In his first interview since a film set shooting left a cinematographer dead, a director injured and Hollywood stunned, actor Alec Baldwin appeared emotional, insisting that he didn’t want to portray himself as a victim and tearing up several times while being questioned by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in a broadcast aired Thursday.
Baldwin, who authorities have said was practicing with the gun when it discharged, also said he bore no responsibility for the shooting and felt no guilt about it.
Here are five takeaways from the hourlong interview.
‘That was the moment the gun went off’
Baldwin told Stephanopoulos that he first met cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on Oct. 11, 10 days before she was killed, at a dinner with director Joel Souza. The crew was filming “Rust,” a low-budget Western, at Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe County, New Mexico.
Baldwin described her as intense and focused, someone “who had that flint to her.”
On Oct. 21, the crew was preparing for a shootout inside a church when Dave Halls, the assistant director, passed Baldwin a Colt .45 and said “cold gun,” indicating it didn’t have any live rounds, investigators said in a search warrant affidavit.
Halls’ attorney, Lisa Torraco, has maintained that her client didn’t hand the gun to Baldwin and that checking to see whether it was loaded wasn’t the assistant director’s responsibility.
Baldwin said Hutchins had been telling him how to position it and when to cock it. With the barrel pointed at her armpit, he said, he let go of the hammer.
“That was the moment the gun went off,” he said, adding that everyone on the set was “horrified” and “shocked” at what happened. The bullet fatally struck Hutchins and became lodged in Souza’s left shoulder.
“I was told I was handed an empty gun,” he said. “If there were cosmetic rounds, nothing with a charge at all, no flash round, nothing. She goes down. I thought to myself, did she faint?”
“The idea that someone put a live round in the gun was not ever reality,” Baldwin said.
Why didn’t Baldwin check the gun?
After the shooting, George Clooney, Matthew McConaughey and other actors criticized Baldwin for not following what they described as an essential, well-known protocol: They check the gun themselves.
But Baldwin said he was taught differently. Actors shouldn’t be the “last line of defense,” he said, noting that it was the responsibility of the armorer, or the crew’s weapons specialist, to ensure that firearms are properly maintained.
When someone has handed him a weapon on a set, he added, “I always trusted them.”
Lawyers for “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed have suggested that someone may have tried to sabotage the set by placing a live round in a box of dummy ammunition.
Prosecutors have rejected the idea of sabotage. The lawyers provided no evidence to support the theory, and Baldwin said it was “overwhelmingly likely” that the shooting was an accident.
‘We have issues here’
Baldwin also addressed allegations from a former crew member, Lane Luper, that safety procedures were “fast and loose” on the set.
Luper resigned the day before the shooting, telling producers in an email that while gunfight scenes were being filmed, there had been two accidental weapons discharges, an accidental explosion and no safety meetings.
Baldwin told Stephanopoulos that he spoke with Luper the day before he quit. Baldwin said Luper thanked for him his position on the possibility that film employees may strike amid stalled contract negotiations — Baldwin publicly backed the union — and said: “We have issues here.”
“Such as?” Baldwin recalled asking him.
“My men need better hotel rooms,” Baldwin recalled Luper saying. “He didn’t mention safety.”
“I never heard one word about that,” he added.
Baldwin, who was also a producer on the film, said his production responsibilities were strictly creative.
“I am a purely creative producer. My authorities as a producer are casting and script,” he said, adding that he wasn’t involved in budget discussions.
Two former crew members have sued Baldwin and others involved in making “Rust,” claiming that cost-cutting measures came at that expense of safety protocols and that Baldwin recklessly fired his gun when shooting wasn’t even in the script.
Baldwin claimed that one of the plaintiffs told him immediately after the shooting that he had “no responsibility for what happened here.” Baldwin declined to say who made the comment, but he said it was “unsettling” that the suits were filed before Hutchins’ husband had had a chance to sue and obtain a settlement from a limited pool of insurance funds.
Hutchins’ husband, Matthew Hutchins, hasn’t said he intends to file a lawsuit, but Baldwin said he would be “stunned” if he didn’t.
“Something happened that resulted in his wife’s death,” he said.
Baldwin added that he didn’t pull the trigger or intentionally fire the gun. “I have no idea” how it happened, he said. “Someone put a live bullet in a gun, a bullet that wasn’t even supposed to be on the property.”
A lawyer for assistant director Dave Halls said her client confirmed Baldwin’s account and suggested that the gun might have misfired.
‘Someone is responsible’
According to Baldwin, the mystery of what happened on the set of “Rust” will unravel when investigators determine how a live round got onto the set.
He insisted that he bears no responsibility for the shooting, and when asked whether he felt guilt, he said, “No.”
“I feel that someone is responsible for what happened, and I can’t say who that is,” he said. “But I know it’s not me. I mean, honest to God, if I felt that I was responsible, I might have killed myself if I thought I was responsible. And I don’t say that lightly.”