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From “Red October” to “30 Rock”: A look at Alec Baldwin’s career on the eve of the trial for the shooting in “Rust”

LOS ANGELES – Hollywood never really knew what to do with Alec Baldwin, so it did a bit of everything with him.

Before the horrific shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the western “Rust” in 2021 put his career in jeopardy, he embraced and flaunted a wide spectrum of masculinity, transforming from hero to villain to bully to gentle father figure, office alpha male to “boss baby.”

He went from star leading man to supporting actor to scene-stealer, and at times went years without starring in a hit movie or TV show. But he’s remained a household name for nearly 35 years, thanks in large part to his real-life persona: outspoken liberal, occasional hothead, talk show guest, podcast host, game show host, and king of all Saturday Night Live hosts.

Here’s a look at Baldwin’s career in and out of Hollywood as he prepares for his manslaughter trial.

1980-1988, A START IN THE SOAP INDUSTRY AND A BREAKTHROUGH YEAR

Alexander Rae Baldwin III is the eldest of six children of a teacher and football coach. He grew up in Massapequa, New York, and studied acting at New York University. He made his film debut in 1980 at the age of 22 in the long-running soap opera “The Doctors,” where he remained until 1982. In 1984 and 1985, he rose to fame with a recurring role in the primetime soap “Knots Landing.”

Baldwin’s breakthrough into the film industry came in an epic year that included starring roles in five major films. His big-screen breakthrough came opposite Geena Davis and Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice. But Baldwin’s role as a bespectacled, middle-class husband in Tim Burton’s silly ghost story was not the norm. His archetypes appeared in other films. He played Melanie Griffith’s cheating boyfriend in director Mike Nichols’ big-budget romantic comedy The Guns and a brass-knuckle-wielding, hairy-chested thug married to Michelle Pfeiffer in Jonathan Demme’s The Wedding. The studios smelled a movie star.

Actress Kim Basinger is pictured with her husband, actor Alec Baldwin, in a June 26, 1994 photo. Baldwin is on trial for manslaughter after nearly 35 years in the public eye. The actor began his career in soap operas before moving on to films and other roles in 1988. Photo credit: AP

1990-1992 — A FUGITIVE LEADER

For a brief moment, Baldwin became a leading man in the style of Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise. He was the first to play CIA analyst Jack Ryan on screen, in the 1990 submarine thriller The Hunt for Red October, which was a huge success. But in subsequent films, he was replaced as Ryan by Ford. “The studio slit my throat,” Baldwin said years later.

Instead, he played Stanley Kowalski in a Broadway revival of A Streetcar Named Desire, which earned him a Tony nomination and an Emmy nomination for the television version.

He had a small but memorable role in 1992’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” as a slick business bigwig who snaps at and emasculates a group of casually dressed salesmen by telling them they don’t have “real balls” (while holding a pair in front of his crotch). The role became a cultural landmark and an early take on the kind of scene-stealing that would one day become his specialty. Years later, he parodied it as the alpha elf in Santa’s workshop on “Saturday Night Live.” Baldwin first hosted the show in 1990 and has taken over – a record – 17 times since then.

Kim Basinger holds her Oscar and hugs her husband Alec Baldwin at a post-Oscars party at Morton’s restaurant in West Hollywood, California, on March 24, 1998. Basinger won the Oscar for best supporting actress for her performance in “LA Confidential.” Photo credit: AP/Rene Macura

1993-1995: THE BALDWINS BECOME A BRAND

Baldwin’s three younger brothers appeared in his entourage. Daniel Baldwin was a series regular on the series “Homicide: Life on the Street” from 1993 to 1995. Billy Baldwin starred alongside Sharon Stone in the 1993 erotic thriller “Sliver.” Stephen Baldwin played a leading role in the 1995 classic “The Usual Suspects.”

The brothers became a cultural phenomenon as a group. When Alicia Silverstone admits that Paul Rudd is attractive in 1995’s Clueless, she says he’s “kind of like Baldwin.”

Meanwhile, Alec Baldwin expanded his family and his Hollywood profile by marrying actress Kim Basinger in 1993. He starred with her in 1992’s “The Marrying Man” and 1994’s “The Getaway.” Both films flopped at the box office, but Baldwin and Basinger remained an A-list couple in the public eye for a decade, even playing themselves on “The Simpsons.” Another flop was the last attempt to make Baldwin a blockbuster leading man, 1994’s “The Shadow.”

1996-2002 UNCERTAIN

Baldwin’s career as a movie star stalled in the late 1990s. He starred in director Rob Reiner’s “Ghost of Mississippi,” but then became a specialist in supporting roles and a popular voice actor, voicing the children’s show “Thomas & Friends” and the Wes Anderson film “The Royal Tenenbaums.” He still hosted “SNL” almost annually and was an ardent liberal Democrat on television talk shows and in other public appearances.

2003-2006 A REVIVAL BEGINS

Baldwin received his only Oscar nomination for best supporting actor for his role as a casino owner in 2003’s The Cooler. New York Times critic AO Scott said that in the role, Baldwin “switches elegantly between malice and self-pity.”

Strong supporting roles became a trademark. Director Martin Scorsese cast him in 2004’s “The Aviator” with Leonardo DiCaprio and in “The Departed,” the winner of Best Picture in 2006, in which he gives Matt Damon an oft-quoted lecture in a Boston accent about marriage and masculinity.

With the new career highs came personal lows. His 2003 divorce from Basinger turned ugly. In 2007, TMZ published a leaked voicemail from Baldwin to her 11-year-old daughter Ireland, who had missed a scheduled visit with him, in which he called her a “reckless little pig.” Baldwin later said in interviews that he considered suicide as a result. Ireland poked fun at the moment in a 2019 Comedy Central Roast of her father, saying she almost missed the event because she hadn’t checked emails from her father in 12 years.

2006–2013: “30 ROCK” AND A CAREER IN THE FALL

Baldwin’s turn to television made him a perfect fit for the role of Jack Donaghy on NBC’s “30 Rock,” a conservative and acerbic television executive whose feud with Liz Lemon, the show’s creator and lead actress, was a big part of the show’s appeal. Baldwin won two Emmys for the role and more recognition than he had received in years.

In 2012 he married yoga teacher Hilaria Thomas. They have seven children together.

2014-2020: He plays himself and Trump

After “30 Rock” was canceled, Baldwin acted sporadically, while more often playing himself. He played the Boss in two “Mission Impossible” movies. And he voiced the animated series “Boss Baby” in 2017. He also hosted a prime-time reboot of “The Match Game” for five seasons. And he continued to host a public radio show and a podcast, “Here’s The Thing,” in which he interviewed public figures in a suave, relaxed but intellectual tone.

He became a national phenomenon in the run-up to and after the election of Donald Trump, when “SNL” cast him for his over-the-top impersonation of his fellow New Yorker, which earned him his third Emmy. But more public ugliness followed. In 2018, he was charged with assault and harassment after arguing with a man over a New York parking space. He later pleaded guilty only to harassment.

2021-2024: “RUST” AND ITS CONSEQUENCES

On October 21, 2021, Baldwin was rehearsing a scene in a small church on the set of the indie western “Rust” in New Mexico and pointed the gun at cameraman Hutchins. A shot went off, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza.

In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in December, Baldwin said he did not pull the trigger of the gun. In January 2023, he was charged with manslaughter.

The charges were dropped but re-filed a year later. His trial begins Tuesday. As the trial approached, he and Hilaria agreed to a reality show featuring them and their children, set to debut next year.