How Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger fell in love 30 years ago, and other wild stories from their 'production from hell'

Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger became a real couple during the troubled making of 1991 rom-com The Marrying Man. (Photo by Buena Vista Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection)
Forget Liz and Dick: thirty years ago, Alec and Kim ruled Hollywood's most scandalous couple. Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger were fresh from the respective hits of The Hunt for Red October and Batman and were starred in The Marrying Man, a romantic comedy directed by famous playwright and screenwriter Neil Simon and produced by Walt Disney Studios. But what happened off-screen during production was no laughing matter ... at least for those involved in the film.
Months before The Marrying Man hit theaters on April 5, 1991, an article in Premiere magazine called it a "production from hell," blaming the two stars - who are known to spark a romance on the set Written by John H. Richardson and published in the February 1991 issue, it was the opening salvo in a media hype that overshadowed the film itself, which got out of theaters with little effort and went fanfare and even less box office.
"Getting married was the biggest mistake of my career," Baldwin told Entertainment Weekly a month after the film epic flopped, shooting back at the same sources that portrayed him and Basinger as the main cause of its failure. (Fun fact: the EW article was written by Ryan Murphy, who later became one of Hollywood's most profitable creators and later directed Baldwin in Running with Scissors 2006.)
The Marrying Man hasn't gotten particularly better with age: Revisited today, it's a largely stilted attempt to combine a Hepburn / Grant screwball premise with a Hepburn / Tracy battle of the sexes. Baldwin plays Charley Pearl, the soon-to-be-married offshoot of a toothpaste empire who dwarfs his fiancée (Elisabeth Shue) when he watches Basinger's Las Vegas Lounge singer Vicki Anderson, who is currently famed for gangster Bugsy Siegel (Armand Assante). But when Bugsy catches her in the act, he doesn't order Charley to be killed. Instead, he orchestrates the first of many weddings Charley and Vicki have over the course of their tumultuous relationship. While the film itself is unforgettable at best, the behind-the-scenes reports of its production remain the stuff of classic Hollywood horror stories. Here's a look back at some of the craziest on-set stories from Baldwin's and Basinger's hellish shoot.
When Alec met Kim
Baldwin as Charley Pearl and Basinger as Vicki Anderson in The Marrying Man. (Photo by Buena Vista / Courtesy Everett Collection)
Hollywood legend has it that Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton began their infamous affair just days after shooting Cleopatra together. According to the premiere, Basinger and Baldwin moved at the same speed: Richardson reports that "sparks" flew between the stars during their first rehearsal. Four days after filming began, crew members learned that their relationship had escalated dramatically. In between, the two stars sat together in a car and had an uncomfortably private conversation that was heard publicly thanks to the headphone intercom on the head. That meant the crew members listened as Basinger told Baldwin of "their plans for the romantic activities of the night in ... unrepeatable details". A few weeks later, the two lived together and began a high-profile romance that was closely followed for the next decade.
Unlike Liz and Dick, The Marrying Man stars weren't connected to other people at the time they found each other. Baldwin, 32, was unmarried, while Basinger, 37, divorced her first husband, makeup artist Ron Snyder-Britton, in 1989, and then had brief relationships with producers Jon Peters and Prince, who both worked on Batman. Apparently, the actress had a hunch that she and her lead actor would get along. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, the director of Marrying Man, Jerry Rees recalled that Basinger had come to his office for a pre-production meeting. “I had a picture of Alec and one of them pinned to a wall side by side so we could see what they looked like together. And Kim looked at her and smiled and said very quietly, "We're going to make a great couple."
And when the stars came together, they stayed together. Baldwin and Basinger maintained a united front for the duration of the shooting of The Marrying Man, drawing lines of battle between themselves and the rest of the production team. "If they were in a good mood at home, they came to the set in a good mood," one crew member told Premiere. "If they were bad at home, watch out." Baldwin's transformation was particularly strong: originally perceived by the crew as a "nice guy", the actor took a spirited turn after moving in with Basinger. "He wanted to get the treatment Kim was getting," claimed a staff member under the line. "I love her and I get carried away by the things I love," Baldwin later countered in his EW interview, accusing Disney-planted "spies" of spreading negative stories about the couple ... stories like the infamous Evian Water incident.
Basinger's hair-raising behavior
Basinger reportedly washed her hair with Evian water during the production of The Marrying Man. (Photo by Buena Vista Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection)
At the height of her fame in the 1980s and 1990s, Basinger was accused of having a "difficult" reputation by many of her employees. One of the oft-cited pieces of evidence of this reputation was the long-standing rumor that the actress would only wash her hair with bottles of Evian water. This is a rumor that began with Premiere's coverage of The Marrying Man and continued for years after that. Richardson's on-set sources were more than happy to provide additional examples of Basinger's various indulgences. The actresses are said to have an aversion to sunlight and had their own umbrella holder - a Directors Guild trainee named Michael Ryan Baxter - on set to help her stay in the shade. Baxter also acted as the de facto gatekeeper for anyone approaching their trailer. "It was kind of funny because I'm the trainee, the low man at the totem pole, and I have to go to one of the producers and say, 'She doesn't want you knocking on her door.'" Baxter told Premiere. (As the article suggests, Baldwin's regular trips to Basinger's trailers were likely one of the reasons for this "no-knock" policy.)
From the start, Basinger kept her own schedule, often arriving late and holding up scenes with specific requests. She once told Disney that she needed a break from filming to fly to Brazil for mental health counseling. The studio granted that request - assuming she pays $ 85,000 a day to make up for the delay. (Basinger then decided to stay in Los Angeles.) Other delays were caused by her intense response to being watched by extras or unfamiliar crew members. "She'd go ahead and refuse to do a scene unless she got rid of all the people," said the film's set designer, Jim Duffy. In the meantime, the hair and makeup team had to be on hand to touch up after each shot, causing regular half-hour delays.
Basinger's alleged bad behavior on the set of The Marrying Man included significant delays and the use of an umbrella holder. (Photo by Buena Vista / Courtesy Everett Collection)
Behind the camera, Rees Basinger essentially gave up directing control of the film. "He went to Kim and said, 'I would like to do it again.' She'd say, 'One more time and that's it' or 'No, that's it.' "The star had previously tensed her muscles at the beginning of the shoot when she requested that the original cinematographer, Ian Baker, be replaced after she was dissatisfied with the way she looked on screen tests. Another rumor circulated that an emboldened Basinger mocked the crew before filming a nude scene, taking off their clothes, and saying, "Here it is, guys. Come and take it! "(As the editor of Marrying Man, Michael Jablow later noted that a certain story is suspicious because Basinger has no nude scenes in the film.)
In his EW interview, Baldwin steadfastly stood up to his romantic partner and off screen, shot down the Evian story and explained the umbrella holder. They wrote that she let these people walk around her with umbrellas like Arab slaves. But she has it in her contract that she can't shoot in the sun and they know that, ”he said, adding that she had a history of sun poisoning and accused Disney of directing a“ misinformation ”campaign against two actors who just wanted to make the best possible film. This is an argument echoed by others at the time who felt that Basinger was wrongly made bad compared to A-list male stars who misbehaved just as well. "Everyone thinks she's a big haired pig," a studio manager told famed industry journalist Kim Masters in a 1993 Washington Post article, who then specifically added, "Gee. Would you say that about Bruce Willis?"
Basinger responded directly to the various allegations in a 1991 interview with Chris Wallace. "That's absolutely not true," she said of reports of her delay, accusing Disney of being a "cheap studio" that didn't hire the best talent for the film. "We had to stop at the beginning, we really did it." She also called on the film industry to routinely undervalue female movie stars. "It's a man's world. When it comes to this question of money ... you can't stand up and scream, 'We want the money Arnold makes.'"
The goodbye
Playwright and screenwriter Neil Simon with The Goodbye Girl star, Marsha Mason. (Photo: Courtesy Everett Collection)
In addition to Rees, Basinger also ran into Neil Simon. According to Richardson's report, she and the playwright started the film on the wrong foot, with the actress asking for regular paraphrases. "It's not funny," she told the Tony Award winner of Barefoot in the Park and The Odd Couple. "Whoever wrote this doesn't understand comedy." After this exchange, Simon avoided the set and was noticeably absent from the pre-release press. For the rest of his life, he rarely discussed the film - which turned out to be one of his final original scripts - in public. (Simon died in 2018.)
In his EW interview, Baldwin made his own recordings on Simon and described him as "about as deep as a bottle cap". The actor recounted an early meeting with the playwright and Disney to discuss changes to the scripts. Claiming that studio managers were only interested in "kissing Neil's ass," said Simon was reluctant to make substantial changes to what was already on the page. “The only changes he wanted to make were more jokes. Which one wasn't funny. That's why I'm down on him. He got his money and split up. He hung us up to dry. "
Move fast and throw phones
Baldwin reportedly tossed phones and hit followers during the tumultuous production of The Marrying Man. (Photo by Buena Vista / Courtesy Everett Collection)
Fifteen years before Russell Crowe effectively ended his time on Hollywood's A-list by throwing a phone to a Soho hotel worker, Baldwin's career took a turn after his own phone sling incident. Richardson opens his premiere article with a dramatic encounter between the actor and then Disney manager Jay Heit on the set of The Marrying Man. Baldwin was furious that the phone was not working in his trailer and discovered Heit using a cell phone. "You have to call, why don't I have a phone? Damn, I want a phone," the star allegedly yelled before grabbing the executive's cell phone and tossing it to the ground. Baldwin then turned and stormed back to his trailer on the way back he knocked over a suitcase with expensive Panavision camera lenses.
These objects weren't the only things Baldwin threw or hit during production. Richardson's sources also reported a moment when the actor almost hit a production electrician with a director's chair that had been thrown out of his trailer. (Baldwin later apologized to the electrician in front of the crew and, as a conciliatory gift, secured tickets for a Carlos Santana concert in the front row.) And during new recordings, which he expressly did not want to film, Baldwin took a dent in his anger on his trailer punch in the side the size of a bread box. At the end of the production, producer David Permut handed out crew t-shirts that read, "I survived the re-recording of The Marrying Man."
Baldwin and Basinger shared a unified front during the difficult production of The Marrying Man. (Photo by Buena Vista / Courtesy Everett Collection)
Baldwin, in his EW interview, offered tacit confirmation of some of these reports while taking them to a vengeful studio filled with his words "totally angry, greedy pigs," whose production methods hurt the film from the start. The actor was particularly angry with then Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, who memorably described him as "the eighth dwarf - greedy" and promised, "I'll never see him again. I think God would protect me from that - just as I wouldn't would do." I am not getting AIDS. "(In response, Katzenberg called Baldwin and Basinger" a couple of irresponsible actors, "but didn't say he would never work with either of them again. (Baldwin later appeared in two films for DreamWorks Animation - Madagascar 2008: Escape 2 Africa - Characters from and 2012 Rise of the Guardians - while Katzenberg was still running the studio.)
As Masters noted in her Washington Post article, Baldwin's temper became a regular focus of press coverage after The Marrying Man. In addition to the alleged attack on two cameramen - once in 1995 and again in 2012 - the actor also made headlines after taking off from a flight on American Airlines in 2011 and hitting another man across a parking lot in 2014. "Hollywood also accuses Basinger of ruining Alec Baldwin," Masters wrote, saying the actor was largely perceived as a "Swell Fellow" prior to this film. But Baldwin made it clear that a breakup was not on the cards. "This is not a Hollywood romance that takes place between 'action' and 'cut'," he told EW.
Fortunately again and again?
Baldwin and Basinger at the New York premiere of I Dreamed of Africa in 2000. The couple separated later that year. (Photo by Richard Corkery / New York Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
As Baldwin had promised, his romance with Basinger outlived the production of The Marrying Man. The two officially tied the knot in 1993, and their daughter Ireland was born two years later. They even played each other again in the 1994 action thriller The Getaway, a remake of the 1972 film in which Steve McQueen famously met and fell in love with Ali McGraw. And in 1998, Baldwin cheered Basinger when she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role on "LA Confidential," suggesting that the industry had pushed the negative reports of her behavior as the "Marrying Man" into the background. "When anyone out there has a dream you just know that I'm living proof that it will come true," she said while Baldwin was torn in the audience.
In private, however, their relationship was nearing its end. Baldwin and Basinger split in 2000, and his volatile temper has been cited as a cause of the split. "Alec gets this kind of anger when he reaches for something that hurts, something that might have happened a year or two ago, and then abuses Kim with it," Basinger's father told People magazine after their breakup. Their divorce ended in a highly controversial and very public custody battle over Ireland in 2002 in which Baldwin left his daughter a voicemail calling her "a rude, thoughtless pig". (The actor later apologized and Ireland joked about the incident as she toasted her father on a 2019 Comedy Central special.)
Baldwin married his current wife, Hilaria, in 2012 and they have six children. Basinger has been in a long-term relationship with hairdresser Mitch Stone since 2014. "[Alec and I are] cool now," she remarked in a 2016 interview. "Life goes on." Enough time has passed that she can even joke about the disaster The Marrying Man was. "I made this film, The Marrying Man, in which I met my future husband, Alec Baldwin, but I wavered because I was also offered to sleep with the enemy," she said in the same interview. Referring to the hit 1991 thriller starring Julia Roberts, who happened to be second choice for The Marrying Man, "Isn't it funny that I turned down Sleeping With the Enemy and kept sleeping with the enemy?"
The Marrying Man can be rented or purchased on most VOD platforms, including Amazon.
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