Expected in court on Thursday, February 1 for a preliminary hearing, Alec Baldwin will not appear. Prosecuted for manslaughter, the 65-year-old actor waived his right to appear and his defense sent a document on Wednesday indicating that he pleads not guilty in the case of the fatal shooting which cost the life of the director photography during the filming of the film Rust.

The case dates back to October 2021. The filming of the western turned into a drama on a ranch in New Mexico (southwest of the United States), when Alec Baldwin pointed a weapon supposed to contain only blank bullets, but a very real projectile killed Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza. The actor, who faces up to eighteen months in prison, denies having pulled the trigger and has always maintained that he was assured that his weapon was harmless.

This rare news item shocked Hollywood and provoked calls to ban firearms on sets. But it also provoked suspicions of amateurism around this low-budget production: certain Hollywood actors recalled that the management of firearms on a film set was already subject to strict rules.

Actors union slams Alec Baldwin lawsuit

Rust star Alec Baldwin also served as a producer on the film. But he is only being prosecuted as an actor. His defense is calling for a speedy trial to “minimize the risks of suspicion and slander” against him, in this case marked by multiple twists and turns and weaknesses on the side of the prosecution.

The prosecution dropped the charges against the actor in April 2023, citing “new elements” of the investigation. The Los Angeles Times explained this change of heart by revealing that the gun would have been modified before its delivery to the film crew, thus increasing the chances of an accidental shooting occurring.

But prosecutors warned that the investigation was continuing and that the actor was not exonerated. He was charged again in mid-January after a new twist. According to Variety magazine, a new assessment of the weapon in question, carried out this summer, concluded that it could only have been triggered by pressing the trigger. Broken during tests carried out by the FBI during the initial investigation, this replica of a vintage pistol is at the center of all questions: the whole question is whether it could have triggered itself.

The actors’ union SAG-AFTRA recently criticized the charges against Mr. Baldwin, which it said were based on “an incorrect assessment of an actor’s actual duties.” is not to be an expert in weapons or firearms,” the organization recalled in a statement. “Firearms are provided for use on set under the direction of several expert professionals directly responsible for the safe and accurate use of that firearm. »

Filming has resumed

The film’s gunsmith, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, is also charged with manslaughter in the case and her trial is scheduled to begin February 21. During the initial investigation, the police concluded that it was she who had put the ammunition in the weapon used by Alec Baldwin, instead of a dummy bullet. The investigation never determined how live ammunition could have ended up on set, where only blank bullets are authorized.

Last March, the film’s first assistant director, Dave Halls, received a six-month suspended prison sentence, after agreeing to plead guilty. He had handed the gun at the heart of the drama to Mr. Balwin, assuring him that it was not dangerous.

Filming on Rust has since resumed and been completed in Montana, with Halyna Hutchins’ widower Matthew serving as executive producer. At the end of 2022, he abandoned the civil proceedings he had initiated against Alec Baldwin following an agreement the amount of which was not disclosed. At the time, he attributed his wife’s death to “a terrible accident.”