‘Rust’ update: Fatal on-set shooting continues to raise questions…

It appears that star Alec Baldwin was handling the firearm when it fired, killing the film's DOP and injuring the director...

UPDATE:  The situation and circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting on the set of western-thriller Rust seem to be getting more complex by the hour. It was revealed on Friday, the day after Alec Baldwin discharged a prop gun which subsequently killed the film’s DOP Halyna Hutchins and injured the director Joel Souza, that there had indeed been one live round in the gun (thus suggesting the casualties were hit by the same projectile). This would seem to suggest negligence from someone in the production though at this point it’s too early to tell where the specific blame would lie and the formal police and forensic investigation ahs only just begun.  The LA Times noted that in an affidavit issued by the filed by the Santa Fe County sheriff’s department to search the area, the first account of the event revealed that the film’s assistant director handed Baldwin the gun announcing it was a ‘cold gun‘, the term for a gun that contains no live rounds and is safe to have around other people. The gun had previously been set up on the tray by the movie’s weapons specialist.  New Mexico’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau, is also investigating the matter and may be in a position to impose  civil penalties regardless of whether the police press charges.

However it’s also been revealed that in the hours before the fatal shooting, seven of the film’s camera crew walked off the job, citing a raft of complaints, including late payments, no accommodation and lack of COVID protocols… but some of which were also concerns about firearm safety issues. Several sources have claimed that production executives then replaced the staff with nonunion workers.

Rust Movie Productions, LLC subsequently issued a statement that didn’t address those matters directly but noted: “…The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company. Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down. We will continue to cooperate with the Santa Fe authorities in their investigation and offer mental health services to the cast and crew during this tragic time.

Alec Baldwin, himself, issued a statement that read: “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,” he wrote. “I am 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.

With the possibility that images of the indoor-rehearsal event may have been captured, the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office has apparently issued a warrant for any film, digital recording, cameras and smart phones so they can be studied for more information.

Other repercussions of the event relate to many other productions checking their own safety protocols. ABC show The Rookie, which stars Nathan Fillion, issued a statement saying that they would be banning live rounds on their sets, using only ‘Air Soft’ weapons and that any muzzle-effects would be added later. This is becoming common practice in the industry with post-production techniques meaning it is relatively easy to make guns and their effects look entirely real after the initial sequence has been filmed. The American Film Institute has also announced that it is established a memorial scholarship for female cinematographers in memory of Halyna Hutchins, saying “We pledge to see that Halyna Hutchens will live on in the spirit of all who strive to see their dreams realized in stories well told.”


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News came earlier today that a crew-member on the upcoming western thriller Rust had been killed in a shooting incident on set and another seriously hurt. Though details are still coming in, the Sante Fe , New Mexico Police Department has now confirmed that it was star Alec Baldwin who discharged the prop weapon which killed the film’s Director of Photography Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza. Ms. Hutchins was initially flown by helicopter, to the University of New Mexico Hospital but she was pronounced dead by medical personnel. Reports also state that Mr. Souza was transported by ambulance to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center where he is currently undergoing treatment for his injuries. 

Specifics of why and how the (apparent) prop gun fired/went-off and the circumstances under which Baldwin handled the weapon are still being investigated with police speaking to witnesses and with no charges as yet filed.  Industry site Deadline reports that  ‘…a principal castmember cocked a gun, hitting a man, 42 and woman, 42, on set. The castmember we’re told was unaware about the type of ammunition in the gun‘. Production on Rust has been halted while the investigation continues.

All scenes involving firearms are considered highly dangerous on professionally-run sets and are usually the purview of a prop master and/or armorer to keep safe – with live ammunition rarely used for obvious reasons. Infamous examples of negligence and tragedy include the deaths of Brandon Lee on the set of The Crow and Jon-Erik Hexum on the tv series Cover-Up, each involving fire-arms.

Rust has been lensing at the Bonanza Creek Ranch – a location often used for westerns since the 1950s which now six sets at the site, including an entire town with 24 buildings – and tells the story of Harland Rust (Baldwin), an infamous Western outlaw who has had a bounty on his head.. When his estranged 13-year-old grandson Lucas (played by Brady Noon) is convicted of an accidental murder and sentenced to be hanged, Rust travels to Kansas to break him out of prison. Together, the two fugitives must outrun the legendary U.S. Marshal Wood Helm (Jensen Ackles) and bounty-hunter Fenton “Preacher” Lang (Travis Fimmel) who are hot on their tail.