UPDATED with additional comments: In an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that aired Thursday night, Alec Baldwin said he doesn’t worry about being criminally charged in the shooting that killed cinematographer Halnya Hutchins on the set of the movie Rust.
“I have been told by people who are in the know, in terms of even inside the state, that it’s highly unlikely that I would be charged with anything criminally,” the actor said.
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Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies has not ruled out criminal charges as the investigation continues.
Baldwin sat down with Stephanopoulos for his first extensive interview since the October 21 fatal incident on the set of Rust at a location near Santa Fe, NM. Hutchins was killed and director Joel Souza was injured when the antique Colt .45 revolver that Baldwin was using during a dress rehearsal discharged.
During the interview, which aired in primetime as a one-hour special titled Alec Baldwin Unscripted, the actor grew emotional at points, breaking down as he described Hutchins and the passion that she had for her work.
Baldwin said that Hutchins had been guiding him during the rehearsal on the set on October 21, as she was “marking” a scene for shooting angles.
He said that he advised Hutchins, “Now, in this scene, I am going to cock the gun.”
“So I take the gun and I start to cock the gun. I’m not going to pull the trigger. I said, ‘Did you see that?’ [She said] ‘Well, just cheat it down and tilt it down a little bit like that.'” Baldwin said that the gun “ended up being aimed right below her armpit.”
“And I cocked the gun and go, ‘Can you see that? Can you see that?’ And I let go of the hammer on the gun, and the gun goes off.”
In the immediate aftermath, Baldwin said that it was not clear what had happened.
“Everyone is horrified. They’re shocked. It’s loud,” he said. “They don’t have their earplugs in. The gun was supposed to be empty. I was told I was handed an empty gun, if there were cosmetic rounds, nothing with a charge at all.”
Baldwin said that after Hutchins was struck by the bullet, “I thought to myself, ‘Did she faint?’ The notion that there was a live round in that gun did not dawn on me for probably 45 minutes to an hour later.” He thought that Hutchins perhaps might have been struck by wadding that comes out of a blank cartridge.
“No one could understand,” Baldwin said. “Did she have a heart attack? The idea that someone put a live bullet in the gun was not even in reality.”
Souza was standing behind Hutchins and also was been struck.
He said that he stood over her for about 60 seconds “and she just laid there kind of in shock.” He said that she was still conscious. The set was then cleared, and medics were brought in, he said.
Baldwin said that he has no idea how live ammunition got in the gun or even on the set.
“Someone put a live bullet in a gun, a bullet that wasn’t even supposed to be on the property,” he said.
Stephanopoulos asked him whether he didn’t check the gun himself. George Clooney had said that he does that when he is handed a gun on a set.
“What I was taught years ago by someone was, if I took a gun, and I popped a clip out of a gun or manipulated the chamber, they would take the gun away from me and redo it,” Baldwin said. “The prop master said, ‘Don’t do that.’ When I was young, one thing that they said was, ‘We don’t want to be the actor to be the last line of defense against a catastrophic breach safety with the gun.”
In a nod to Clooney’s comment, Baldwin also pushed back on those who have weighed in on the incident, which he said “really didn’t help the situation at all.”
ABC News released a trailer for the special Wednesday, in which Baldwin said that he “didn’t pull the trigger” of the gun — a clip that certainly was tantalizing to draw in viewers but a bit of an odd tease for a tragic incident with the investigation ongoing. On Thursday, an attorney for Rust assistant director David Halls said that her client backed up Baldwin’s claim that he didn’t pull the trigger.
“I didn’t pull the trigger,” Baldwin told Stephanopoulos. “No, no, no, no, no. I would never point a gun at anyone and pull the trigger. Never. That was the training I had. You don’t point a gun at anyone and pull the trigger. On Day 1 of the instruction I had in this business, never take a gun and go click, click, click, click — that was the training that I had. You don’t want to go and pull trigger. On Day 1 of my instruction in this business people said to me, “Never take the gun and go click, click, click, click, click. Because even though it’s incremental, you damage the firing pin on the gun if you do that. Don’t do that.”
Baldwin said that he was “handed a gun and someone declares, ‘This is a cold gun.'” Stephanopoulos asked if that was Halls, the first assistant director, and Baldwin responded that it was.
“In my years on the sets of films, ‘hot’ meant that there was a charge and ‘cold’ gun meant that there was nothing in there.”
When he’s saying, ‘This is a cold gun,’ what he’s saying to everybody on the set is, ‘You can relax because it’s empty.’ … A cold gun means there is no charge in there. There could be dummy rounds.”
Baldwin said that he had “no idea” as to “what happened there, and why he made that statement, and what the realities were.”
According to ABC News, Halls’ attorney Lisa Torraco said that checking the gun was not her client’s responsibility. She did not confirm that it was Halls who handed Baldwin the weapon.
Baldwin said that he decided to sit down for the interview in part to counter some of the statements that have been by others about what happened on the set.
Two civil lawsuits have been filed against the production, including one by the script supervisor, Mamie Mitchell, and another by chief lighting technician Serge Svetnoy. Both lawsuits have named Baldwin, who also was a producer on the movie. More litigation is expected.
In the interview, Baldwin made a distinction between the type of producer that he was and that of a more active line producer. But he also said that he was not aware of crew concerns about safety on the set.
“I never heard one word about that. None,” he said.
Earlier on October 21, Lane Luper, the first camera assistant on the film, walked off the set with six other crew members in protest of poor working conditions. Baldwin said that he spoke to Luper the day before, and while he talked of the need for better hotel rooms closer to the location, he “didn’t raise safety issues.” Baldwin said that he would have been willing to give up some of his salary to pay for the improved accommodations. He instead suggested that the crew members who walked out “decided to renegotiate the contract in the middle of filming.”
Baldwin also distanced himself from the decision to hire Hannah Gutierrez-Reed as the film’s armorer, responsible for handling the weapons. He said that she told him that after using a gun for a scene or rehearsal, “you give the gun to me or Halls.” He said that he had an hour-and-a-half safety demonstration with her on October 12.
While Gutierrez-Reed’s attorney has raised the possibility that someone might have tried to sabotage the set by placing a live round in a box of dummy rounds, Baldwin seemed to reject that possibility.
Baldwin said that he met Hutchins’ widowed husband, Matthew, and their 9-year-old son. He said they went to dinner and they went to the memorial service together.
“I have communicated with him a couple times since then, but I do believe he has gone off in a direction where he is not going to communicate with people at the advice of his lawyer right now,” he said.
Baldwin also said that his career “could be” over after what happened, and that he has dreams about what happened “constantly.”
“Do you feel guilt?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“No. No. I feel that someone is responsible for what happened, and I can’t say who that is, but I know it’s not me. Honest to God, if I felt that I was responsible, I might have killed myself if I felt that I was responsible. And I don’t say that lightly.”
Stephanopoulos did ask Baldwin about what Donald Trump has said about the incident. The former president, who at times attacked Baldwin’s imitation of him on Saturday Night Live, suggested that the actor might have shot Hutchins deliberately.
Baldwin told Stephanopoulos, “I thought to myself, ‘Just when you think that things can’t get more surreal, here’s the former president of the United States making a comment on this tragic situation.'”
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