SANTA FE, N.M. — Hours before actor Alec Baldwin fired a fatal gunshot from a prop gun that he had been told was safe, a camera crew for the movie he was filming walked off the job to protest conditions and production issues that included safety concerns.
Disputes in the production of the Western film “Rust” began almost from the start in early October and culminated with seven crew members walking off several hours before 42-year-old cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed.
One of the people who left said that crew members expressed discontent over matters ranging from safety procedures to housing accommodations. Because he was afraid of losing his future job prospects, he requested anonymity. Rust movie productions didn’t respond to emails Saturday and Friday requesting comment.
At a rehearsal on the film set Thursday at Bonanza Creek Ranch outside Santa Fe, the gun Baldwin used was one of three that a firearms specialist, or “armorer,” had set on a cart outside the building where a scene was being rehearsed, according to the court records.
Court records indicate that an assistant director, Dave Halls, grabbed a prop gun off a cart and handed it to Baldwin, indicating incorrectly that the weapon didn’t carry live rounds by yelling “cold gun.”
Baldwin was unwittingly able to pull the trigger and kill Hutchins. It also wounded Joel Souza, her director, as he stood behind Hutchins in a wooden chapel-like structure.
Baldwin, 63, who is known for his roles in “30 Rock” and “The Hunt for Red October” and his impression of former President Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live,” has described the killing as a “tragic accident.” He was a producer of “Rust.”
Halls didn’t immediately respond to email and phone messages requesting comment.
Santa Fe County Regional Emergency Communications Center has released recordings that reveal the panic in the scene after a 911 call alerted authorities about the shooting at Bonanza Creek Ranch.
“We had two people accidentally shot on a movie set by a prop gun, we need help immediately,” script supervisor Mamie Mitchell told an emergency dispatcher. “We were rehearsing and it went off, and I ran out, we all ran out.”
A dispatcher inquired if the gun had a bullet.
“I cannot tell you. We have two injuries,” Mitchell replied. “And this (expletive) AD (assistant director) that yelled at me at lunch, asking about revisions….He’s supposed to check the guns. He’s responsible for what happens on the set.”
The Associated Press was unable to contact Hannah Gutierrez, the film’s armorer, and several messages sent to production companies affiliated with “Rust” did not receive responses Friday.
Court records show that Halls pulled the pistol from the wagon and took it to the actor. The detective also wrote that Halls was unaware it had live rounds.
Unknown how many rounds were fired was not clear. Gutierrez took out a shell case from her gun and turned it over to police upon arrival, according to court records.
Sometimes, guns used to make movies can be real weapons. They have the ability to fire bullets or blanks. These are gunpowder charge intended for little more than flashing and banging.
New Mexico workplace safety investigators are examining if film industry standards for gun safety were followed during production of “Rust.” The Los Angeles Times, citing two crew members it did not name, reported that five days before the shooting, Baldwin’s stunt double accidentally fired two live rounds after being told the gun didn’t have any ammunition.
A crew member who was alarmed by the misfires told a unit production manager in a text message, “We’ve now had 3 accidental discharges. This is super unsafe,” according to a copy of the message reviewed by the newspaper. The New York Times reported also that at least two other accidental gun discharges had occurred; three crew members were cited.
Mitchell, who was the script supervisor, said to The Associated Press that she stood next to Hutchins during the hit.
“I ran out and called 911 and said ‘Bring everybody, send everybody,’” Mitchell said. “This woman is gone at the beginning of her career. She was an extraordinary, rare, very rare woman.”
In a statement, Souza, a filmmaker, stated that he had been shot in the shoulder and was thankful for all the help he received. He also expressed his sadness at the passing of Hutchins. “She was kind, vibrant, incredibly talented, fought for every inch and always pushed me to be better,” he said.
Mary Carmack-Altwies, Santa Fe’s District Attorney said that prosecutors are reviewing the evidence and will decide if they will file charges.
Hutchins’ husband Matthew Hutchins posted on social media to mourn his wife’s loss, ask for privacy for his family, and thank her friends and mentors at the American Film Institute, who he said “nurtured the success we had only just begun to see flourish.”
The institute’s conservatory canceled cinematography classes Friday in response to Hutchins’ death.
Around 200 crew members gathered Saturday night for a candlelight Vigil. The crew members shared their grief over the death of one another and their fear for accidents on their sets.
A number of people in attendance lit candles, observed a momentary silence, and read poetry. One testimonial was made to the artist’s generosity.
“Her death shouldn’t have happened, Union sets should be safe sets,” said Liz Pecos, president of IATSE Local 480.
Production on “Rust” was halted after the shooting. According to the Internet Movie Database, the movie centers on a thirteen-year-old boy left alone to care for his brother and himself after the deaths of their parents.
A crew member who spoke with the AP stated that he had never seen any form of orientation regarding weapons on set. This would normally take place prior to filming starts.
He said that COVID-19 precautions had been taken, even though cast members and crew often worked in tight spaces at the ranch.
According to a crew member, the crew initially lived at Santa Fe’s Courtyard by Marriot. They were informed four days later that they would now be staying at the Coyote South budget hotel. Some crew members refused to leave the hotel.
“We packed our gear and left that morning,” the crew member said of the Thursday walkout.
The Los Angeles Times, Variety and Variety reported the event.
Gutierrez, the film’s armorer, is the daughter of a longtime Hollywood firearms expert. In September she gave an interview to Voices of the West. She said that she has learned gun handling from her father since she was young.
During the podcast interview, Gutierrez shared that she just finished her first movie in the role of head armorer, a project in Montana starring Nicolas Cage titled “The Old Way.”
“I was really nervous about it at first and I almost didn’t take the job because I wasn’t sure if I was ready but doing it, like, it went really smoothly,” she said.
Brandon Lee was the son of Bruce Lee and was also killed in an on-set shooting accident. The incident occurred after another scene. Similar shootings occurred with stage guns that had been loaded with live ammunition during historic reenactments.
Steven Hall is a British veteran photographer and director. He said that the most dangerous position to be in was behind the camera, as this person can get in the way of an actor pointing a gun at them.
New York: Price was reported. Reporting by Gene Johnson, Gene Johnson, Walter Berry and Jocelyn Noveck of the Associated Press in Seattle.