Alec Baldwin claims he didn’t pull the trigger — he pulled the hammer back and released it, believing the gun that fired and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust was not loaded and safe to handle.
On Thursday, in his first sit-down interview since the fatal incident on Oct. 21 that also injured director Joel Souza, Baldwin told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he was following step-by-step instructions from Hutchins seconds before the weapon discharged.
“Everything is her direction. She’s guiding me through how she wants me to hold the gun for this angle,” Baldwin said. “I said to her, ‘Now in this scene, I’m going to cock the gun.’ And I said, ‘Do you want to see that?’ And she said, ‘Yes.’ So I take the gun and I start to cock the gun. I’m not going to pull the trigger.”
Baldwin described for Stephanopoulos how he pulled the revolver’s hammer back as far as he could “without cocking the actual gun.” He kept asking Hutchins, “Can you see that?”
“Yeah, that’s good,” Hutchins allegedly answered, according to Baldwin.
“I let go of the hammer. Bang! The gun goes off,” Baldwin told Stephanopoulos.
Baldwin’s explanation came the day after a teaser clip from the interview included him saying, “I didn’t pull the trigger… I would never point a gun at anyone and pull the trigger at them. Never.”
“The gun was supposed to be empty. I was told I was handed an empty gun,” he said on Thursday. “The notion that there was a live round in that gun did not dawn on me until probably 45 minutes to an hour later.”
Baldwin said “no one could understand” what happened. He recalled standing over Hutchins for about a minute before he was cleared out of the small wooden church where they had been setting up the shot. He recalled wondering if maybe Hutchins had suffered a heart attack or was struck by “wadding” from a blank round.
The actor said the notion that his gun fired a live bullet “was not even in reality.” When he finally saw an image of the bullet that was recovered from director Joel Souza’s shoulder, “it was like seeing aliens,” he said.
“I would go to any lengths to undo what happened,” Baldwin said during the emotional interview that included him breaking down multiple times.
Asked if he feels any “guilt” over the shooting, Baldwin said he does not.
“I feel that there is, that someone is responsible for what happened. And I can’t say who that is, but I know it’s not me. I mean, honest to God, if I felt that I was responsible, I might have killed myself,” he said. “And I don’t say that lightly.”
Baldwin said he’s been living in a state of waking nightmares for the last month and a half, trying to hold things together for his wife and six children.
“I wake up constantly where guns are going off. And these images come into my mind and have kept me awake at night. I haven’t slept for weeks,” he said, adding that he’s due to shoot another movie in January, but isn’t sure he’ll have the strength.
Multiple times, Baldwin caught himself and said, “I don’t want to sound like a victim.”
Asked about the criminal investigation into the shooting, Baldwin said he’s been told it’s “highly unlikely” he’ll face any criminal charges. The central question, he said, is who brought bullets onto the set, and he believes Hutchins’ husband and son have a right to recover damages in a lawsuit once that question is answered.
Baldwin said he decided to speak to ABC News because he wanted to clear up “a number of misconceptions.”
“I really feel like I can’t wait for that process (of the criminal investigation) to end in February or March,” he said. “I’m not pressing them to speed it up for my benefit. That’s ridiculous.”
The Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office has said Baldwin is cooperating with the investigation. According to search warrant affidavits, he was told the gun was “cold,” meaning not loaded with any live rounds, by assistant director Dave Halls, who handed him the weapon after a lunch break.
The shooting took place the same day several crew members walked off the set amid complaints about long hours, a lack of hotel rooms, and prior accidental gun discharges.
Baldwin is now the subject of two lawsuits filed by crew members Serge Svetnoy and Mamie Mitchell. The complaints, which also name the movie’s producers, Halls and rookie armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed as defendants, claim Baldwin bears responsibility in the deadly accident because he didn’t check the weapon for live rounds himself.
Baldwin told Stephanopoulos he was not aware of any dangerous conditions on the movie’s set before the fatal shooting.
“I did not observe any safety or security issues at all in the time that I was there,” he said. “Everybody there was having a positive experience.”