Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger's cutthroat custody battle over their 12-year-old daughter, Ireland, has made international headlines for years. The couple divorced in 2002 after nine years of marriage, but the vicious accusations on both sides continued, culminating in the infamous 2007 voice-mail message in which Baldwin berated his daughter.
In an interview with ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer, Baldwin, 50, spoke about his lengthy court struggles with Basinger, 54, and said that when the voice mail was released, it brought him to the brink of suicide.
Watch Diane Sawyer's interview with Alec Baldwin tonight on "20/20" at 10 p.m. ET
"I used to pray to God every night. I would get in bed, and I would say, please, don't let me wake up in the morning," Baldwin said. "I began to think about what little town I would repair to in order to commit suicide. And then you, obviously you say, well, what would that do to my child if I killed myself? Me, I really didn't care about me."
After the media storm and new round of custody litigation that followed the voice mail release, Baldwin nearly broke his own promise to never give up on his daughter. Deterred by the barriers that he believes his ex-wife imposed on his relationship with Ireland, Baldwin said he almost lost the will to keep fighting.
In his new book (in stores on Tuesday), "A Promise to Ourselves: A Journey Through Fatherhood and Divorce," Baldwin chronicles his journey for other fathers who are seeking custody and struggling for justice in family court. He says it's time to do something about the business of divorce in America and, in typical Baldwin fashion, he doesn't mince words.
"I don't care if the judges and the lawyers die of heart attacks in the process of getting their job done. They are corrupt, inefficient, lazy, stupid -- they're the most God-awful people."
Baldwin believes that many family court lawyers and their manipulations and delays make the child custody duel much worse than it needs to be. "The judges are like pit bosses in Vegas casinos. Their job is to make sure everybody stays at the table and keeps gambling."
Baldwin's clashed with Basinger for nearly eight years: there are hundreds of documents, 91 court proceedings so far, and about $3 million in legal costs.
But it didn't start out like that.
Baldwin told Sawyer that he and Basinger came into marriage much like anyone else, except that they were two of Hollywood's biggest stars when they met on the set of "The Marrying Man" in 1990. "I had a marriage that I came to in the same way everybody else comes to a marriage. We all take chances when we get married."
Not long after they met, Basinger told ABC News that she thought Baldwin was "something else" and hoped that he was nuts about her.
Two years after their 1993 marriage ceremony, their daughter was born.
But by the time Ireland was 5, the marriage was unraveling.
"I'm sure she [Basinger] would tell you ad nauseam, she might even be more chatty about the warning signals she saw in me, you know," said Baldwin. "The harshest thing I can say is I was married to someone for whom all dissent was abuse. If you had your own opinion, you were abusive. And getting into the details doesn't matter 'cause it's not good for me legally to do that and it's not good for my daughter."