The renowned actor and Trump bugaboo opines about filmmaking, politics, and sundry other matters in this cheerful but not entirely amiable memoir.
Baldwin grew up amid difficult circumstances: a houseful of squalling siblings, parents without resources, fraught conditions—but all of it gave him a certain freedom, since, as he writes, “my father had no money to buy things, and thus no power to manipulate us by withholding those same things.” That freedom, plus a bookish and artistic bent, led him to acting, an art that he describes as scarcely understood to outsiders and particularly to the executives in charge of film studios—which helps explain why Baldwin’s favorite venue is the stage. A generally nice but not cuddly guy in these pages, the author emerges as a careful student of film and film history, and his observations on the craft will be of particular interest to would-be actors; his reading of Steve McQueen and his minimalist acting (“Steve McQueen taught me that sometimes the trick is to do nothing at all”) alone is worth the price of admission. Baldwin can be sharp-tongued, as when he writes of one director, the daughter of David Lynch, that she “had apparently inherited his unruly hairstyle but none of his talent.” With no apparent desire to please or explain away, Baldwin also addresses head-on some of the thornier points on his resume, including the infamous voicemail he left for his young daughter and a spectacularly ugly tabloid divorce. He has much to say on current events as well, and though he is cagey on the question of running for office, he sounds a nice note for the hustings by remarking toward the end, “it is imperative that we replace those who think they own this country with those who built it.”
Baldwin reveals himself to be a man of parts. A pleasure for his many fans, though the sitting president doubtless won’t be placated—but that, Baldwin notes, is for another book.