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 sometimes 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. And the famously testy actor left court with an acerbic comment for news photographers.
Baldwin and the Manhattan district attorney's office say it's a case of an acquaintance with a movie star turning into harassment. Sabourin says it was a romance that fell apart.
Baldwin, 55, said he met Sabourin at a lunch with a mutual friend in 2000 in Montreal, where Baldwin was filming a cameo in the sci-fi comedy "The Adventures of Pluto Nash."
Sabourin, 41, hails from the Montreal suburb of Candiac and was working as a publicist for the movie. She also 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 sexual 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 and sent a raft of emails that grew increasingly ominous in March 2012. One began: "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 some more sympathetic messages, including "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 contacting him.
Sabourin's lawyer, Todd Spodek, has said she was just seeking to resolve her feelings toward the actor, not threatening him.
Baldwin's career has included Oscar and Tony nominations and incarnating action hero Jack Ryan in the 1990 film "The Hunt for Red October."
He's also known for an incendiary temper, notably exposed when a voice mail of him berating his now-teenage daughter Ireland Baldwin came to light in 2007. He later said the message horrified him.
He was kicked off a plane in 2011 after refusing to stop playing a cellphone game, and he's gotten into confrontations with news photographers. He and a New York Post lensman filed harassment complaints against each other after an altercation in February, and a Daily News photographer said Baldwin punched him in 2012, which Baldwin denied.
A Daily News spokesman declined to comment. There was no immediate comment from the Post.
But as he left court, Baldwin had a caught-on-camera comment for the Post photographer he'd faced off with in February: "I hope you choke to death."