Santa Fe, NM – Actor Alec Baldwin said it wasn’t his job to make sure the firearm he used on the set of “Rust” was safe, and that he only pointed the gun at his cinematographer because she told him to.
Halyna Hutchins, 42, was fatally shot on the set of “Rust” while rehearsing a scene with Baldwin in October.
The film’s director, Joel Souza, was wounded, but survived.
Baldwin was holding the antique Colt .45 revolver when the round was fired, but he insists he didn’t pull the trigger and claimed the gun discharged on its own.
The actor discussed the fatal Oct. 21 shooting during an ABC News interview with George Stephanopoulos, which aired Thursday night.
Baldwin said the film’s assistant director, Dave Halls, handed him the revolver on set that day and told him it was a “cold gun.”
The term “cold gun” is supposed to be used when referring to a firearm not containing any live ammunition, the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office (SFCSO) said in an application for a warrant to search the film set, according to CNN.
Halls’ attorney, Lisa Torraco, refused to confirm whether or not her client was the person who handed Baldwin the gun, but noted that even if he had, checking the firearm for safety wasn’t Halls’ responsibility, ABC News reported.
“Expecting an assistant director to check a firearm is like telling the assistant director to check the camera angle or telling the assistant director to check sound or lighting,” the lawyer balked.
Baldwin told Stephanopoulos that after he was given the gun, he and Hutchins began going through a “marking rehearsal” for the scene.
“Everything is at her direction,” he said. “[Hutchins] says to me, ‘Hold the gun lower. Go to your right. Okay, right there. All right, do that. Now show it a little bit lower.’ And she’s getting me to position the gun,” he explained.
“She’s guiding me through how she wants me to hold the gun for this angle,” Baldwin continued. “I’m holding the gun where she told me to hold it, which ended up being aimed right below her armpit.”
Baldwin said the scene required him to pull back the hammer of the gun, but not to fire the weapon, ABC News reported.
“I cock the gun. I go, ‘Can you see that? Can you see that? Can you see that?’” Baldwin recounted to Stephanopoulos. “And then I let go of the hammer of the gun, and the gun goes off. I let go of the hammer of the gun, the gun goes off.”
“The trigger wasn’t pulled. I didn’t pull the trigger,” he insisted. “I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them.”
Halls said he was standing three or four feet away when the shooting occurred, according to Torraco.
“The entire time Baldwin had his finger outside the trigger guard parallel to the barrel,” the attorney told ABC. “Alec did not pull that trigger.”
Baldwin said he initially wondered if Hutchins fainted when he saw her collapse.
“The notion that there was a live round in that gun did not dawn on me till probably 45 minutes to an hour later,” he told Stephanopoulos. “No one could understand.”
Baldwin said he put his faith in the people he worked with, to include Halls and 24-year-old “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed.
“In terms of the handling of the gun, that day I did exactly what I’ve done every day on that movie,” he said in the ABC interview. “The actor’s responsibility is to do what the prop armorer tells them to do.”
“When that person who was charged with that job handed me the weapon, I trusted them” he added.
Baldwin further noted he only did what Hutchins told him to do.
“There are some who say you’re never supposed to point a gun on anyone on a set no matter what,” Stephanopoulos pointed out, according to ABC News.
“Unless the person is the cinematographer who’s directing me at where to point the gun for her camera angle,” Baldwin countered. “That’s exactly what happened.”
The actor also dismissed criticism from people who said everyone should always personally check firearms for safety before handling them.
“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 checking the gun every time, well, good for you. Good for you.”
“My protocol was to trust the person that had the job,” he added. “And it worked up until this point.”
Baldwin said defining what the actor’s responsibilities are with regards to handling firearms on set is “a tough question” now because of this incident, ABC News reported.
“The actor’s responsibility going this day forward is very different than it was the day before that,” he told Stephanopoulos. “I did the same thing that day that I did all the other days we were shooting.”
Baldwin, co-producer and star of the film, said his connection to the death of Hutchins and the wounding of Souza is the worst thing that’s ever happened to him.
“I think back and I think of what could I have done?” he said.
But the actor said he doesn’t feel guilty because he knows he did nothing wrong, ABC News reported.
“No. no,” Baldwin told Stephanopoulos. “I might have killed myself if I thought I was responsible, and I don’t say that lightly.”
The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office (SFCSO) is currently awaiting investigative findings from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with the hope they will provide information about how the gun was fired, FOX News reported.
“Guns don’t just go off,” Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza told the news outlet. “So whatever needs to happen to manipulate the firearm, he did that and it was in his hands.”
Michael Corrie, a film and prop historian, said it would have taken a “mechanical failure” for the gun to have fired without the trigger being pulled, FOX News reported.
“The hammer needs to be fully locked to the rear for the weapon to function…Which necessitates manual operation of the weapon,” Corrie told FOX News. “Barring an as yet unknown mechanical failure, this weapon did not fire itself. For the hammer to travel forward at all, the trigger has to be depressed… unless some major mechanical failure takes place.”
During a sit down with FOX News on Wednesday, armorer Bryan Carpenter said it would be “rare” for a revolver like the Colt .45 Baldwin was using to fire without the trigger being pulled.
“In order to make it fire, you have to put your thumb up onto the hammer, cock the hammer all the way back, and then as the hammer is completely cocked back, then you pull the trigger and then the gun fires,” Carpenter said. “So that’s very important because that gun had to have two-step process to fire. It had to be cocked and the trigger pulled to fire.”
He noted it wouldn’t take much to “set that trigger off” on an antique firearm because they have “very light triggers,” FOX News reported.
Baldwin told Stephanopoulos he isn’t too worried about being criminally charged over the fatal shooting.
“I’ve been told by people who are in the know, in terms of even inside the state, that it’s highly unlikely that I would be charged with anything criminally,” the actor said, according to ABC News.
Someone else is responsible for what happened that day, he insisted.
“Someone put a live bullet in a gun, a bullet that wasn’t even supposed to be on the property,” Baldwin told Stephanopoulos. “Someone is responsible for what happened, and I can’t say who that is, but I know it’s not me.”
The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office (SFCSO) executed a search warrant Tuesday at the property of PDQ Arm and Prop LLC, a prop house in Albuquerque, ABC News reported.
The business’s owner, Seth Kenney, told investigators he’d been hired by the “Rust” team to supply them with firearms, as well as with Starline Brass blanks and dummy rounds, according to the warrant affidavit.
In the months of August and September, Kenney was working on another movie set with Hollywood armorer Thell Reed.
Reed is the father of “Rust” armorer Gutierrez-Reed, ABC News reported.
While they were working on the separate production, Kenney asked Reed to bring out live ammunition to an actor training session at the firearms range just “in case they ran out of what was supplied,” the affidavit read.
Reed said he brought a can of 200 to 300 rounds of live, handloaded ammunition out the range, according to investigators.
Reed told police that once the production wrapped up, Kenney allegedly took the container of remaining live ammunition back to New Mexico with him, telling Reed to “write it off,” ABC News reported.
According to the affidavit, Reed told investigators that was the reason why ammunition in his possession could match the rounds recovered from the set of “Rust.”
Kenney’s attorney, Adam Engelskirchen, adamantly denied allegations Kenney brought any live ammunition to the “Rust” production, ABC News reported.
Engelskirchen said the affidavit for the search warrant “includes material misstatements of fact, particularly with regard to statements ascribed to Mr. Kenney.”
“Reports in other media outlets that Mr. Kenney was part of the crew of Rust or was employed by the production to provide any sort of supervisory services are patently false,” the attorney declared.
“Mr. Kenney is fully-cooperating with the authorities, as he has been since the tragic incident took place,” Engelskirchen said in a statement to ABC News. “Neither Mr. Kenney nor PDQ Arm & Prop, LLC provided live ammunition to the Rust production.”
It is unknown if anything was seized from the prop company when the warrant was executed on Tuesday.
Jason Bowles, the attorney representing Gutierrez-Reed, praised the search, calling it “a huge step forward…to unearth the full truth of who put the live rounds on the Rust set.”
“We trust that the FBI will now compare and analyze the ‘live rounds’ seized from the set to evidence seized in the search warrant to conclusively determine where the live rounds came from,” Bowles said in a statement to ABC News.
“The questions of who introduced the live rounds onto the set and why are the central questions in the case,” he added.
Although film industry experts have insisted no live rounds should ever be present on a production set, investigators seized a mixture of live rounds, dummy rounds and blanks from the set of “Rust,” locating about 500 rounds of ammunition total, ABC News reported.
Crew members allegedly walked out due to concerns about the lack of safety on the set shortly before the shooting occurred.
Bowles said during an interview with NBC News on Nov. 3 it is possible that someone wanted “to sabotage the set” in order “to prove a point” that they were “disgruntled” and “unhappy.”
That person could have placed one or more live rounds into the box of blanks, he suggested.
Gutierrez-Reed was both the armorer and the assistant prop master for the film.
She said she left the weapon unsupervised for two hours while she went on a lunch break and performed her props assistant duties, NBC News reported.
“Hannah was hired on two positions on this film, which made it extremely difficult to focus on her job as an armorer,” her attorneys said in a recent statement. “She fought for training, days to maintain weapons and proper time to prepare for gunfire but ultimately was overruled by production and her department. The whole production set became unsafe due to various factors, including lack of safety meetings.”
Veteran prop master Neal Zoromski told Today during an interview that he previously turned down a job offer to work on Baldwin’s “Rust” feature because he “felt it was completely unsafe.”
Zoromski said he was particularly concerned by the fact that producers combined the jobs of the armorer and the assistant prop master into a single position for the movie.
“I impressed upon them that there were great concerns about that, and they didn’t really respond to my concerns about that,” he told Today.
But according to NBC News, sources within the production said it is not unusual for an armorer to also serve as a member of a prop team.
They further noted Gutierrez-Reed was never asked to handle weapon and prop duties on the same day, and said she only worked in props for two days, NBC News reported.
The incident remains under investigation, and no charges have been filed.