As questions linger about safety protocols on the “Rust” movie set where Alec Baldwin killed a cinematographer with a prop gun he’d been told was safe, Hollywood professionals familiar with safety measures and handling weapons on sets are left baffled.
Jeffrey Wright, who has worked on projects including the James Bond franchise and the upcoming movie “The Batman,” was acting with a weapon on the set of “Westworld” when news broke of the shooting Thursday at a New Mexico ranch. “We were all pretty shocked. And it informed what we did from that moment on,” he said in an interview Sunday at the Newport Beach Film Festival.
“I don’t recall ever being handed a weapon that was not cleared in front of me — meaning chamber open, barrel shown to me, light flashed inside the barrel to make sure that it’s cleared,” Wright said. “Clearly, that was a mismanaged set.”
The shooting on the set of the film “Rust” killed 42-year-old Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza, who was standing behind her.
The Bonanza Creek Film Ranch is seen in Santa Fe, N.M., Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021. (Jae C. Hong)
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 court records. Assistant director Dave Halls grabbed a gun off a cart and handed it to Baldwin, indicating that the weapon was safe by yelling “cold gun,” court papers say. But it was loaded with live rounds, according to the records.
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.”
“The Umbrella Academy” actor Justin Min, also at the Newport festival, said “it’s been a very somber time” in recent days on set as he’s been filming the indie thriller “Detained.”
“After that — I mean we have obviously already been careful, but it’s just another level of precaution,” Min said.
Alec Baldwin was handed the firearm by assistant director Dave Halls, who believed there was no ammunition loaded. (IMDb/Getty Images)
A prop maker and licensed pyrotechnician who worked with Halls, the assistant director, on another production said she had raised safety concerns about him in the past.
Maggie Goll said in a statement that she filed an internal complaint with the executive producers of Hulu’s “Into the Dark” series in 2019 over concerns about Halls’ behavior on set. Goll said in a phone interview Sunday that Halls disregarded safety protocols for weapons and pyrotechnics and tried to continue filming after the supervising pyrotechnician lost consciousness on set.
Halls has not returned phone calls and email messages seeking comment. Rust Movie Productions has not answered repeated emails seeking comment.
The fatal shooting and previous experiences point to larger safety issues that need to be addressed, Goll said, adding that crew member safety and wellbeing are top issues in ongoing contract negotiations between a union that represents film and TV workers and a major producers’ group.
“This situation is not about Dave Halls. … It’s in no way one person’s fault,” she said. “It’s a bigger conversation about safety on set and what we are trying to achieve with that culture.”
Actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun on the set of a Western being filmed at the ranch on Thursday, Oct. 21, killing the cinematographer, officials said. The director of the movie was wounded, and authorities were investigating. (Andres Leighton)
A vigil for Hutchins was held Sunday in Southern California, where attendees exchanged tearful hugs and speakers echoed calls for heightened safety standards.
Actor Rosanna Arquette joined many in Hollywood in calling for a move away from using real weapons, whether armed with blanks or bullets.
“I hope this wakes people up. Because there should be no live round anything ever on a movie. We have enough CGI, we have enough — it’s absurd,” she said. “All of us are shaken to the core in the industry about this.”
Actor Ray Liotta agreed with Wright that the checks on firearms are usually extensive.
“They always — that I know of — they check it so you can see,” Liotta said. “They give it to the person you’re pointing the gun at, they do it to the producer, they show whoever is there that it doesn’t work.”
Halyna Hutchins was the cinematographer killed on the ‘Rust’ set after a prop gun was fired. ( (Photo by Mat Hayward/Getty Images for AMC Networks))
Meanwhile, a petition calling for a ban on the use of real firearms on film and TV sets has gained more than 25,000 signatures in light of Hutchins’ death.
Erik Kripke, the showrunner for Amazon Prime’s “The Boys,” where “Rust” co-star Jensen Ackles will play a role in Season 3, announced that he will no longer use real guns on set either.
“Someone hurt or killed on my set is my worst nightmare. Sending love to Halyna Hutchins’ family, @JensenAckles, cast & crew of ‘Rust.’ I’m so sorry. In her memory, a simple, easy pledge: no more guns with blanks on any of my sets ever. We’ll use VFX muzzle flashes. Who’s with me?” he wrote.
Craig Zobel, the director of “Mare of Easttown” and “The Leftovers” shared similar sentiments writing: “There’s no reason to have guns loaded with blanks or anything on set anymore. Should just be fully outlawed. There’s computers now. The gunshots on Mare of Easttown are all digital. You can probably tell, but who cares? It’s an unnecessary risk.”
Alec Baldwin was spotted ‘in tears’ following the fatal prop gun shooting that took place on the ‘Rust’ set. (Photo by Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images for National Geographic)
State Senator Dave Cortese also announced he plans to introduce legislation seeking the ban of live ammunition on sets in the state in direct response to the “Rust” incident.
Baldwin, who is a producer on “Rust,” met with Hutchins’ husband and 9-year-old son Saturday at a hotel in Santa Fe where the actor had been staying during filming. At one point, Baldwin and Hutchins’ husband were photographed embracing shortly after the tragedy.
Fox News’ Tyler McCarthy and The Associated Press contributed to this report.