Alec Baldwin has had a long and distinguished Hollywood career, charming us in roles ranging from Beetlejuice to 30 Rock and beyond. However, the future of that career may be in danger after the tragic death of Halyna Hutchins.
Hutchins was the director of photography on Rust, a movie in which Alec Baldwin, 63, is both a producer and star. Hutchins died on Oct. 21 when a prop gun Baldwin was holding discharged while he was rehearsing a scene. The gun should have been loaded with blanks, but was actually loaded with live ammunition. This has kicked off a series of debates about gun safety on film sets and whether or not Baldwin should assume any responsibility.
But what happened in those fatal moments, and how did Baldwin react? And what criminal and legal consequences might he face for this unthinkable tragedy? Here is everything you need to know.
The unsafe set of ‘Rust’
In the aftermath of this tragedy, many fans have been asking a single question: how could this have happened?
Alec Baldwin had no way of knowing the gun was loaded. In fact, CNN reports that when assistant director David Halls handed Baldwin the weapon, he told the star it was a “cold gun.” In movie lingo, that means that the weapon does not have any live rounds of ammunition.
However, it turned out there were actually live rounds in the gun. When Baldwin pulled the trigger, he ended up injuring director Joel Souza and killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42. Hutchins was married with a nine-year-old son and seemed to have a promising career ahead of her.
It seems this tragedy could have been avoided if better safety protocols had been followed, and there are allegations of previous unsafe incidents on set. CNN reported that Baldwin’s stunt double had accidentally fired live rounds earlier in the week on set after also being handed a weapon and told it was a “cold gun,” making this tragedy part of a seeming pattern of unsafe behavior on set.
Alec Baldwin responds to the tragedy
Needless to say, Alec Baldwin was horrified by the entire affair. And he addressed the incident on Oct. 22 on Twitter, later posting screenshots of his tweets to Instagram:
“There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours,” Baldwin wrote. “I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred and I am in touch with her husband, offering my support to him and his family. My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna.”
These initial tweets were not controversial. In fact, they seemed typical of anyone offering thoughts and prayers after a tragic death. However, on Nov. 2, Baldwin made a series of seven posts that generated immense fan backlash.
Baldwin shares posts defending ‘Rust’ working conditions
In the aftermath of the tragedy, Baldwin as a producer faced scrutiny for alleged poor working conditions on Rust. In fact, just hours before Hutchins was shot, several camera crew members walked off the set over safety concerns. Their dispute involved the production allegedly refusing to pay for hotels for crew that lived a one-hour drive away from the set, after working 12 hour days. (via Fox News).
But Baldwin seemed to want to fight back against allegations of unsafe hours that may or may not have contributed to the tragedy. Baldwin’s Instagram posts on Nov. 2 contained screenshots of a post written by Rust costume designer Terese Magpale Davis, disputing other crew member accounts of unsafe working conditions on set.
The posts from Davis addressed several different issues, beginning with her declaration “I am so sick of this narrative” of the set being unsafe. “I worked on this movie. The story being spun of us being overworked and surrounded by unsafe, chaotic conditions is bullshit.”
She went on to say, “We never worked more than a 12.5 hour shoot day. That was once. Most days were under 12. The day Halyna died we had come off of a 12-hour turnaround after an 11-hour shoot day. We had (including camera) gotten off by 6:30 p.m. We had just had a 56-hour weekend right before that. No one was too tired to do their jobs. This is all provable by daily timesheets.”
She also seemed to defend both 24-year-old set armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who has faced backlash for her inexperience on film sets, and first assistant director Dave Halls. Guitierrez Reed handed the prop gun, a Colt .45, to Halls, who later admitted he handed it to Baldwin without checking it for live rounds. “Am I angry at him?” Davis wrote. “Yes. But I won’t jump on the bandwagon and pretend that he was uncaring about our safety the whole way through.”
As for Gutierrez Reed, while Davis wrote that armorers should have to pass “higher standards” to obtain their jobs, she said, “I’m not okay with using her to be the poster child for better hours. We had exactly the kind of hours we all say we want.”
Baldwin’s posts defending Rust‘s working conditions did not go over well with the public, and it wasn’t long before experts started saying he should stay off social media.
Alec Baldwin advised to stay off social media
At this point, Baldwin was in a pretty terrible position. If he stood back and said nothing, he would look guilty in the face of the narratives others were creating. But when he tried to speak out, as he did on Instagram, it actually stirred the pot instead of making anything better.
In the wake of the tragedy, various crisis management experts agreed on one thing: Alec Baldwin and his wife, wellness influencer Hilaria Baldwin, 37, need to stay off social media. This is no small order for a celebrity couple known for posting photos of their personal lives and their six young children.
“Every gesture, every part of his appearance, every public statement will be scrutinized,” Evan Nierman, founder of the crisis management and P.R. firm Red Banyan, said (via Mercury News). “He even needs to make sure he’s not photographed out having dinner with friends, or laughing at a joke, or even seen smiling. It would be easy for someone to take a photo or video of him and spin it and attack him.”
Baldwin seems to have realized this for the most part. He made his Twitter account, where he has one million followers, private on Nov. 2 after sharing Davis’s post (via Independent). However, on Instagram where Baldwin has 2.4 million followers, Baldwin and his wife have kept their accounts public. And through selective posts and interviews, they seem to slowly be trying to control a narrative that is rapidly spiraling away from them.
Will Alec Baldwin face criminal charges?
It’s clear that Alec Baldwin never meant to fire live rounds on set. But at the end of the day, he is both the film’s producer and the man who pulled the trigger. And this has led many fans to ask a simple question: is he going to face criminal charges?
According to different legal experts that have considered the matter, Baldwin himself is very unlikely to face criminal charges (via The Los Angeles Times). That is because any criminal case would hinge upon who was responsible for making sure the gun was safe to use. The most likely people to be charged with manslaughter are set armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed and assistant director David Halls.
Most damning of all evidence against Halls is the affidavit he gave to detectives, where he makes claims his lawyer is now denying. In the affidavit, Halls stated he saw there were three rounds in the gun before giving it to Baldwin, and he “should have checked all of them, but didn’t.”
However, New Mexico authorities have not charged anyone with any crimes yet. The investigation into this matter is still ongoing. Still, while Alec Baldwin may not end up facing any criminal charges, he is already facing a legal battle.
Alec Baldwin sued by gaffer
It is tragic that the gun held by Baldwin injured one person and killed another. But the bullet allegedly came close to hurting a third person: gaffer Serge Svetnoy, who is now taking legal action.
In a lawsuit he filed on Nov. 10 (via Rolling Stone), Svetnoy claims “discharge materials from the blast struck [him] directly,” which left him “stunned and shaken.” He then noticed Hutchins on the ground and “tried to aid and comfort [her].” On Facebook, he claimed that Hutchins was a close, personal friend of his, and he held her as she lay dying.
Svetnoy is suing several people in Los Angeles court: Alec Baldwin, assistant director Dave Halls, armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, as well as film producers and other parties, claiming negligence.
The lawsuit claims Alec Baldwin had a “duty” to “double-check” to check the gun himself before using it. Svetnoy’s lawyer Gary Dordick told Rolling Stone, “Taking a gun and assuming it’s safe and pulling the trigger is a breach of that duty. So, Alec Baldwin is not treated any better or any worse, but he’s held to the basic standard of care of a reasonable person in those circumstances.”
While Baldwin is unlikely to face criminal charges, this may just be the beginning of civil lawsuits awaiting him. Baldwin has not addressed the lawsuit yet, but has stated he cannot comment on the criminal investigation. For weeks, he even disappeared from the public eye.
Alec Baldwin stayed out of public for weeks after the tragedy
For weeks after the tragedy, Alec Baldwin stayed out of the public eye. He was not spotted in New York at all, where he lives in an East Hampton farmhouse with his family. Instead, he, his wife Hilaria, and their six children secluded themselves in a Manchester, Vermont rental home while the Santa Fe investigation into Hutchins’ death continued (via The Daily Mail).
Recently, though, Alec and Hilaria Baldwin have started going out in public again. The two were first spotted back in New York on Sunday, Nov. 7, dining at Il Cantinori restaurant in Greenwich Village around 9 p.m.. Witnesses speaking to The Daily Mail reported the restaurant was nearly empty. The Baldwins dined at an outdoor table and Alec “looked tired and a bit worse for wear.”
Then on Nov. 9, Alec and Hilaria Baldwin were spotted in New York’s West Village. Alec was photographed pushing one of his young children in a stroller, and the couple was seen visiting a nail salon. The same day, Alec released a new episode of his podcast that was recorded back in July.
Clearly, Alec Baldwin is starting to make steps toward resuming his normal life following the death of Halyna Hutchins. But the repercussions of this tragedy will be felt long into the future.