With investigations still ongoing into the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, it might have seemed to some like an unusual decision by Alec Baldwin to give an extensive, on-camera interview about the incident.
However, the actor – who says the gun he was holding fired without him pulling the trigger – has said that, six weeks on from the tragedy, he wants to counter “misconceptions” and can not wait for inquiries to conclude before speaking out.
In an emotional hour-long talk with ABC television’s George Stephanopoulos, Baldwin gave details on what happened in the moments leading up to Ms Hutchins’ death, and directly afterwards, for the first time. Here are the key points from the interview.
The moments before the gun went off
Baldwin and Ms Hutchins met to rehearse a scene in which he was playing a character who drew his weapon on two enemies, the actor told Stephanopoulos.
Recalling the “marking rehearsal” – during which the cinematographer was showing him where to point the weapon – the actor said that the film’s first assistant director, Dave Halls, handed him a revolver and told him “this is a cold gun” – an industry term meaning it was either empty or loaded with dummy rounds.
Ms Hutchins was instructing him on where and how to hold the weapon, “which ended up being aimed right below her armpit”, he said.
Baldwin said he needed to cock the gun but not fire it in order to get the shot they needed.
“I cock the gun,” he said. “I go, ‘Can you see that? Can you see that? Can you see that?’ And then I let go of the hammer of the gun, and the gun goes off.”
Stephanopoulos then asked if Baldwin pulled the trigger. “No, no, no, no, no,” the star replied. “I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them.”
The aftermath of the shooting
The actor said he did not realise what had happened at first, as “the idea that someone put a live bullet in the gun was not even in reality”.
“She goes down,” he said. “I thought to myself, did she faint? The notion that there was a live round in that gun did not dawn on me till probably 45 minutes to an hour later.”
Baldwin said he stood over Ms Hutchins for about 60 seconds “and she just laid there kind of in shock” before he was told to leave the building as medics entered. Asked if she was conscious, he replied: “My recollection is yes.”
Police arrived 15 to 20 minutes later, he said, and taped off the area. Director Joel Souza had also been injured in the incident.
He learned of Ms Hutchins’ death “hours later” after being told by police that a “45 calibre slug” had been removed from Mr Souza’s shoulder.
Baldwin said he felt “a kind of insanity-inducing agony of thinking that someone put a live bullet in the gun”.
How did the bullet end up on set?
During the interview, Baldwin said the only issue that matters is how the bullet ended up in the gun.
“There’s only one question to be resolved, and that’s where did the live round come from?” he said.
Baldwin said he met with the film’s armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed for a gun training session before the shoot, and she appeared capable and responsible.
“I assumed because she was there and she was hired that she was up to the job,” he said.
Gutierrez-Reed has been the subject of much of the scrutiny in the case. Her attorney has said she did not put the round in the gun, and believes she was the victim of sabotage.
Should Baldwin have checked the gun himself?
During the interview, Baldwin was played a clip of George Clooney speaking about handling guns on set, in which he said: “Every single time I’m handed a gun on a set, every time, they hand me a gun, I look at it, I open it, I show it to the person I’m pointing it to, we show it to the crew. Every single take. You hand it back to the armourer when you’re done, you do it again. Everyone does it. Everybody knows it.”
Baldwin responded: “Well, 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. But you… if your protocols, you check the gun every time, well good for you. Good for you. You know, I probably handled weapons as much as any other actor in films… and in that time, I had a protocol and it never let me down.”
The star said he was taught when he was younger that crew members “don’t want the actor to be the last line of defence against a catastrophic breach of safety with the gun”.
He said that “when that person who was charged with that job, handed me the weapon, I trusted them… In the 40 years I’ve been in this business all the way up until that day, I’ve never had a problem.”
The actor rose to fame in US primetime soap opera Knots Landing and went on to make a name for himself on the big screen in films such as Beetlejuice and The Hunt For Red October, as well as his collaborations with directors Woody Allen (Alice and Blue Jasmine) and Martin Scorsese (The Aviator and The Departed).
He is perhaps best known for his role in TV series 30 Rock, and for portraying Donald Trump in Saturday Night Live.
However, he said he is no longer thinking about his work and that he dreams about the tragedy “constantly”.
“I couldn’t give a sh*t about my career anymore,” he said.
Stephanopoulos then asked, “Is it over?”, to which the actor replied: “It could be.”
Baldwin said his next production still wants him, “but I said to myself, do I want to work much more after this?”
The actor denies responsibility – and says he does not think he will be charged with a crime
While Baldwin said he “would go to any lengths to undo what happened”, when asked if he felt guilt over Ms Hutchins’ death, he replied: “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’ve killed myself if I thought that I was responsible. And I don’t say that lightly.”
Baldwin, along with other producers, has had two civil lawsuits filed against him by Rust crew members. Police investigations are ongoing, and no criminal charges have been made.
Baldwin says he was told the gun was “safe” by other crew members in charge of checking weapons, and that he does not believe he will face criminal charges. He said he has “nothing to hide”.
“I’ve been told by people in the know… that it is highly unlikely I would be charged with anything criminally,” he said.
Reports of safety issues on set
Baldwin, who was also a producer on the film, said there was no indication to him that crew members were unhappy with safety conditions on the set, despite a resignation over the issue before Ms Hutchins’ death.
“I never heard one word about that, none,” the actor said. He also said that complaints about cost-cutting on the film have been misguided.
“Everybody who makes movies has the responsibility not to be reckless and careless with the money that you’re given,” he said.
Asked by Stephanopoulos whether the cost-cutting compromised safety, Baldwin said: “In my opinion, no… I personally did not observe any safety or security issues at all in the time I was there.”
In a statement, the producers of Rust, including Baldwin, have previously said: “The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company.
“Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down.
“We will continue to cooperate with the Santa Fe authorities in their investigation and offer mental health services to the cast and crew during this tragic time.”