In the six weeks since cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed on the New Mexico set of “Rust,” the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office periodically released information gleaned from its criminal investigation into the fatal shooting. Details emerged from interviews with crew members, but the general public had yet to hear at length from the person who was actually holding the gun.
That changed Thursday night when ABC aired a prime-time special with Alec Baldwin – the actor’s first TV appearance since the gun went off in his hands on Oct. 21, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza. Speaking to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, Baldwin was highly emotional and often paused to collect himself. He refrained from sharing some details due to the ongoing investigation, but said he came “to say, I would go to any lengths to undo what happened.”
Here are eight major takeaways from the interview, which is also set to stream on Hulu.
Baldwin said he wasn’t involved in hiring crew members
Honest to God, if I felt I was responsible, I might have killed myself
Baldwin was sitting on a wooden pew inside a church building on Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe while he practiced cross-drawing his weapon for a scene from the western “Rust.” Hannah Gutierrez, the armorer in charge of handling firearms on set, had left a .45 Long Colt revolver on a cart outside the building, from where first assistant director Dave Halls retrieved it. He said, “Cold gun!” while handing it to Baldwin, indicating to the actor that it did not contain any live rounds.
Only, it did. In an interview with a detective from the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office, Gutierrez said she had no idea how a live round wound up inside the revolver. Her attorneys, Jason Bowles and Robert Gorence, have stated that their client was stretched thin while working on the production due to having been hired for two separate roles: armorer and assistant props specialist.
Multiple members of the crew have publicly accused “Rust” producers of cutting corners for the sake of the budget, and at the expense of everyone’s safety on set. Two have filed lawsuits and named Baldwin, who also produced the film, as a defendant. But while speaking to Stephanopoulos, Baldwin deflected some of the blame by saying that he was not among the producers who were in charge of hiring. Instead, he focused on tasks such as working with writer-director Souza to develop the story and to weigh in on casting.
Hutchins directed Baldwin to point the gun toward her, according to him
One of the crew members suing Baldwin – along with numerous others who worked on the production – is script supervisor Mamie Mitchell, who stated in her complaint that the scene he was rehearsing did not call for a gun to be fired. Baldwin did not refute this point but clarified that the scene was meant to end with him cocking the gun while pointing it just to the side of the camera.
That October afternoon, on the 12th day of a three-week shoot, Baldwin and Hutchins were taking part in a “marking rehearsal.” According to the actor, this involved the cinematographer looking at a monitor while directing him on how to hold the gun. He said he was told to point it right below her armpit for “a completely incidental shot, an angle that may not have ended up in the film at all.”
At that point, Baldwin said, he began to cock the gun but did not pull the trigger.
“I let go of the hammer of the gun, and the gun goes off,” Baldwin said, adding: “I didn’t pull the trigger. I would never point a gun at anyone and pull the trigger. Never.”
Halls’ attorney, Lisa Torraco, has said Halls also told her Baldwin did not pull the trigger.
Baldwin learned of Hutchins’ death hours later
When Baldwin saw Hutchins fall to the ground, he wondered whether she had fainted or had a heart attack. The idea of a live round being on set was so far-off to him that he didn’t consider the fact that she could have been shot, he said. The possibility did not hit him “until probably 45 minutes to an hour later.”
Baldwin said he stood over Hutchins for about 60 seconds before he and the others were ushered out of the church. He remembered it took a while for her to be taken out of the building. Baldwin eventually went to the sheriff’s office, where an officer showed him a photo of the “.45 caliber slug” that had been removed from Souza’s arm. At the end of the police interview, hours after the shooting occurred, Baldwin was informed that Hutchins had not survived her injuries.
He called his wife from the parking lot, a sight captured in widely circulated photos.
It wasn’t unusual on “Rust” for an assistant director to handle weapons
In response to reports of what occurred on the production that day, people who work in Hollywood wondered why Halls had been the one to hand Baldwin the gun. Experts previously told The Washington Post that firearms are only to be handled on set by the armorer, the actor and a designated props person. The first assistant director does not generally figure into the mix.
Baldwin, however, described it as “inaccurate” to suggest Halls shouldn’t have handled the gun. The actor said it can be normal on a cramped set for people to be allowed into the room on an “as-needed basis.” Gutierrez has said she wasn’t allowed inside due to covid protocols.
“In the protocols of the business, Hannah would hand me the gun 90 percent of the time,” Baldwin said. “But when we would say cut, if Hannah were away from the set, I would hand Halls the gun.”
This was only the second time in her career that Gutierrez, the 24-year-old daughter of renowned Hollywood armorer Thell Reed, had taken on the role herself. Baldwin said he had a safety demonstration with Gutierrez on Oct. 12, during which they spent an hour and a half shooting a pistol. He told Stephanopoulos that she did nothing to raise any red flags with him.
I did not observe any safety or security issues at all in the time I was there
Baldwin said he was unaware of discontent among crew members
First camera assistant Lane Luper, who resigned from his position on “Rust” the day before Hutchins died, told producers in an email that he was concerned about relaxed covid policies, a housing situation that required crew members to drive long distances and a lack of gun safety. Luper noted that two separate weapons had accidentally discharged on the set.
Baldwin stated that he had been unaware of the workplace issues Luper described in the email. He said the camera assistant had come up to him after they wrapped one day and told Baldwin that members of the camera crew needed better hotel rooms, but did not mention the discharges.
The camera crew walked off set on Oct. 21, and another had to be hired in their place. Baldwin said he “never heard one word” about crew members feeling unsafe or mistreated.
“I did not observe any safety or security issues at all in the time I was there,” he added.
Criminal charges seem unlikely for Baldwin
While Baldwin has been named as a defendant in the civil suits brought forward by Mitchell and chief lighting technician Serge Svetnoy, he told Stephanopoulos that “people who are in the know” told him that it is “highly unlikely” he would face any criminal charges for the incident.
The criminal investigation will determine whose responsibility it was, Baldwin said. He operated on the basis that “the actor’s responsibility is to do what the prop armorer tells them to do.”
“Everything gets slowed down [like] a Zapruder-esque film here,” he continued. “There’s only one question to be resolved and that is, where did the live round come from?”
The actor doesn’t know if he wants to work again
Baldwin told Stephanopoulos he is unsure whether he wants to continue acting. The opportunities haven’t dried up; Baldwin said he is still scheduled to shoot another film in January.
What he seemed to know, however, was that he doesn’t want to work with guns on set again.
Baldwin doesn’t feel responsible for what happened
Baldwin is clearly upset by what happened, Stephanopoulos said. But does he feel any guilt?
The actor very firmly said no, echoing previous statements that he was just doing what he was told. He noted that one of the two crew members suing him walked up to Baldwin immediately after the shooting and said, “You realize you had no responsibility for what happened here, don’t you?” While Baldwin declined to name the person, Stephanopoulos confirmed that it was Svetnoy.
The lighting technician now feels differently. Baldwin does not. “I feel that someone is responsible for what happened, and I can’t say who that is but I know it’s not me,” Baldwin said. “Honest to God, if I felt I was responsible, I might have killed myself.”