Breaking down in tears, Alec Baldwin said on Thursday he never imagined he had shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of “Rust,” presuming she had a heart attack or another mishap had occurred when she collapsed after he released the hammer of the gun on the film’s set.
“I didn’t believe Halyna was shot,” said Baldwin. “No one could understand – did she have a heart attack? The idea that there was a live bullet in the gun did not occur” to him. Baldwin made the remark during a sit-down with ABC anchor George Stephanopulos in his first TV interview since the tragedy happened.
Baldwin said he pulled the hammer back on the gun during a rehearsal directed by Hutchins, but he never imagined that he had fired a bullet. As was previously reported, Baldwin was told by the first assistant director that the gun was “cold,” which in set jargon means a gun does not contain live ammunition. After it went off, he thought either “wadding” — stuffing used in a blank cartridge (read more here) — or a heart attack had felled her.
“This is a marking rehearsal,” he described in the interview. “She’s next to the camera. The camera is here. She’s guiding me through how she wants me to hold the angle. I draw the gun out – the gun wasn’t meant to be fired in that angle.”
He continued: “I’m not shooting to camera lens. I’m holding the gun where she told me to hold it, which turned out to be below her armpit. But we kept doing this…. I start to cock the gun. She said, just ‘cheat it down, could you see that, could you see that.’ I let go of the hammer of the gun, the gun goes off.”
When Hutchins collapsed, it was another 45 minutes before Baldwin said he realized she was wounded by a live round, and that he did not know she was mortally wounded until his police interview a couple of hours later.
Baldwin was rehearsing a scene for the film, and “pointing the revolver toward the camera lens” when it hit director Joel Souza and Hutchins, according to the search warrant. Hutchins grabbed her midsection and then stumbled backwards as she was assisted to the ground, Souza told authorities. The director, who was also injured when the gun discharged, was released from a local hospital that night.
TheWrap has exclusively reported that the gun that killed Hutchins was used by crew members that morning for live-ammunition target practice. No alternate explanation for the presence of live ammunition on the set and in the gun has been put forth.
During Thursday night’s interview, Baldwin also responded to critics who said that he should have checked the gun himself and never should have pointed it at Hutchins.
“There are some who say you’re never supposed to point a gun on anyone on a set no matter what,” Stephanopoulos said.
“Unless the person is the cinematographer who’s directing me at where to point the gun for her camera angle,” Baldwin responded. “In terms of the handling of the gun, that day I did exactly what I’ve done every day on that movie. The actor’s responsibility is to do what the prop armorer tells them.”
Stephanopoulos also asked Baldwin about commentary from those including George Clooney, who said in a podcast interview where the “Rust” incident was discussed that he always checked to see whether a gun handed to him was loaded before cameras rolled.
“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,” Baldwin said. “If your protocol is you check the gun every time, well good for you, good for you. I’ve probably handled weapons as much as any other actor in films with an average career, again shooting or being shot by someone, and in that time I had a protocol and it never let me down.”
Baldwin broke down in tears as he discussed the devastation of having shot the 42-year-old cinematographer.
He also said that since the shooting he has constant dreams about it with images of guns going off. “I haven’t slept for weeks, I’m exhausted physically from this,” he said. And he said he didn’t care if this ended his career, and that he was focused on his family.
“I couldn’t give a s— about my career anymore,” he said. “Do I want to work much more after this? Is it worth it?”
He said the remaining question was who allowed live ammunition onto the set.
“Someone is responsible for what happened, but I know it isn’t me,” Baldwin said.
As for potential criminal charges, Baldwin said he has been told by people “in the know” that it would be “highly unlikely” that the ongoing investigation into Hutchins’ death would lead to charges against him.
During the interview, Baldwin brought up recent civil cases that have been filed over the shooting, saying, “which I find odd because those two people are lunging toward making sure their suits are filed before the husband files his suit?”
“They couldn’t wait until Matthew [Hutchins] on behalf of his son files his suit?” Baldwin added.
The actor said he does expect Halyna’s husband, Matthew, to file suit, and he believes the cinematographer’s immediate family (her husband and son) are “entitled to something.”
“I would be stunned if Matthew, on behalf of his son, did not file some kind of civil suit against the production with its insurers or something like that,” Baldwin added.
During the interview, which spanned an hour of primetime, former President Donald Trump’s comments about Baldwin and the “Rust” situation were touched on, which the actor said he found puzzling.
“He said that I did it deliberately … and I thought to myself, just when you think things can’t get more surreal, here’s the former president of the United States making a comment on this tragic situation,” Baldwin said.