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From ‘Red October’ to ’30 Rock,’ a look at Alec Baldwin’s career on eve of ‘Rust’ shooting trial

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Hollywood has never known exactly what to do with Alec Baldwin, so it has done a little of everything with him.

Before the horrific 2021 shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the Western “Rust” put his career in question, he took on, and sent up, a wide spectrum of variations of masculinity. He has shifted from playing heroes to scoundrels to thugs to gentle father figures to office alpha males to a “ Boss Baby.”

He went from star leading man to bit player to scene stealer, at times going years without a major role in a hit film or show. But he has remained a household name for nearly 35 years, largely on the strength of his real-life personality: as an outspoken liberal, occasional hothead, talk-show guest, podcast host, game show host, and the king of all “Saturday Night Live” hosts.

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

1980-1988, A start in soaps, and a breakout year

Alexander Rae Baldwin III is the eldest of six children of a schoolteacher and football coach who grew up in Massapequa, New York and studied acting at New York University. He made his screen debut at age 22 in 1980 on the long-running soap opera “The Doctors,” where he remained until 1982. In 1984 and 1985 he took a step up with a recurring role on a prime-time soap, “Knots Landing.”

Baldwin would break into film in an epic year that included major parts in five major moves. His big-screen breakthrough came opposite Geena Davis and Michael Keaton in “Beetlejuice.” But Baldwin’s bespectacled, bourgeois husband character in Tim Burton’s antic ghost story would not be the norm. His archetypes would emerge in other films. He plays a cheating boyfriend to Melanie Griffith in director Mike Nichols’ huge hit romcom “Working Girl,” and a brass-knuckled, hairy-chested brawler wedded to Michelle Pfeiffer in Jonathan Demme’s “Married to the Mob.” The studios smelled a movie star.

1990-1992 — A fleeting leading man

For a brief moment, Baldwin became a leading man in the mold of Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise. He was the first to play CIA analyst Jack Ryan on screen, in 1990’s Cold War submarine thriller, “The Hunt for Red October,” a major hit. But he would be replaced as Ryan in subsequent films by Ford. “The studio cut my throat,” Baldwin said years later.

He instead played Stanley Kowalski in a Broadway revival of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” He would get a Tony nomination, and an Emmy nomination for a TV version.

He had a small but unforgettable role in 1992’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” as a slick business bigwig who dresses down, chews out and emasculates a group of salesmen, telling them they lacked “brass balls” (while holding a pair in front of his crotch). The role became a cultural touchstone, and an early rendition of the kind of scene-stealing part that would one day become his specialty. Years later, he would parody it as an alpha elf in Santa’s workshop on “Saturday Night Live.” Baldwin would host the show for the first time in 1990, and go on to do it a record 17 times.

1993-1995: The Baldwins become a brand

Baldwin’s three younger actor brothers began to emerge in his wake. Daniel Baldwin was a regular on the series “Homicide: Life on the Street” from 1993 to 1995. Billy Baldwin starred opposite Sharon Stone in the 1993 erotic thriller “Sliver.” Stephen Baldwin had a major role in the 1995 classic “The Usual Suspects.”

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

Meanwhile, Alec Baldwin was expanding the family, and his Hollywood profile, by marrying actor Kim Basinger in 1993. He had 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 would remain an A-list couple in the public eye for a decade, even playing themselves on “The Simpsons.” Another flop came with the final attempt to make Baldwin a blockbuster leading man, 1994’s “The Shadow.”

1996-2002 Uncertain years

Baldwin’s career as a movie star flagged in the late 1990s. He starred in director Rob Reiner’s “Ghost of Mississippi,” but began becoming a bit part specialist, and a popular voice actor, narrating the kids’ show “Thomas & Friends” and the Wes Anderson film “The Royal Tenenbaums.” He still hosted “SNL” almost annually, and was a fiery liberal Democrat on TV talk shows and in other public appearances.

2003-2006 A revival begins

Baldwin’s role as a casino owner in 2003’s “The Cooler” got him his only career Oscar nomination, for best supporting actor. New York Times critic A.O. Scott said “Baldwin swivels elegantly from viciousness to self-pity” in the role.

Strong supporting performances were becoming a trademark. Director Martin Scorsese put him in 2004’s “The Aviator” with Leonardo DiCaprio and in the 2006 best picture winner “The Departed” where he gives Matt Damon a highly quotable, Boston-accented lecture on marriage and manhood.

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

2006-2013 ‘30 ROCK’ and a career on a roll

In a full turn toward television, Baldwin was perfectly cast on NBC’s “30 Rock” as Jack Donaghy, a conservative and acerbic network executive whose sparring with Liz Lemon, the show’s creator and star, was a huge part of the series’ appeal. Baldwin would win two Emmys for the role, and more acclaim than he’d received in years.

In 2012, he married yoga instructor Hilaria Thomas. The two have seven children together.

2014-2020 Playing himself, and playing Trump

After “30 Rock” left the air, Baldwin would act sporadically while he played himself more often. He played the boss in a pair of “Mission Impossible” movies. And he voiced the animated “Boss Baby” in 2017. He also hosted a prime-time revival of “The Match Game” for five seasons. And he continued to host a public radio show and podcast, ”Here’s The Thing,” in which, in an urbane, laid-back-but-intellectual tone, he interviewed public figures.

He became a national phenomenon in the run-up to, and aftermath of, the election of Donald Trump, when “SNL” brought him on to do his over-the-top impression of his fellow New Yorker, which won him his third Emmy. More public ugliness emerged, though. He would be charged with assault and harassment in 2018 after a fight with a man over a New York parking spot. He later pleaded guilty only to harassment.

2021-2024 ‘Rust’ and its consequences

On Oct. 21, 2021, on the New Mexico set of the indie Western “Rust,” Baldwin was rehearsing a scene in a small church, and pointed the gun at the cinematographer, Hutchins. It went off, killing her and injuring director Joel Souza.

In an interview that December with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Baldwin said he had not pulled the gun’s trigger. He would be charged with involuntary manslaughter in January 2023.

The charges were dropped, but refiled a year later. His trial begins Tuesday. As the trial approached, he and Hilaria agreed to a reality show featuring them and their children that is scheduled to start next year.

AP Entertainment Writer