In an emotional interview with ABC that aired Thursday, actor Alec Baldwin recounted the final moments before the shooting on the set of his film “Rust” that left the movie’s cinematographer dead and its director wounded.
“This is one in a billion, that someone puts a real bullet in the gun. That never happens,” Baldwin said in the interview, his first in which he gave a full account of the shooting in public. “The idea that a real bullet was in that gun … was not even in a realm of possibility. And that’s the thing they must find out: Who brought bullets onto the set.”
The actor was holding an old-fashioned revolver during an Oct. 21 practice scene, called a marking rehearsal, after being told the gun was “cold,” or had no live rounds inside. Bt the gun suddenly fired, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza with a live bullet.
Baldwin, at times in tears while recounting the shooting, told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos he had “no idea” how a live bullet made its way to the set of the film, a Western being made near Santa Fe, New Mexico.
“I’m holding the gun where she told me to hold it, where it’s meant to be aimed right below her armpit,” Baldwin said during the interview, describing the marking rehearsal with Hutchins. He described the gun’s placement for the camera tests as “a completely incidental shot that might not have even been in the film at all.”
“I take the gun and I start to cock the gun, I’m not going to pull the trigger,” Baldwin continued. “I let go of the hammer of the gun and the gun goes off.”
The actor said he thought Hutchins had fainted at first before he heard Souza begin screaming. Police arrived about 15 to 20 minutes later, and Hutchins was taken to the hospital by a helicopter.
“When she finally left, I don’t know how long she was there, they kept saying she’s stable,” Baldwin recounted. “Just because you disbelieve that there was a live round in the gun, you disbelieve that this would be fatal.”
Baldwin said he wasn’t told he’d discharged a live round and that Hutchins had been killed until hours later at a police station when officers showed him a “.45-caliber slug” removed from Souza’s arm.
The revelation, he said, prompted “the kind of insanity-inducing agony [realizing] that somebody put a live bullet in the gun.”
Baldwin described Hutchins as a talented cinematographer who was loved and admired by her colleagues. He stressed that the pair injured in the misfire were victims and that he was speaking publicly to discount any misconceptions that spread after the tragedy.
“When I talk about this, my concern is that I don’t sound like I’m the victim, because there is a victim: There’s a woman who died, and my friend who got shot,” he said.
Investigators are still probing how deadly ammunition made it onto the set. Prop guns or real firearms used in film scenes are typically only loaded with blanks or dummy rounds, and having live rounds on site has been described as a major breach in protocol.
Questions have swirled around crew members who were supposed to handle the gun before it was passed to Baldwin, including Seth Kenney, the supplier of the blanks and dummy rounds for the movie, and the armorer for “Rust,” Hannah Gutierrez-Reed.
Gutierrez-Reed told investigators she had loaded the gun with five dummy rounds before a lunch break, but added there was “one round that wouldn’t go in.” She said she added the sixth round after lunch and her attorney has said the armorer had no idea where the live round, including others recovered by investigators after the shooting, came from.
Baldwin said he didn’t know who is responsible for the shooting and didn’t believe he would be criminally charged, adding that he hoped investigators would follow their probe “to the ends of the Earth” to determine where the bullet came from.
“As far as I’m concerned, someone put a live bullet in a gun,” he said. “A bullet that wasn’t even supposed to be on the property.”
Two civil lawsuits have been filed in the aftermath of the shooting that name Baldwin, including one that accuses him of “playing Russian roulette” and failing to check the rounds himself before the scene rehearsal. The actor rejected that criticism, saying he put his trust in the armorer and others who handled the gun and told him it was safe.
“I’ve gotten shot and killed in films before … and I trusted them to do their job,” he said. He added later: “I can’t imagine I’d ever do a movie that had a gun in it again.”