As a kind of warm-up to his upcoming gig as Academy Awards co-host, Alec Baldwin appeared at the Time Warner Center for a personal and wide-ranging conversation.
But he did have one Oscar forecast: Expect wardrobe changes for himself and co-host Steve Martin.
"It's a very metrosexualized kind of a show now," Baldwin joked.
The Wednesday evening event, presented by Fordham Law School, came shortly before the anticipated March 7 ceremony. Though sold out and crammed, the audience was a mere 500, far less than the 1 billion who supposedly watch the Oscars worldwide.
Baldwin, star of the NBC sitcom "30 Rock," was skeptical of how such a number could be deduced but marveled at the effective promotion.
"You could be a gas station attendant in New Mexico: 'The Oscars? They got a billion people watching the Oscars — a billion, ya know,'" Baldwin said.
While the Academy Awards will be a button-down event beamed around the world, the talk Wednesday was more intimate. The event, moderated by professor and novelist Thane Rosenbaum, was ostensibly about Baldwin's history playing lawyers in films and his various work as an activist.
Baldwin, 51, spoke passionately and at length about numerous issues, including nuclear power and family law.
He has blogged about nuclear power on the Huffington Post. In 2008, he published the book "A Promise to Ourselves," in which he described divorce and custody proceedings as a system fostering a child's alienation from a parent.
The book was largely a result of his difficult experience in his divorce from actress Kim Basinger, finalized in 2002. The custody battle over their 14-year-old daughter, Ireland, has for years been covered in the tabloids.
On Feb. 11, Baldwin was taken to a New York hospital after Ireland called 911 saying he had threatened to take pills during an argument on the telephone. Baldwin's spokesman Matthew Hiltzik said that it was a misunderstanding and that he took no alcohol or pills and was quickly released from the hospital.
Baldwin made a related jab at the evening's host, Time Warner. He called the corporation, whose holdings include film and TV companies and numerous news organizations, "one of the most egregious culprits" of tabloid journalism.
"At one end of the hallway, you have actors and actresses who are performing jobs that they're contracted to do, and at the other end of the hallway you have a tabloid journalism enterprise, which is trying to report all the dirt on those people," he said.
Before splitting last year, Time Warner was merged with AOL, which co-produced the celebrity news site TMZ.com. TMZ released the famous voice mail recording in which Baldwin berated his daughter.
Baldwin's political bent and detailed knowledge of particular issues have frequently brought him questions about whether he might one day pursue public office. On Wednesday, he said "maybe."
"If I did that, it would be a whole other chapter in my life," he said.
Baldwin, who comes from a family of actors, also said he considered entering law school before turning to acting. When Rosenbaum asked if his brothers would have followed him into law had he become a lawyer, Baldwin joked: "God, no. I would be representing them."