VAN NUYS — Alec Baldwin wiped tears from his eyes Tuesday as he described the long-awaited homecoming of his first child--an event he said was ruined by a paparazzo who "stalked" his family from a converted pickup truck outside the actor's Woodland Hills home, then initiated a physical altercation.
"No one had ever, ever, ever, followed us home, been waiting for us at home, taken pictures of us at home, prior to Mr. Zanger being there and hiding in his truck," Baldwin told Van Nuys jurors in the trial of dueling claims involving celebrity photographer Alan Zanger. "It certainly ruined that day irrevocably."
With an easy charm and assertive voice, Baldwin told the jury he was trying to protect his family when he was attacked by a "wild-eyed" man who, after being overpowered by the actor, turned around and had Baldwin arrested.
Baldwin said his wife, Academy Award-winning award actress Kim Basinger, was still in pain as they arrived at the home Oct. 25, 1995, three days after she delivered their daughter, Ireland Eliesse, by caesarean section. Baldwin said he noticed an unfamiliar vehicle with tinted windows parked across the street from his house. Having been warned that kidnappers may be lurking, he grew concerned.
"I never thought anybody would be there bothering us," Baldwin said. "My wife was upset. I'll try not to get emotional about this, but my wife was crying. She was in incredible pain."
A bodyguard who was supposed to follow the family home got lost, Baldwin testified, and the actor decided to go check out the truck himself. Inside a camper that covered the bed of the truck, he saw what he thought was the light of a videocamera. Baldwin said he knocked, but got no answer.
So he went in his house and grabbed a can of shaving cream and smeared the windows. He said he assumed whoever was inside would go away and he would be free to help his wife and baby slowly into their home without being filmed.
But Zanger jumped out of the truck and continued to film, Baldwin said. Baldwin said he asked the photographer to stop, but he wouldn't and, mimicking the photographer's nasal voice, the actor said Zanger kept asking him to let him "get the shot."
Zanger then raised the camera abruptly, Baldwin said, and he thought he was going to get hit, so he slapped the camera away and it accidentally hit Zanger in the face, sending his glasses flying. Baldwin said he picked up the glasses and handed them to Zanger, offering to pay to have them replaced.
He said Zanger replied with an obscenity and lunged at him. Baldwin said he, in turn, pushed the photographer, sending him into some garbage cans, but said the smaller Zanger came at him again. Baldwin kicked him in response.
After the kick, Baldwin said Zanger threw his hands up and said he would leave. After he got in his car, Baldwin said Zanger shot back, "I'll get you!" before pulling away.
Everything he did was in self-defense, Baldwin said. "If I had wanted to physically attack him, I think things would have been very different. With all due respect, he's not a very big guy," he said.
When Zanger placed Baldwin under citizen's arrest for misdemeanor battery "the air went out of me." A jury later acquitted Baldwin of the charges after Zanger admitted to exaggerating accounts of the incident on a television interview.
In contrast to the criminal trial, at which Baldwin was surrounded by a throng of photographers and television cameras as he entered and left the municipal court building, bailiffs whisked Baldwin into and out of Superior Court on Tuesday through back hallways.
Zanger's attorney, Leonard Steiner, will begin cross-examining the actor today and is expected to confront him with a police report in which an officer said Baldwin said he had hit Zanger in the face, not slapped away his camera. According to the report, the actor admitted that he was wrong and said he was sorry.
In testimony that stretched over two days last week and Monday, Zanger testified that he only jumped out of the truck because he was afraid of what the "raging" Baldwin would do. He pointed out that, once before, he had been trapped in his vehicle as it was being smashed by a baseball bat-wielding boyfriend of a celebrity. He said he stopped filming and that Baldwin smashed him in the face without provocation, then kicked him in the behind.
"He was livid. When he came toward me after I got out, he was just livid," Zanger said. "I didn't see it coming." He claims Baldwin's blow cracked the cartilage in his nose, deviated his septum and has caused permanent dizziness. On Friday, an ear, nose and throat specialist that has been treating Zanger said he believed those injuries were caused by Baldwin and that Zanger needed at least $10,000 in plastic surgery to correct his breathing and dizziness problems.
Zanger is suing for assault, battery, negligence and emotional distress and is asking for medical costs, lost wages and punitive damages. Baldwin's counterclaims allege invasion of privacy, assault, negligence and emotional distress.
An ear, nose and throat specialist testifying for Baldwin on Monday said any slight deviation of Zanger's nose existed before the altercation with Baldwin and that dizziness is a condition Zanger had complained about in previous years.
Baldwin, for his part, also claims the event has changed his life forever.
Before, he and his wife were able to peacefully spend their time out West in an ungated home on a quiet public street in Woodland Hills, partially because "People wouldn't expect us to live there." He has since erected a large fence around the house.
"This incident with Mr. Zanger," he said, "has changed everything in my life."