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Look back in anger

A screaming phone call focused the spotlight on a horrible Hollywood divorce.

April 27, 2007|Gina Piccalo and Robert W. Welkos | Times Staff Writers

ALEC BALDWIN claims he needed a court order to take his daughter, Ireland, to the premiere of his film "The Cat in the Hat" in 2003. He said he had to get another one to bring her to the Oscars the next year when he was nominated for best supporting actor. And when his ex-wife, Kim Basinger, wrote a seemingly innocuous dedication to the child on the label of a Luna nutrition bar, well, that made it into the court files too, with Baldwin claiming her words were intended to impose "her belief system" on their daughter and cut him out of her "therapeutic involvement."

And Basinger has filed declarations as well, depicting Baldwin as a monstrous and tyrannical dad given to outbursts that left Ireland frightened, embarrassed and in tears.

At six years and counting, the epic legal battle over young Ireland has generated countless court files, affidavits and motions. While Baldwin and Basinger's careers have gone up and down during that time, their litigious zeal has remained constant. And at the center of their seemingly intractable war is an 11-year-old girl whose life has been parsed by court order, her every step documented in legal pleadings, from the number of days of summer 2004 she spent with her father (35) to the strep throat she suffered on March 29, 2006.

Ireland is no stranger to the headlines -- she was only 3 days old when her father famously scuffled with a paparazzo trying to photograph his newborn daughter's homecoming -- but that was nothing compared with the outcry after her father's furious voicemail rant against her landed on the Internet and then the airwaves last week.

This morning, Baldwin will apologize publicly to his daughter during an emotional interview taped Wednesday for "The View." He'll tell co-hosts Barbara Walters and Rosie O'Donnell that he wanted to quit "30 Rock" so the sitcom and the hundreds who work on it wouldn't "be hurt by the situation." And he will say: "If I never acted again, I couldn't care less."

It's ironic. After years of largely forgettable movie roles, Baldwin, 49, had suddenly landed a string of hits.

He received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor playing an often brutal casino manager in 2003's "The Cooler" and stole scenes in two high-profile Martin Scorsese films, "The Aviator" and the Academy Award-winning mob drama "The Departed." His Golden Globe-winning turn on the NBC sitcom "30 Rock" showcased his lighter side -- playing a purring, conniving network executive -- and helped lock up a renewal for a second season.

But now, he says, he has a new calling, focusing on "parental alienation" and legislating fathers' rights. He's also working on a book for St. Martin's Press that deals with the trauma caused by divorce.

Certainly his court case could fill volumes. Now divorced, the couple has joint custody of Ireland, but court documents show Baldwin constantly fighting for his share of time with the youngster. (The pair are due back in court next Friday. Baldwin claims to have spent more than $1.25 million in legal fees on the case.) Compounding their negotiations is the fact that Baldwin lives in New York and Basinger in the Los Angeles area.

The leak of the voicemail -- in which he called his daughter a "rude, thoughtless little pig" -- has once again brought their feud into the spotlight. Baldwin has apologized on his blog, alecbaldwin.com, but blamed "certain people" -- presumably, of course, Basinger -- for trying to embarrass him by leaking the tape and "disrupt" his relationship with Ireland. On Monday, Basinger piped up, denying any responsibility for the leak and calling Baldwin "irrational" and "unstable."

But these barbs are mild compared with their bruising exchanges in court. Basinger, who is 53, depicts Baldwin as having a dangerous temper that so terrifies their daughter that Ireland is afraid to visit him. Baldwin says Basinger is a manipulative agoraphobic who has turned Ireland against him and has consistently restricted his access to her. They both consider each other emotionally unstable.

Baldwin was particularly rankled when Basinger had Ireland baptized in 2002 without notifying him while he was working in London. And then there was the Luna bar incident. Baldwin said in a court declaration: "The quote reads, 'To my daughter Ireland, who gave me the strength, courage & tenacity to stand up for myself. May our faith and laughter sustain us. Beyond & Forever, Mom." He claimed the dedication was meant "to impose her belief system upon our daughter and completely excludes me from our daughter's therapeutic involvement ... ."

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