It’s been more than a month since the tragic death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of Alec Baldwin’s film Rust. Save for a statement expressing condolences about Hutchins’ death, Baldwin had said little publicly. But in a 45-minute interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, the star spoke at length about the events of October 21 and asserted that the death was not his fault.
“As far as I’m concerned, the investigation is going to find out that someone put a live bullet in a gun, a bullet that wasn’t even supposed to be on the property,” Baldwin said. “And this is the thing that I hope the sheriff’s department doesn’t give up on, that they follow this to the ends of the earth: where did that bullet come from?”
Baldwin said he decided to do the interview in part because the criminal investigation will likely take a long time to produce results, but also because he “felt there were a number of misconceptions” being made by various sources. He stressed that he didn’t want the process to be sped up for his benefit, but that he wanted to share his perspective.
“I would go to any lengths to undo what happened,” Baldwin said. Baldwin was emotional talking about Hutchins, highlighting that the two got on well as collaborators and that she was widely beloved within the industry.“When I met her, I knew she had that spark. I knew she had that flint to her that she was gonna get that day’s work done and get the shots that she wanted,” he said. “She had that intensity.”
The actor went into detail about how the gun ended up firing. He said that they were in a marking rehearsal for a shootout scene in a church and Hutchins was directing his motions with the weapon. “She’s guiding me through how she wants me to hold the gun for this angle…What’s really urgent is: the gun wasn’t meant to be fired in that angle,” Baldwin explained. “I’m holding the gun where she told me to hold it, which ended up being aimed right below her armpit.”
Baldwin recalled that he was told the weapon he held was a “cold gun” by the film’s first assistant director, David Halls. “In my years on the sets of films, ‘hot gun’ meant that there was a charge in there and ‘cold gun’ meant that there was nothing in there,” he said.
According to the actor, he told Hutchins he was going to cock the gun and then released the hammer, but despite not pulling the trigger, the weapon discharged, fatally striking her. (The script apparently did not call for the gun to be fired.) “I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them,” he said emphatically. “The notion that there was a live round in that gun did not dawn on me ‘til probably 45 minutes to an hour later.” The bullet that killed Hutchins also struck the film’s director Joel Souza in the shoulder.
Baldwin said he later met with Hutchins’ husband, Matthew, and their nine-year-old son. “He was as kind as you could be,” he said. The father of seven said he thought about how much his young children love their mother and it overwhelmed him to think about Hutchins’ child growing up without one.
The news special also references Lane Luper, who served as first camera assistant but resigned the day before Hutchins was shot, citing a range of concerns including lax weapon safety and insufficient rehearsals. In a December 2 statement, Luper challenged Baldwin’s account of what happened on October 21, though he was not on set himself.
“Guns don’t just go off. The single action Colt .45 revolver handled by Alec Baldwin required multiple active steps to discharge and kill Halyna Hutchins,” Luper said in a statement obtained by the Los Angeles Times. “The gun had to be loaded with live ammunition, held and pointed, the hammer of the weapon manually cocked, and the trigger pulled. It was not a magic self-firing weapon.”
Baldwin said he spoke to Luper the day before the shooting and he mentioned issues with housing accommodations for his team, but not the accidental weapons discharges that he had written about in an email. The producers of Rust wrote in a statement that appears in the special that “Luper’s allegations around budget and safety are patently false.”
There have been two civil lawsuits filed against Baldwin by people who worked on Rust, one by lighting director Serge Svetnoy and one by script supervisor Mamie Mitchell.
The interview included a clip of George Clooney talking about his own gun safety efforts on set, which involved opening the gun, checking it himself, and also showing it to the crew. Many high-profile actors responded to the Rust tragedy, including Scarlett Johansson advocating the use of rubber guns and Jonathan Majors saying that no longer using blanks and adding special effects to simulate firing could make sets safer.
Throughout his 40 year career, Baldwin said, he had always trusted the on-set armorer if they told him that a gun was “cold” and that he had never had an issue prior to what happened on Rust. “There were a lot of people who felt it necessary to contribute some comment to the situation, which really didn’t help the situation at all,” a frustrated Baldwin said. “If your protocol is you checking the gun every time, good for you.”
Towards the end of the interview Stephanopoulos asked Baldwin what he thought the actor’s responsibility on set was as it pertained to gun safety. “That’s a tough question, because the actor’s responsibility going [from] this day forward is very different than it was the day before that,” he said. “First of all, I can’t imagine that I’d ever do a movie that had a gun in it again.”