Alec Baldwin shot and killed a cinematographer while filming in New Mexico. The actor had been given a safe gun by a crew member. This tragic error occurred hours after other workers protested safety issues.
According to court records, Dave Halls, an assistant director, took a prop gun from a cart at a desert ranch and gave it to Baldwin during Thursday’s rehearsal for “Rust,” a Western movie.
Halls shouted “Cold gun!” declaring that the weapon didn’t have live ammunition and was ready for fire.
It wasn’t. Baldwin accidentally killed Halyna Hutchins, 42-year old cinematographer, and injured Joel Souza who was standing behind her in a chapel-like wooden building.
Santa Fe County Regional Emergency Communications Center released a recording of a 911 call that alerted authorities about the shooting at Bonanza Creek Ranch, Santa Fe. It hints at panic on the set.
Mamie Mitchell, script supervisor, told an emergency dispatcher that two people were accidentally shot by a prop gun. “We were practicing and the prop gun went off. I ran to get help, so we all ran.”
The dispatcher wanted to know if the gun was loaded using a real bullet.
“I can’t tell you. Mitchell responded, “We have two injuries.” Mitchell replied, “And this (expletive AD) (assistant director), that yelled at my lunch, asking about revisions He’s supposed check the guns. He is responsible for everything that happens on the set.
Halls did not respond to email and phone messages that sought comment immediately. Hannah Gutierrez, film’s armorer, was not available to the Associated Press. Several messages were sent to “Rust” production companies but did not receive any responses on Friday.
According to court records, the gun Baldwin used was one among three Gutierrez’s guns that he had placed on a cart outside the building in which a scene was being rehearsed. Halls took the gun from the cart and brought the gun inside to Baldwin. He was not aware that the firearm contained live rounds. This detective filed a search warrant application.
It is not known how many rounds were fired. Gutierrez took out a shell casing and turned it over to police upon arrival, according to court records.
Sometimes, guns used to make movies can be real weapons. They can fire bullets or blanks. These are gunpowder charges which produce a flash and bang but no deadly projectile.
Mitchell, the script supervisor, said to The Associated Press that she was right next to Hutchins at the time the cinematographer hit.
Mitchell replied, “I ran to 911 and said, ‘Bring everyone, send everybody’.” “This woman has died at the start of her career.” She was an exceptional, rare, and very rare woman.”
In a statement to NBC News, Souza, a filmmaker, stated that he was thankful for the support he received and devastated by the loss Hutchins. He said, “She was kind and vibrant, incredibly gifted, and fought for every inch. She always pushed me to do better.”
Mary Carmack-Altwies, Santa Fe’s District Attorney, said that prosecutors are still reviewing evidence from the shooting and don’t know if they will file charges.
Baldwin, 63, is best known for his roles on “30 Rock” (The Hunt for Red October) and his portrayal of former President Donald Trump (“Saturday Night Live”), and has described the death as a “tragic incident.”
“There are no words that can express my sadness and shock at the tragic accident that claimed the life of Halyna Houtchins, a wife and mother, and a colleague who we deeply admire,” Baldwin wrote on Twitter. Baldwin posted on Twitter that she was fully cooperating in the police investigation. “My heart breaks for her husband and their son and all those who loved Halyna.”
After the shooting, production on “Rust,” was stopped. According to the Internet Movie Database website, the movie centers on a 13-year old boy who must care for his younger brother and himself after the deaths of their parents in Kansas in 1880s Kansas.
There were already signs of trouble on the set before the tragic rehearsal. According to one crew member who left, seven crew members took to the streets several hours before Hutchins was shot to vent their frustrations over issues ranging from safety to accommodations.
According to one crew member, the disputes started soon after filming had begun in October. He requested anonymity as he was afraid that speaking out would affect his future prospects for employment.
According to a crew member, the crew initially lived at Santa Fe’s Courtyard Marriot. They were informed four days later that they would be staying at the Coyote South budget hotel. Some crew members refused to stay there.
The walkout was also covered by Variety and the Los Angeles Times. Rust Movie Productions didn’t respond to emails Saturday and Friday requesting comment.
Other concerns were raised.
According to a crew member, COVID-19 precautions were not taken despite cast and crew members working in tight spaces on the ranch. He claimed that he had never seen any formal training about weapons on set. This would normally take place prior to filming starts.
These concerns combined led to the seven men deciding to quit the job.
Crew member: “We packed our stuff and left that morning.” This was the Thursday walkout.
New Mexico workplace safety investigators are investigating whether film industry standards for gun safety were observed during “Rust.” The Los Angeles Times reported on Baldwin’s stunt double firing two live rounds five days prior to the shooting after being told that the gun didn’t have ammunition.
Crew member, who was concerned by the misfires, texted a unit production manager saying that “We’ve now experienced 3 accidental discharges.” According to the newspaper, this is extremely dangerous.
Gutierrez is the film’s armourer and the daughter of a Hollywood firearms expert. In September, she spoke to Voices of the West about how she learned to use guns from her father as a teenager.
The podcast interview was conducted by Gutierrez. Gutierrez revealed that she had just completed her first movie as head armorer. It was a Montana project starring Nicholas Cage, called “The Old Way”.
She said, “I was nervous at first, and almost turned down the job because it was too risky, but it was actually really easy.”
Another on-set gun shooting resulted in the death of Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, martial arts legend. The bullet was left in a prop pistol after a previous scene. Similar shootings occurred with stage weapons loaded with live ammunition during historical reenactments.
Steven Hall, a British veteran director of photography, stated that gun-safety protocols on American sets have improved in recent years. He said that the most dangerous position to be in was behind the camera, as this person is often in the line-of-fire in scenes in which an actor seems to point a gun at the audience.