How lack of safety on 'Rust' set killed Halyna Hutchins: ‘Corners were being cut’
Actor Alec Baldwin is currently in the spotlight after a tragic accident occurred on the sets of his new film 'Rust'. As we previously reported, Baldwin was holding the gun that fired projectiles at the director of photography Halyna Hutchins and writer-director Joel Souza. Hutchins was killed, while Souza was hospitalized as a result. Police are still investigating the incident, and it's unclear what exactly happened.
When news of the incident was made public, many on social media called for Baldwin to be arrested, but the reality is more complex than that. Experts have noted that the set armorer is responsible, not Baldwin for what occurred. The star was later snapped "in tears" by the media as he was being questioned by the police on set. Over the past 24 hours, since the incident occurred, we've slowly been getting more and more information about how this tragedy came to be.
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The latest indicates that it was certainly in the making because the production had "cut corners" when it came to safety on set. Reportedly, the lack of precautions led to protests on set and eventually, some of the crew were fired. But that's not all, it appears the production was plagued with safety issues from the start, so perhaps Hutchins death isn't just on the prop team but on the production as a whole.
Safety protocols 'not strictly followed'
The Los Angeles Times reported on October 22 that "Safety protocols standard in the industry, including gun inspections, were not strictly followed on the 'Rust' set,' according to sources. In fact, things were so bad, "one of the camera operators complained last weekend to a production manager about gun safety on the set." While the accident that killed Hutchins occurred on October 21, it appears the concerns go way back.
On October 16, Baldwin's stunt double reportedly fired two rounds by accident, after being told the gun he was handed was "cold" i.e. had no ammunition including blanks. "There should have been an investigation into what happened. There were no safety meetings. There was no assurance that it wouldn’t happen again. All they wanted to do was rush, rush, rush," a crew member said. One crew member texted, "We’ve now had 3 accidental discharges. This is super unsafe."
It's not just the prop master that's under the scanner, it's also the source of the gun. Tobey Bays, a prop and set artist told The Daily Beast, "a proper round would not work in any of those (prop) guns." In an email, IATSE Local 44 secretary-treasurer Anthony Pawluc described the incident as "an accidental weapons discharge" in which a "live single round was accidentally fired." If that's the case, then it appears the 'Rust' team didn't use a prop gun, but a real one. There are only two major armorers in Los Angeles, and neither of their guns works with proper rounds Bays said. "I don’t know where this gun could’ve come from if it came from a private owner and wasn’t fitted for entertainment weaponry?" he asked, adding, "That’s a possibility, but I have no clue."
Non-union crew members involved
To make matters worse, it is also being reported that trained professional crew members were booted from their jobs as a result of protests over safety. The New York Post reported that half a dozen camera crews briefly walked off the set on October 21, just before the shooting occurred. Despite a settlement being reached, they were swiftly replaced with non-union members, one of whom was also made the prop master. "Corners were being cut — and they brought in nonunion people so they could continue shooting," one crew member said. The replacement occurred six hours before the accidental discharge, sources say.
As a result of all these issues, things don't look good for 'Rust' right now. Los Angeles lawyer Louis Shapiro told The Post "Where is the duty of care to make sure that that gun is properly loaded and properly used? That duty doesn’t lie with the actor. The actor was just handed something. The duty of care lies with the prop person." He added that the accident could lead to a wrongful death suit and potentially a criminal case.