This article was featured in One Great Story, New York’s reading recommendation newsletter. Sign up here to get it nightly.
Late in the day on October 21, 2021, Alec Baldwin was sitting alone in an interrogation room at the Santa Fe County sheriff’s office, trying to get ahold of his wife, Hilaria. “Can you hear me?” Alec asked quietly. “Can you hear me? Can you hear me?”
Baldwin had just come from the set of Rust, the low-budget western in which he was playing a moody patriarch dealing with the aftermath of an accidental killing. At the sheriff’s office, he was wearing the bushy white beard he grew for the part and a navy-blue T-shirt and dark jeans, having changed out of his costume, which was covered in fake blood and now considered evidence in a criminal investigation. Just a few hours earlier, Baldwin had shot Joel Souza, the film’s director, and Halyna Hutchins, its cinematographer, with a Colt .45 that wasn’t supposed to be loaded. Souza and Hutchins were in the hospital, and Baldwin didn’t yet know that Hutchins had just been pronounced dead.
Baldwin called his wife again. “How is everyone at home?” he asked after getting through. “How are the kids?”
“The kids are great, the kids are great,” Hilaria said before Alec cut her off.
“Hold on a second, please,” Alec said. He asked if Hilaria had told their eldest child what happened. She hadn’t. Hilaria and their kids had been planning to join Alec in New Mexico. Their 8-year-old daughter was even scheduled to film a small role. Now, Alec was going to have to stay in Santa Fe to talk to the lawyers and investigators who were just beginning to sort out this nightmare. “Are you convinced you don’t want to come tomorrow?” he asked his wife.
“I don’t think it’s a great idea,” Hilaria said.
“Let me just say this to you, just to be clear,” Alec said. Over the years, Baldwin had found himself in the middle of controversies big and small — paparazzi run-ins, a nasty voice-mail, MAGA hatred, his wife’s accent. But this was a genuine tragedy: He had shot a woman standing just a few feet in front of him. Baldwin is rarely at a loss for words, yet he found it all but impossible to explain the horror of the situation, even to the person who had become his closest confidante. “This is really — I mean …” Alec said.
“I’m so sorry,” Hilaria said. “You must be so traumati — ”
“No, no,” Alec said, taking the phone off speaker and bringing it to his ear. “What I am is someone who — I don’t want to do this for a living anymore. I don’t.” He seemed to be speaking with sudden clarity: “I don’t want to be a public person.”
A year and a half after the shooting, Baldwin is still grappling with the fact that along with everything else he has accomplished in his life and career, he is also now and forever someone who accidentally shot and killed a woman. (Souza, the director, survived.) Last month, he returned to the set of Rust, this time in Montana, where he is still trying to finish a movie that pretty much everyone involved would prefer to forget. If things had gone to plan — if a woman had not died — Rust would have already launched quietly into video-on-demand obscurity. Instead, Baldwin had been charged with involuntary manslaughter, and the film had become the linchpin of a legal settlement with Hutchins’s husband, who is now an executive producer on it. The macabre hope is that enough people will want to see the movie that led to Baldwin killing someone that the proceeds can go into a trust fund for Hutchins’s 10-year-old son.
Throughout this ordeal, Baldwin has said that Hilaria “took control of my life” and that he could not have survived the past 18 months without her. Even before the Rust shooting, Alec, Hilaria, and their Baldwinitos — as they refer to their seven children, all of whom are under the age of 10 — were becoming as well known for their homelife as they were for Alec’s career. While the Baldwins declined to participate in this story, they have always lived their lives in the open and have shared their experience of the past 18 months on Instagram and elsewhere. There is no right way to get through a tragedy. The Baldwins seem to have decided, for better and worse, to try posting through it. The day after Alec arrived in Montana, he got some good news: The criminal charges against him were being dropped. He quickly opened Instagram to post a blurry photo of Hilaria from the early days of their relationship. “I owe everything I have to this woman,” Alec wrote, before offering parenthetical thanks to his attorney. Later that day, Hilaria posted a photo of herself curled up in Alec’s lap, the Baldwins made into a modern-day Pietà.
Hilaria packed up the kids and left Greenwich Village the day after the shooting with no destination in mind other than somewhere away from the photographers and reporters descending on their apartment building. She eventually landed on Manchester, a small town in southwestern Vermont, where her family happened to have roots pre-dating the American Revolution. Alec joined them, and the Baldwins had a few days of quiet before the paparazzi found them and started documenting their every move: picking up pizza, buying clothes at a Ralph Lauren outlet, looking for the family cat in the backyard of their rental home. After several days of being chased around by half a dozen photographers, the Baldwins pulled over on a country road to give an interview in the hope that doing so would make them go away. Alec did most of the talking, but Hilaria filmed the interaction on her phone and jumped in at several points. “Just do me a favor,” Alec said. “My kids are in the car crying.”
“Because you guys are following them, and they know,” Hilaria said.
“As a courtesy to you, I came to talk to you,” Alec said. “Now, please, would you just not follow us?”
“Go home,” Hilaria said. “Go home!”
As the dust settled, Baldwin read a 2017 New Yorker article titled “The Sorrow and the Shame of the Accidental Killer.” In the story, the writer, Alice Gregory, looks at the lives of people who had unwittingly killed another person: An elderly man hits the gas instead of the brakes; a baby is momentarily neglected; a gun goes off unexpectedly. The article didn’t offer Baldwin much hope. The killers in Gregory’s story struggled to get back to work, lost touch with friends, and dealt with public scorn and recrimination. They experienced nightmares and hallucinations. (“There was this voice: ‘You don’t deserve to feel happy. Look what happened last time you felt happy.’”) Many of them were possessed by a persistent need to rewind every detail of what happened, agonizing over tiny ways the tragedy might have been avoided and trying to figure out how they could make amends. One woman, blinded by the sun while driving just before she hit a man on a motorcycle, sent a letter to her state’s attorney asking to be locked away.
Baldwin felt much of this. “I shot this woman with a gun today,” he said during his initial interrogation in Santa Fe. “If you don’t think I feel really, really shitty about that, I do.” When the detectives told him Hutchins had died, Baldwin yelled “No!,” then sat in silence for more than a minute before staggering out of the room to call Hilaria again. He obsessed about ways Hutchins’s death might have been avoided, waking up at all hours of the night to vivid nightmares in which guns were often going off. Multiple members of the Rust crew, as well as Hutchins’s family, filed lawsuits against Baldwin and the film’s other producers. Donald Trump Jr. started selling T-shirts: GUNS DON’T KILL PEOPLE. ALEC BALDWIN KILLS PEOPLE.
Many accidental killers choose to retreat from public view, including Michael Massee, the only other person to accidentally kill someone with a gun on a contemporary movie set. In 1993, Massee shot and killed Brandon Lee, Bruce Lee’s son, while making The Crow; a projectile was unknowingly lodged in the barrel of his gun. Afterward, Massee took a year off from acting and didn’t talk publicly about the shooting for more than a decade. “I don’t think you ever get over something like that,” he said in 2005. “It took me the time it took to be able to — not so much put it in perspective but to be able to move on.”
Sitting in silence isn’t the Baldwins’ preferred mode. In the weeks after the shooting, Alec was back online, posting screenshots of a Rust crew member insisting the set had been safe and tweeting that productions hire a police officer to handle guns on set. (“Dumb,” David Simon, who created The Wire, replied.) Hilaria resumed posting too. The Baldwins were still in Vermont on Halloween, ten days after the shooting, when she shared a photo of the Baldwinitos in costume with Alec as one of Maurice Sendak’s Wild Things. “Parenting through this has been an intense experience, to say the least,” she wrote.
In his 2017 memoir, Nevertheless, Baldwin cites his “tendency to want to fix everything, and my belief that I can,” as a quality that has sometimes gotten him into trouble. He called and texted constantly with detectives in Santa Fe, sometimes while one or more of his kids were screaming in the background, to relay his theories about the case or complain about the vitriol being tossed his way. He hired private investigators to look into what happened, including the possibility that it was all a setup — that someone had planted bullets on set hoping to disrupt the production, perhaps as political retribution for Baldwin’s Trump impersonation or as a tragically misguided attempt to highlight safety issues on the low-budget set. Baldwin knew it wasn’t likely, but he had always been attracted to conspiracy theories. (He admits to a “lifelong obsession” with John F. Kennedy’s assassination.) A few weeks after the shooting, he went so far as to text Hutchins’s widower, Matthew, to alert him to the prospect. “Important for you to keep in mind: The Santa Fe Sheriff’s office may lack both the skill and the will to properly investigate the sabotage angle,” Baldwin wrote. “The more information that is presented to me about certain anomalies on that day, the more open-minded I become.” (Baldwin has since said he believes it was an accident, and the prosecutor’s office has said it found no evidence of sabotage.)
Six weeks after the shooting, Baldwin decided to sit down for a prime-time interview on ABC. Many people around him, including Hilaria, weren’t sure that this was a good idea — that there was no way he could defend himself without coming across as defensive. In the interview, Baldwin told George Stephanopoulos that he didn’t want to “sound like I’m the victim” and made sure to emphasize the central tragedy of Hutchins’s death. But he also seemed to see the incident as something that had happened to him. He said he and Hutchins shared “something profound in common” in that they both believed the gun wasn’t loaded. Baldwin highlighted the fact that he pointed the gun at her only because they were lining up a shot and she was telling him to do so. He claimed he didn’t even pull the trigger. Toward the end of the interview, Stephanopoulos said that while it was clear Baldwin was sad and angry, he wondered whether he felt any guilt. Baldwin said he did not. “I feel that someone is responsible for what happened, and I can’t say who that is,” Baldwin said. “But I know it’s not me.”
Warren Beatty once told Baldwin that the source of many of Baldwin’s problems was a common one among actors: When they step in front of a camera, they feel the need to make it into a moment. There was no question that his tears were genuine. But the very fact that he was appearing on television, where he had performed so many times, seemed in conflict with the somber reflection, not to mention the sound legal advice, the situation called for. Hilaria defended her husband on Instagram — “We are messy, unfiltered, and wear our hearts, naked, on our sleeves” — but the public sympathy for Baldwin seemed to shift following the interview. After Matthew Hutchins had filed a lawsuit against Baldwin and the film’s other producers, he went on the Today show to express how hurtful the interview had been. “Watching him, I just felt so angry,” Hutchins said. “The idea that the person holding the gun, causing it to discharge, is not responsible is absurd to me. Hearing him blame Halyna in the interview, and shift responsibility to others, and seeing him cry about it — I just feel like, Are we really supposed to feel bad about you, Mr. Baldwin?”
A few days after the ABC interview, the Baldwins were walking along East 70th Street in Manhattan when they were spotted by Jon Levine, a reporter from the New York Post. Levine started filming as the Baldwins approached a townhouse owned by Alec’s friend Woody Allen. “Mr. Baldwin, who’s here?” Levine asked. Alec turned from Allen’s door and charged toward Levine. In a previous era, the umbrella in Alec’s hand might have ended up lodged in Levine’s gut. This time, Hilaria was there to grip him by the lapels and turn him back toward the door while telling Levine to buzz off. Hilaria posted her own video of the encounter on Instagram. “Speaking out may spark more backlash, but I don’t want to live in fear,” she wrote. “My husband has PTSD, has had for a long time, now, worse than ever. Some take advantage by poking at him, trying to rile him up, messing with his mental health. It works sometimes. I try to ward it off.”
For decades, Alec maintained a pugnacious relationship with the press, but photographers who have followed him for years noticed a shift after Rust. “He was just more ground down — less of the fight in him, less of the piss and vinegar,” said David McGlynn, a freelance photographer for the Post. Now, it was Hilaria who was getting in their faces and running interference for her husband. “It’s almost like she’s taking care of him,” McGlynn said. The Baldwins’ Instagram feeds became a steady stream of mutual support: Alec insisting that nothing mattered to him besides his family, Hilaria insisting she would be there for him no matter what. “You ask me from time to time, in your darkest, saddest moments, if I were to know all of what we would go through, 11 years ago when we met, would I walk away?” Hilaria wrote in a birthday message to her husband last year. “I’d do it a million times, Alec.” When criminal charges were eventually filed against him, Hilaria walked into the pack of photographers outside their building, wearing pearl-encrusted slippers and a sweatshirt that read EMPATHY.
When Alec met Hilaria for the first time at a restaurant in Gramercy in 2011, he grabbed her by the hand and said, “I must know you.” Hilaria was the 27-year-old co-owner of a popular downtown yoga studio; Alec was 52 and unhappy. In 2007, he had left a voice-mail for his 11-year-old daughter, Ireland, in which he called her a “rude, thoughtless little pig.” The message leaked, and the ensuing avalanche of negative attention led him to consider suicide. The goodwill from his award-winning turn as Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock allowed him to rebuild his career, and his reputation, but on a personal level, he was lonely and lamenting a dream that seemed to be lost: a big Catholic family like the one he grew up in. (Alec is one of six kids.) Hilaria was confident and beautiful, with an alluring accent, and presented a chance to rectify that. Before they had even kissed, Alec asked if Hilaria was interested in having children — and soon. She was. They moved in together three months later. When they married, the following year, their wedding bands read SOMOS UN BUEN EQUIPO: “We’re a good team.”
Baldwin’s first marriage had dissolved in part because his then-wife, Kim Basinger, wanted a quieter, more secluded life. In a nutshell: Los Angeles, not New York. Baldwin has called Manhattan home for decades and has always tried to slalom between the rarefied world of celebrity and the streets of the city he enjoys so much. There he was, grinding his own coffee beans from Zabar’s, or swinging by Occupy Wall Street, or getting in a fight over a parking spot. (The Post: “Livid! From New York! It’s Alec Brawldwin!”) He is the city’s most prolific host: of the radio broadcasts for the New York Philharmonic, where he is a regular; of a show on WNYC that is now a biweekly podcast; and of Saturday Night Live, which he has hosted 17 times, more than anyone else.
Hilaria had no qualms about living a public life with Alec — she took a job as a correspondent on Extra, where Alec’s friend was a producer, and put out her first yoga DVD with Alec making a cameo — even if she didn’t fully understand what came with that. In 2013, Alec took to Twitter to call a Daily Mail reporter a “toxic little queen” for inaccurately reporting that Hilaria had been tweeting during James Gandolfini’s funeral. (“That’s not true,” Alec replied. “But I’m gonna tweet at your funeral.”) Later that year, when a member of the paparazzi aggressively tried to get photos of the couple bringing home their first child, Alec was accused of yelling a gay slur at the photographer. Hilaria was annoyed by his many dustups with the press and tried to make peace. She went to the headquarters of the Post and posed for a photograph, doing an upward-facing dog on the reception desk. “I just think New Yorkers work too hard and the New York Post needs more namaste,” she said.
Hilaria brought the same relentless positivity to motherhood. “As soon as she came out,” Hilaria told Elle, after their first daughter’s birth in 2013, “I turned to Alec and said, ‘I want another baby.’” Their second arrived in 2015, followed by a third in 2016, a fourth in 2018, and a fifth in September 2020, at which point Hilaria told People, “It very much feels like we’re done.” They weren’t. In a time-warping twist, the Baldwins announced the birth of another child just six months later. “Shut the fuck up and mind your own business,” Alec wrote on Instagram in response to a commenter asking for an explanation. (The Baldwins later acknowledged that they had used a surrogate.) As their family grew, so did Hilaria’s following on Instagram, where she had deals to promote skin products, American Girl dolls, and sulfate-free detergent. She was no longer teaching yoga regularly, instead posting prenatal workout routines from her Hamptons bathroom. Alec still did press to promote his movies or his turn hosting a reboot of The Match Game, but more of his magazine covers were devoted to the Baldwins as a unit. He seemed thrilled to finally have the large family he’d always wanted, even if it could all be a bit overwhelming. In the fall of 2020, during an appearance on Ellen, he was asked to look at a series of baby photos and identify which of the kids were his. He missed three out of four.
At the end of that year, the Baldwins transformed from a public curiosity into a COVID-era punch line. “You have to admire Hilaria Baldwin’s commitment to her decade long grift where she impersonated a Spanish person,” an anonymous Twitter user wrote just before Christmas. Hilaria had been featured in Hola! USA magazine, and the Baldwinitos were all given Spanish names: Carmen, Rafael, Leonardo, Romeo, Eduardo. But while Hilaria’s agency, CAA, had listed her birthplace as Mallorca and Alec once told David Letterman, “My wife is from Spain,” Hilaria had in fact been born and raised in Boston as Hillary Thomas. The scandal generated a conversation about cultural appropriation, but mostly it was catnip for bored people stuck at home during that first pandemic winter, delighted by the chance to dissect videos of Hilaria’s adopted Spanish accent. In a widely circulated clip from a cooking segment on the Today show, she looked over at a skinny piece of green produce and asked, “How do you say in English … cucumber?”
The affair earned Hilaria her own Post cover — “It’s All Bull” next to a Photoshopped picture of her as a matador — and derailed her growing career as a wellness and parenting influencer. Her podcast, co-hosted with Dr. Oz’s daughter Daphne, stopped releasing new episodes. An obsessive Reddit community devoted exclusively to Hilaria, and by extension to Alec, was tracking all of their posts and spinning out conspiracy theories: Was the yoga body a result of other surrogates?
In response, the Baldwins were defiant. (The newest Baldwinitos also have Spanish names, including the youngest, Ilaria, who is named after her mother.) While Hilaria admitted, “Yes, I am a white girl,” she said that her family had visited Spain regularly when she was a child and that this was an important part of her identity. “Who is to say what you’re allowed to absorb and not absorb growing up?” she told the New York Times. Alec delivered one of his lengthy Instagram monologues in which he didn’t directly challenge the facts, which were beside the point. The Baldwins were squarely in each other’s corners. “When you love somebody,” Alec said, “you want to defend them.”
I am, as I often am, miserable,” Alec told his Instagram followers from a lounge at Kennedy airport a few months after the Rust shooting. He was waiting to board a flight to Heathrow and apologized for his puffy eyes; he was still sleeping poorly. On top of everything else that was going wrong, he continued to find himself embroiled in the types of controversies he always seemed to attract — the kind where you almost had to admire his chutzpah. He had settled a legal dispute over the parking-spot fight only to wind up on the wrong end of a defamation suit brought by a woman Baldwin had called an “insurrectionist” on Instagram after learning she had gone to the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Now he was stuck at his least-favorite place (the airport) preparing to do his least-favorite thing (traveling alone) because he had to get to London for, as he put it, “a little job” — his first since Rust.
The job in question was a movie called 97 Minutes, an even lower-budget thriller than Rust about a hijacked airliner. Baldwin was playing the director of the National Security Agency, tasked with bringing the plane down safely. The film’s driving creative force was Pavan Grover, who spends his days working as a spinal surgeon in Houston and moonlights as a screenwriter. (Grover intended to film the in-flight scenes on the airplane from Lost, which he had purchased at an auction.) Movies like Rust and 97 Minutes were a step down for Baldwin, but they were also his new reality. “I used to make movies for 40 days, 50 days — no effects, just me and Meryl Streep talking to each other,” Baldwin said on a phone call with a Santa Fe County detective. The Rust filming was supposed to be just 21 days long.
Baldwin has always had a tortured relationship to his career. Despite turns as an action star, an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in The Cooler, and more SAG Awards — for 30 Rock — than any other male actor, he has long lamented the fact that he hasn’t had the chance to play a leading role in a truly great movie, one directed by a Scorsese or a Spielberg. (“To be Leo!” he once told The New Yorker, meaning DiCaprio.) By the time he started making Rust in 2021, his only theatrical release that year was a sequel to The Boss Baby, in which he played the titular infant. (Hilaria and the Baldwinitos all showed up at the premiere wearing suits and ties.) When the Rust marketing team designed a poster for Cannes, one person expressed concern that international buyers “won’t really recognize Alec enough.”
The shooting had made things even more difficult. While Baldwin was saying in public that he no longer cared about acting — “Honest to God, I couldn’t give a shit about my career anymore,” he told Stephanopoulos — he was also complaining to the police that the ongoing investigation was hampering his ability to work. “If your name becomes associated with something, nobody wants to work with you anymore — nobody,” Baldwin told detectives. He has told others that he has been dropped by seven different movies since the shooting.
Grover told me he had received pressure from the film’s backers to drop Baldwin from 97 Minutes, especially after his defensive appearance on ABC. “It did become a little more difficult after the Stephanopoulos interview,” he said. But they persevered, and Baldwin arrived ready to work. He didn’t even complain when the set lost power and he had to warm himself by a fire. (Grover, the resident doctor, took Baldwin’s temperature to “make sure he didn’t go hypothermic.”) Alec didn’t like being away from his family, but he told Grover that returning to set had served as a balm during difficult periods. “He got a lot of criticism for getting back to work,” Grover said. “From a medical point of view, whenever you’re faced with trauma, the most important thing is to get back into some sort of routine.”
Baldwin knew 97 Minutes wasn’t going to be his DiCaprio turn, but movie-making for him had always possessed a mixture of artistic and practical motivations. He grew up working-class on Long Island and wrote in his memoir that he had long been “enslaved by the belief that there were few problems that could not be solved by applying money or even more money.” While Baldwin used to command seven figures for a movie, he was being paid $150,000 for Rust with an additional $100,000 fee he had invested back into the production. “In the last several years, especially the last five years, I work minimally — and that’s been a problem,” he said while waiting for his flight to Heathrow. “I probably need to work some more, regardless of where that leads me.”
The Baldwins are financially stable by any reasonable standard, but they aspire to a certain kind of New York lifestyle that is complicated, as one person who has known the Baldwins for years put it, by the fact that they have “a lot of overhead.” In the past year and a half, the Baldwins have sold a house upstate for $530,000, listed their Hamptons home for more than $20 million, and bought a farmhouse in Vermont for $1.7 million. There’s the cost of nannies, and the family spends roughly $160,000 a year to send their four eldest children to a private school that offers Spanish immersion, and three more kids are headed for enrollment in the years ahead. Putting all seven Baldwinitos through NYU, Alec and Hilaria’s shared alma mater, would cost more than $2 million. In 2019, Alec went on a hike in L.A. as part of a YouTube series hosted by the comedian Kevin Nealon, who asked Baldwin what he wanted more of. “Money,” Baldwin replied. “So I could leave it to my wife when I’m dead, ’cause I’m not gonna be around much longer.”
“How much money do you need to have in the bank to feel comfortable if you couldn’t work again?” Nealon asked. “Two million? Five million? Ten million?”
“I don’t know,” Baldwin said. “You wanna have a million in a trust fund for each kid for school and beyond. And then you want to leave your wife a minimum of $30 million clean cash. Minimum. Probably more.” Baldwin said that after he died and Hilaria was with her new boyfriend, “All I want is her to burst out sobbing in bed once every six months: ‘He left me $40 million in cash!’”
One of the lessons from Gregory’s New Yorker article about accidental killings, which Baldwin’s attorneys cited in a legal filing, is the perniciousness of chance — how humans rarely give enough weight to the reality that terrible things are usually beyond our control. An awful series of events had to take place for Baldwin to be in a position to aim a loaded gun at someone on a movie set. As he told anyone who would listen, Hollywood productions had fired perhaps billions of fake rounds over the decades — including at him. In their legal filing, Baldwin’s attorneys shared an image from the Rust filming in which actor Travis Fimmel presses a cocked revolver to the back of the head of the 15-year-old playing Baldwin’s grandson. The point was that it could have been anyone. “That gun was about to be pointed at me in a scene,” Jensen Ackles, who plays a U.S. Marshal tracking Baldwin’s character, told the police. Next on the Rust filming schedule was an actual shoot-out. “Was I about to get in a firefight with Alec Baldwin and we were shooting live rounds?” Ackles said. “Were we about to Swiss cheese each other?”
The criminal case against Baldwin was always an uphill battle — Massee, the shooter from The Crow, was never charged with a crime — and it hinged on two facts. First, Baldwin was the one holding the gun. But while some actors told the prosecutor’s office that they perform their own extra safety checks on set, this wasn’t universal, and like every production, Rust had an armorer who was responsible for ensuring that weapons were safe before actors used them. The second half of the case rested on Baldwin’s role as a producer on the film and the suggestion that this came with a broader responsibility for safety issues. The armorer was stretched thin, having been asked to work multiple jobs, and the pace of production was hectic. But Baldwin’s work as a producer was limited to creative matters, not budgets and safety. He co-wrote the script and helped with casting, leaning on Kevin Bacon and Eric Bana, unsuccessfully, to join the film.
The prosecutor’s office was unable to answer the biggest question in the case: How did an actual bullet get into Baldwin’s gun? The pistol was meant to be loaded with dummies, which look like bullets but have no gunpowder and can’t be fired. Dummies are often loaded with a tiny BB that allows someone to shake the round and hear it rattle. They’re typically used in close-up shots; in the fatal scene, Baldwin was meant to whip the gun out of his armpit holster and point it at the camera. But when doctors extracted the object that ripped through Hutchins and ended up lodged in Souza’s shoulder, they discovered a bullet.
Where did it come from? According to Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the Rust armorer, the fatal bullet came from a box of ammo labeled DUMMY ROUNDS that appeared on set that day. The production regularly restocked dummy and blank ammunition from a local supplier, and Gutierrez-Reed says she didn’t think much of it. She says she grabbed one of the rounds from the box and shook it while walking toward the set, listening for the rattling BB that would confirm it was inert. She says she thought she heard it but later told police that the assistant director, David Halls, had been talking in her earpiece, asking her to get the gun to set quickly. (Halls, who handed the gun to Baldwin, pleaded guilty to negligent use of a deadly weapon and was sentenced to six months of probation.) Somehow, it seems, a real bullet was placed in a box labeled DUMMY ROUNDS. Investigators found five other live rounds scattered around the set, including one slotted into the gun belt Baldwin had been wearing, but have not determined how they got there.
The prosecutor’s office also walked itself into a number of unforced errors nudged along by Baldwin’s legal team. The actor was initially charged with a firearm enhancement that boosted the possible prison sentence from 18 months to five years, but that law was created in 2022 — after the Rust shooting took place. The district attorney also appointed a special prosecutor, Andrea Reeb, who was running as a Republican for a seat in the New Mexico House of Representatives. After she won, Baldwin’s attorneys argued that this violated the state constitution and that Reeb had political incentives to prosecute the man who made fun of Donald Trump on television. Reeb, the Times later reported, emailed the DA during the election, urging the DA to announce her involvement “as it might help in my campaign lol.” She eventually resigned from the case, and after Baldwin’s attorneys introduced potentially exculpatory evidence last month — they alleged his gun had been altered in a way that made it malfunction — the prosecutor’s office dropped the charges, noting that it intended to investigate further and that charges could be filed again. (Gutierrez-Reed, who has pleaded not guilty, still faces a charge of involuntary manslaughter.) After the news broke, Hilaria was photographed by the paparazzi assembled outside the Baldwins’ apartment building, wearing sweatpants that read OH, HAPPY DAYS.
Most legal experts and outside observers have long seen the case as best suited for civil, rather than criminal, court. Over the past 18 months, Baldwin and the film’s other producers have faced a swirl of lawsuits from Hutchins’s widower, her family, and half a dozen members of the Rust crew. Baldwin has objected to some of the lawsuits on principle, pointing out that one of the litigants told him in the immediate aftermath that he wasn’t to blame.
But he also recognized that something should be done for Hutchins’s family, and Baldwin says he took the early lead in trying to reach a financial agreement with her husband and son. The Rust producers, including Baldwin, were largely protected by the formation of an LLC that had only one thing of value: the movie. While the prospect of finishing Rust could feel unseemly, doing this is a Hollywood tradition. In 1984, Jon-Erik Hexum was filming an episode of a TV show called Cover Up when he held a handgun to his head and pulled the trigger. A blank round was in the chamber. The force of the explosion was enough to push a quarter-size piece of his skull into his brain. The episode aired two weeks after his death, and the writers simply wrote his character out of the rest of the show. In 1994, The Crow was released with Brandon Lee’s face digitally superimposed on his stunt double’s body. The movie got three sequels.
On Instagram, Alec loves to post eulogies to people he admires: Anne Heche, Colin Powell (“Should have been the first Black president”), James Caan, Bob Dole. In March, he posted one for the actor Robert Blake. In 2001, Blake’s wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, was shot in the head while sitting in Blake’s car outside a restaurant. He was tried for murder but ultimately acquitted. He never acted again. “I realize that many people have had harsh feelings toward him,” Baldwin wrote. “Today, I want to remember him as the incredibly gifted actor he was.”
With the worst moment of his life receding into his past, Baldwin is figuring out how to ensure that accidentally killing a woman isn’t in the lede of his obituary, as it was for The Crow’s Massee. The immediate concern is finishing Rust, which he hopes to do this month. Baldwin has regrown the beard and put on a new set of western clothes — the originals are still in evidence — to make a movie that is now being filmed in front of a pack of paparazzi snapping shots of Baldwin getting dragged up to a gallows for an onscreen hanging. Then there will be the long wait for the film’s release, which will resurface painful memories and bring a fresh round of scrutiny. Baldwin is also working with a documentary crew led by director Rory Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy’s daughter, a member of another big Catholic family intimately familiar with tragedy and turmoil and that Baldwin has always admired.
Baldwin has said over the past year that he doesn’t care about anything beyond his family. Alec and Hilaria tried hosting a podcast together after Hilaria’s accent scandal, but the show, What’s One More?, stopped publishing new episodes after the Rust shooting. Last year, Hilaria tried again with Witches Anonymous, which Alec promoted on Instagram — “From one I admire deeply and whose sage advice has kept me alive” — but that show ended after just ten episodes. Since Rust, Hilaria has returned to posting as she had before — doing a headstand at eight-months pregnant—while waging a campaign to break down the many divisions she sees in our society. “The vaxers and anti-v, the dems and repubs, the Sox and the Yankees … the celebs and paps,” she wrote in a post about a member of the paparazzi she had befriended. “We just have to put away our prejudices.” For her 39th birthday, earlier this year, Alec posted a series of videos with a request: “Follow my wife on Instagram, please?” She was just shy of a million followers, and as a gift, he wanted to help her get over the top.
Going forward, there is always the possibility that Spielberg will call or that Lorne Michaels will have Baldwin back for an 18th go-round on SNL, but there are only so many choice roles available to him anymore. His family has become his work, and much of his career in prestige movies has recently turned toward cameos — in A Star Is Born, as the host of Lady Gaga’s appearance on SNL, and in Tár, interviewing the film’s main character for his podcast — all of which suggests the next phase of Baldwin’s life may largely involve simply playing himself. “I had a great retirement plan,” he said last year when he appeared on a podcast hosted by his friend Chris Cuomo, who lost his job at CNN a few weeks after the Rust shooting. “I thought I could slow down and do a little Off Broadway theater here and there, do a little part in a film — see the world! Even now, I turn to my wife and I’ll whisper to her, ‘You realize where I’m supposed to be right now, don’t you?’ And by that, I mean, like, David Geffen’s yacht in Nice.” Instead, he was managing school drop-offs and had recently gone to Italy, not for vacation but to film a pair of family Christmas comedies with his brother Billy. “Why do I put my head down and keep going?” Baldwin said. “What choice do I have?”
“Sleep in separate rooms!” Cuomo said. “That’s a choice.”
It took Baldwin a moment to get the joke. “Oh, you mean that — oh God, oh God,” Baldwin replied.
“You’re certainly securing a legacy,” Cuomo said. “But you better keep working.”
“I told people I’m going to be a greeter in Vegas … ‘Remember me? I was in Beetlejuice! How are you, everybody? Please, table No. 9, Frank,’” Baldwin said. “I’m gonna be a greeter in Vegas any day now.”