Alec Baldwin Opens Up About Orphans, Clash With Ousted Actor Shia LaBeouf and Leaving Public Life
By Michael Gioia
Tony Award nominee Alec Baldwin, who starred in the Broadway debut of Lyle Kessler's Orphans — which played a brief run last season at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre — opens up about the production and his clash with actor Shia LaBeouf, who was dismissed from the production in February 2013 during rehearsals.
As previously reported, on Feb. 20, 2013, producers of the three-person play announced that "Transformers" star LaBeouf was leaving the production "due to creative differences." On his Twitter account, LaBeouf posted several back-and-forth e-mails between members of the cast and creative team.
Orphans producers Robert Cole and Frederick Zollo released a statement July 17, 2013, saying that the settlement with the film actor, who had filed a grievance with Actors' Equity, had been reached. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
In a cover story with New York Magazine, which hits newsstands Feb. 24, Baldwin writes a lengthy essay entitled "Good-bye, Public Life."
"I loved Lyle Kessler's play and was anxious to work with director Dan Sullivan," writes Baldwin. "Then Shia LaBeouf showed up. I'd heard from other people that he was potentially very difficult to work with, but I always ignore that because people say the same thing about me. When he showed up, he seemed like a lot of young actors today — scattered, as he was coming from making six movies in a row or whatever."
Baldwin explained that LaBeouf, who was told by the creative team — led by director Dan Sullivan — about the importance of memorizing his lines, came to rehearsal prepared ("to prove he had put in the time," said Baldwin) and would "sulk because he felt we were slowing him down."
During one rehearsal, Baldwin continued, "he attacked me in front of everyone. He said, 'You're slowing me down, and you don't know your lines. And if you don't say your lines, I'm just going to keep saying my lines.' We all sat, frozen. I snorted a bit, and, turning to him in front of the whole cast, I asked, 'If I don't say my words fast enough, you're going to just say your next line?' I said. 'You realize the lines are written in a certain order?' He just glared at me."
Baldwin called a meeting with the stage manager and director Sullivan and offered to quit the project. "They said no, no, no, no, and they fired him," said Baldwin. "And I think he was shocked. He had that card, that card you get when you make films that make a lot of money that gives you a certain kind of entitlement. I think he was surprised that it didn’t work in the theater.
"But firing LaBeouf didn't help things. Sullivan played both sides. In emails, he coddled Shia. To me, he spoke differently. I was working with an older, more enervated Sullivan, who didn't have the energy for any of this. I don’t think Sullivan liked the play — I don't think he liked me. Sullivan agreed to do something that, once he realized what it was, he had lost interest in it. We closed early. I'll forever be indebted to Ben Foster for stepping in for Shia. He is one of the good guys."
In his essay, Baldwin — a Tony Award nominee for A Streetcar Named Desire — also explained how he was wrongfully accused of homophobia, how the showbiz industry has changed and how he plans to disappear from the public eye.
"It's good-bye 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," he said. "There's a way I could have done things differently. I know that. If I offended anyone along the way, I do apologize. But the solution for me now is: I’ve lived this for 30 years, I'm done with it."
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