The New Mexico set of the indie Western Rust, where cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was shot and killed Thursday by a prop gun “discharged” by star Alec Baldwin, had been having a myriad of issues, including problems related to safety, before the accident, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the situation. That included at least one previous incident involving a misfiring of a weapon that was used days before in a scene.
“A gun had two misfires in a closed cabin,” a source told Deadline. “They just fired loud pops – a person was just holding it in their hands and it went off.”
Just hours before the fatal Thursday accident, in which Hutchins and director Joel Souza were shot, seven of the film’s camera crew packed up their personal gear and walked off the job, citing a wide range of complaints. Several of those who quit wrote letters of resignation.
“We cited everything from lack of payment for three weeks, taking our hotels away despite asking for them in our deals, lack of Covid safety, and on top of that, poor gun safety! Poor on-set safety period!” a member of the camera crew wrote on a private Facebook page. After the walkout, “They brought in four non-union guys to replace us and tried calling the cops on us.”
When reached for comment, Rust Movie Productions, LLC issued the following statement to Deadline:
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.
As for the police investigation, both Baldwin and the film’s armorer, who handled all prop guns, were interviewed and subsequently released Thursday following the incident, the authorities confirmed to Deadline. “No one has been held and there have been no arrests,” Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Juan Rios said on Friday. “Our investigation continues.”
Even before Rust went into production, a number of armorers turned down the gig citing concerns about the budget of the film and the sheer amount of firearms to be utilized, we hear.
The cinematographers guild Thursday night confirmed the identity of Hutchins, 42, who was struck when a prop gun misfired. She died from her injuries after being airlifted to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque. Souza was also transported to a nearby Santa Fe hospital with injuries. He was later released after treatment. Production has been shut down indefinitely.
Late Thursday night, Los Angeles-based IATSE Local 44 sent an email to members saying “a live single round was accidentally fired” from the prop gun, striking Hutchins and Souza. Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Juan Rios told Deadline that they “haven’t even begun the forensics on that issue.” Baldwin was questioned and released and the investigation is ongoing.
Rust was first announced in May 2020 when Baldwin signed on to produce and star in the indie action/Western feature. The pic is based on a story by Baldwin and Crown Vic helmer Souza, who wrote the script and is the director. Frances Fisher, Jensen Ackles, Travis Fimmel and Brady Noon lead the cast.
Dominic Patten contributed to this report
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