Alec Baldwin says goodbye to ‘public life’

Posted at 10:59 AM, Feb 24, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-24 12:59:06-05

(CNN) — Alec Baldwin is still an actor. He’s just no longer in show business.

As his one-time “Orphans” co-star, Shia LaBeouf, did last winter, Baldwin has given a public statement that he’s ready to retire from public life.

He does so in an essay told to New York magazine, covering a lot of ground recounting the tumultuous events that led up to this decision. While 2013 wasn’t all bad for the 55-year-old star — the actor and his wife, Hilaria, welcomed their daughter, Carmen, in August — it also wasn’t the best.

There was his conflict with LaBeouf on the set of a Broadway production of “Orphans,” the death of his friend James Gandolfini, his angry Twitter exchange with a Daily Mail journalist in which he called the writer a “toxic little queen,” and then an altercation with a paparazzo in November that led to a domino effect for more criticism and lost work.

During that standoff, Baldwin was accused of calling a photographer a “c**ksucking f*g.” That incident, combined with his Daily Mail dust-up, caused a significant shift in Baldwin’s life.

“I’m not a homophobic person at all,” he says in the New York magazine essay. “But this is how the world now sees me. I haven’t changed, but public life has. … Now I don’t want to be Mr. Show Business anymore.”

The former “30 Rock” star says he can no longer enjoy New York the way he once did, now that “everyone has a camera in their pocket,” combined with the “predatory photographers and predatory videographers who want to taunt you and catch you doing embarrassing things. (Some proof of which I have provided.) You’re out there in a world where if you do make a mistake, it echoes in a digital canyon forever.”

As someone who once relished being out in his home base of New York, where people were generally “very kind” to him, Baldwin says he’s now “bitter, defensive, and … misanthropic” with a distaste for the media that he’s never had before. And while he does see the irony in criticizing the media in a magazine, he promises “this is the last time I’m going to talk about my personal life in an American publication ever again.”

Presumably to make good use of this “last time,” Baldwin goes on to recount in opinionated detail the conflicts he’s faced over the past 12 months, lingering on November’s altercation in particular. Although Baldwin’s been accused of lobbing an anti-gay slur at the photographer, he claims he never said it.

“I’m self-aware enough to know that I am to blame for some of this. I definitely should not have reacted the way I did in some of these situations,” the actor says. “Do I regret screaming at some guy who practically clipped my kid in the head with the lens of a camera? Yeah, I probably do, because it’s only caused me problems. But — I’m sorry, I can’t let go of this — do people really, really believe that, when I shouted at that guy, I called him a ‘f****t’ on-camera?”

As it would seem from the chilly public reaction, which Baldwin chronicles in his essay, many people definitely do. In the end, that November confrontation appears not only to have cost Baldwin his newly formed talk show at MSNBC but a necessary aspect of his reputation, and particularly in New York.

Now, as a result, Baldwin is saying goodbye 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.”

“I want to go make a movie and be very present for that and give it everything I have, and after we’re done, then the rest of the time is mine,” he continues. “I started out as an actor, where you seek to understand yourself using the words of great writers and collaborating with other creative people. Then I slid into show business, where you seek only an audience’s approval, whether you deserve it or not. I think I want to go back to being an actor now.”

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