife and I had a baby," Baldwin says. "But, yeah, everything else was pretty awful. And I find myself bitter, defensive, and more misanthropic than I care to admit. And I'm trying to understand what happened, how an altercation on the street, in which I was accused — wrongly — of using a gay slur, could have cascaded like this. There's been a shift in my life... I haven't changed, but public life has."
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Throughout the piece, Baldwin talks about how his relative anonymity in New York — or as much as a big actor could have — has been replaced by cell phone cameras and paparazzi. "New Yorkers would make a terse comment to you. 'Big fan,' they'd say...They signaled their appreciation of you very politely. To be a New Yorker meant you gave everybody five feet. You gave everybody their privacy," Baldwin says. "And now we don't leave each other alone. Now we live in a digital arena, like some Roman [Coliseum], with our thumbs up or thumbs down. There was a time the entire world didn't have a camera in their pocket ... There are cameras everywhere, and there are media outlets for them to 'file their story.' They take your picture in line for coffee. They're trying to get a picture of your baby. Everyone's got a camera. When they're done, they tweet it. It's ... unnatural."
It was during one of these run-ins in November that Baldwin was catapulted into the media and branded as a homophobe. As a paparazzo approached the actor's family, Baldwin allegedly called him a "c---sucking f--," according to TMZ, which posted a video of the incident. The altercation came just a few months after Baldwin unleashed a series of tweets against a Daily Mail writer that included such phrases as "you toxic little queen.
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"Anderson Cooper, the self-appointed Jack Valenti of gay media culture, suggested I should be 'vilified,' in his words," Baldwin writes about the latter episode. "I didn't feel bad about the incident. He lied about my wife. They say this is what comes with stardom — I don't agree with you. A journalist isn't supposed to write a lie about you. If he was in New York, I might have had the impulse to beat the sh-- out of the guy. At the time, I didn't view 'toxic little queen' as a homophobic statement. I didn't realize how those words could give offense, and I'm sorry for that."
About the former, Baldwin adds: "Then this other thing happens with TMZ and then it becomes a one-two punch. All this is based on the fact of them believing what I said on a video. I get angry, and I've said all sorts of things in anger, but I'd never use that word... Still, it doesn't matter. GLAAD comes after me and Anderson Cooper comes after me and Andrew Sullivan comes after me, all maintaining that I'm a hateful homophobe. All based on what Harvey Levin told them."
Baldwin was fired by MSNBC, where he had just launched a talk show, shortly after the November incident. But the actor says he never wanted to work at MSNBC in the first place and clashed with MSNBC chief Phil Griffin over the direction of the show, which Baldwin wanted to be similar to his WNYC podcast. "I watched MSNBC, prior to working there, very sporadically," he says. "Once I had signed a contract with them, I wanted to see more of what they were about. It turned out to be the same sh-- all day long."
The actor also lashes out at MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, calling her a "a phony who doesn't have the same passion for the truth off-camera that she seems to have on the air," and Shia LaBeouf, who was set to co-star with Baldwin in Broadway's Orphans last year before getting fired. Baldwin says there was "friction" between the two over learning their lines and he offered to leave the play, but production let LaBeouf go instead.
"LaBeouf seems to carry with him, to put it mildly, a jailhouse mentality wherever he goes. ... You could tell right away he loves to argue," Baldwin says. "And one day he attacked me in front of everyone. He said, 'You're slowing me down, and you don't know your lines. And if you don't say your lines, I'm just going to keep saying my lines.'"
Of LaBeouf's firing, Baldwin says: "I think he was shocked. He had that card, that card you get when you make films that make a lot of money that gives you a certain kind of entitlement. I think he was surprised that it didn't work in the theater."
By the end of the essay, Baldwin says he's done with it all. "It's good-bye to public life in the way that you try to communicate with an audience playfully like we're friends, beyond the work you are actually paid for...There's a way I could have done things differently. I know that. If I offended anyone along the way, I do apologize. But the solution for me now is: I've lived this for 30 years, I'm done with it," he writes. "I'm aware that it's ironic that I'm making this case in the media," he explains, "but this is the last time I'm going to talk about my personal life in an American publication ever again."