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Actor Alec Baldwin was in the process of shooting his new film “Rust” until the death of a crew member halted the production. The case has now overshadowed the film and is still unfolding.
The incident occurred on the afternoon of Oct 21, 2021. “Rust” was being filmed in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This film had a scene in which Baldwin’s character, Harland Rust, shoots his way out of a church. The crew noticed a shadow in the shot and wanted to adjust.
Baldwin then practiced his scene on the church pew. He drew his .45 Long Colt revolver which was presumably “cold” or had no live rounds of ammunition, according to The New York Times. Unfortunately, there was a live round in the revolver. All of a sudden, the director Joel Souza heard a noise that “sounded like a whip and then a loud pop.” This turned out to be a shot to the chest of the cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins.
The Key Questions
Hutchins, 42, was a couple of feet away from Baldwin when the gun went off. Investigators say the bullet not only pierced Hutchins but went through her and wounded the director as well. What has unfolded is a complex investigation into the actions that led up to the event.
The main questions are about how an actor got the loaded gun and why there are any live rounds on movie sets in the first place. This incident has brought worries around gun safety on film sets. New Mexico law enforcement is determining whether negligence is the cause and whether proper measures were taken to avoid the misfire. “Rust” also had a troubled production, with some crew members leaving before filming began.
The Normal Routine
The crew started work at Bonanza Creek Ranch at around 6:30 a.m. (CT). Their number dwindled from the night before as six people had resigned due to lack of accommodations and inadequate pay.
Even as people left, they were swiftly replaced to get the film back on schedule. Baldwin came to the set a week after filming began. He rehearsed scenes, practiced horseback riding, and worked on mirroring the gun recoil since they were not planning on using live rounds.
They were working on the church scene when it was time for lunch at about 12:30 p.m. Some guns were safely locked up in a van while some ammunition remained out in the open. After lunch, Sarah Zachry, the film’s prop master, gave some firearms to the armorer to keep on a cart outside the church.
Dave Halls, the first assistant director, told authorities the standard procedure between him and the armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed when handling guns. She would show him the gun so he could cross-check the weapon. Gutierrez-Reed would also spin the chamber of a gun for him to see the inside. After he is satisfied, he would let the crew know that the gun contained no live rounds by shouting “cold gun.”
On the day of the incident, Halls remembered possibly seeing rounds in the chamber of the 0.45 colt revolver shown to him but forgets whether the chamber was spun for him to be sure. He now regrets not checking thoroughly.
After inspecting, Halls yells “cold gun” and hands a seemingly empty gun to Baldwin. He then starts practicing when a shot is fired. Hutchins fell down, “unable to feel her legs” she stated. Souza finds that he is also bleeding and someone rushes to dial 911. The sheriff’s department made their way over to the scene at about 1:48 p.m. Hutchins was pronounced dead at an Albuquerque hospital.
Many questions still remain unanswered (while more continue to pop up) as the case unfolds. What has become clear is that there is no doubt a live round had been fired when Baldwin pulled the trigger.
Now investigators are trying to figure out how it ended up in the gun in the first place, among other questions. Officials have attempted to reconstruct the sequence of events leading up to the incident.
Court documents and interviews with members of the production, law enforcement officials, and crew helped contribute to the reenactment. So far, Baldwin, the armorer, the assistant director, and the producers are key figures. Authorities are still investigating and have not come to a solid conclusion.
Written by Chiagozie Onyewuchi
The New York Times: A Call of ‘Cold Gun!’ A Live Round. And Death on a Film Set; by Simon Romero, Graham Bowley, and Julia Jacobs
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