NEW YORK – It was, Alec Baldwin said, “like something out of Hitchcock”: He waits in the wings of a Lincoln Center stage before a movie-screening discussion. He looks out to see his tormentor in a front-row seat. She turns to him. And smiles.
That was one of several scenes in a personal drama the “30 Rock” actor described Tuesday, as the star witness against Genevieve Sabourin, a small-time Canadian actress charged with stalking him.
“It was nightmarish,” Baldwin said during a morning of testimony that at times approached theater in itself. Sabourin unleashed a stream of outbursts – “He’s lying!” for instance – that prompted a judge to warn that he might remove her from court.
Baldwin, at times, came close to playing director, dilating on points he wanted to make, telling Sabourin’s lawyer he sounded nervous and musing about having thought of turning Sabourin’s voicemail messages into a play.
Baldwin and the Manhattan district attorney’s office say it’s a case of an acquaintance with a movie star turning into harassment. Sabourin claims it was a romance that fell apart.
Baldwin, 55, said he first encountered Sabourin at a lunch with a mutual friend in 2000 in Montreal, where Baldwin was filming “The Adventures of Pluto Nash.” Sabourin, 41, hails from the Montreal suburb of Candiac and has appeared in some Canadian films and TV series.
Ten years later, the friend asked Baldwin for a favor, the actor testified: Would he give some career advice to Sabourin?
So Baldwin and Sabourin met at a New York restaurant in 2010 for what he characterizes as an hour-long chat about her acting prospects and she calls a romantic dinner that ended in a tryst, which Baldwin adamantly denies.
Baldwin says he communicated with her afterward only to convey suggestions about acting classes, but she quickly shifted to professing her love and pleading for his.
She began leaving as many as 30 voicemail messages a night, so many that he eventually disconnected the cellphone number he’d given her. And she sent a raft of emails that grew increasingly ominous in March 2012, when she wrote: “Call the FBI now!” and said she had the address of his Hamptons home, had “easy access” inside his New York apartment building and would insinuate herself into places he worked and yoga classes taught by his then-girlfriend, Hilaria Thomas, now his wife.
Shortly after Baldwin and Thomas got engaged in March 2012, they were sitting in their living room in the Hamptons hamlet of Amagansett, N.Y., when he heard gravel crunch in the driveway. He looked out to see Sabourin getting out of a car, Baldwin testified, his eyes reddening as he recalled the episode. He called police; Sabourin left before they arrived, he said.
The couple felt “extremely, extremely, extremely threatened,” he said.
A few days afterward, he said, Sabourin appeared at the Lincoln Center screening – he had security guards escort her out, and Hilaria Baldwin testified that Sabourin ran toward her on the way out the door. Days later, Sabourin appeared outside the couple’s Manhattan apartment building and was arrested.
Baldwin said he had repeatedly asked Sabourin to let him alone, and some emails read in court include exhortations to stop. But he also sent her more sympathetic messages along the way, including “I’m sorry you’re suffering so” and “happiness is around the corner.”
A police detective testified last week that Baldwin described his contacts with Sabourin as strictly professional, but the actor acknowledged Tuesday some communications “were more personal than professional.” He said he was “just trying to pacify her” while hoping she’d eventually give up on contacting him.
Baldwin’s career has included a Tony-nominated turn as Stanley Kowalski in “A Streetcar Named Desire” on Broadway, incarnating action hero Jack Ryan in the 1990 film “The Hunt for Red October” and an Academy Award nomination for his supporting role in the 2003 drama “The Cooler.”