Rust filming: weird shooting competition allegedly took place before fatal crash

The profile and skills of the gunsmith and the first assistant director are of interest to investigators.

The filming of Rust, in New Mexico, promised a western without big news. Inspired by a true story, the screenplay featured an outlaw from the Wild West seeking to save his grandson, the perpetrator of manslaughter, from hanging. This drama resonates strangely today. On October 21 at 1:50 p.m., actor Alec Balwin fatally injured the director of photography, Halyna Hutchins, with a bullet in the chest on the sidelines of the shoot. The pistol was supposed to be blank loaded. The projectile, very real, ended its course in the collarbone of the director, Joel Souza.

According to The Wrap, a site specializing in entertainment which quotes sources close to the filming of Rust, the weapon that killed Halyna Hutchins would have been used a few hours before the fatal shot. Team members grabbed it “to pass time” pulling beer cans, before lunch. La Repubblica also claims that deadly ammunition was found all over the set and outside the ranch rented for the film.

The very strict rules of the film industry, however, prohibit any presence of live bullets on a film set, precisely to avoid this type of accident. To investigators, Joel Souza also clarified “Not to be sure” that the weapon given to Alec Baldwin had been checked after the team’s lunch break. Pressed to express itself by AFP on this point, the production of Rust had not reacted Monday afternoon.

Live ammunition before the tragedy

This tragic accident is the culmination of a series of tensions and dysfunctions that would have marred the making of this low-budget film. First of all, the working conditions of certain operators were a sticking point with production. At the latter’s expense, the team was to be accommodated in Santa Fe, where the shooting was being held. But the cameramen ended up at a hotel in Albuquerque, which is 80 kilometers from their place of work. The delays in their pay and the grueling days – sometimes reaching thirteen hours – further deteriorated relations between the team and the producers. On the day of the tragedy, half a dozen of them had packed up.

In addition to the working conditions, one of the cameramen had reported, the weekend before the tragedy, the security problems of the firearms on the set, according to the report. The Los Angeles Times . At least one previous incident had unfolded, involving stuntman Alec Balwin. Five days before the death of Halyna Hutchin, the understudy had indeed opened fire twice. Always with live ammunition, when the weapon used should also have been “cold”.

“There should have been an investigation into what happened”, said a member of the team, still at Los Angeles Times. “There were no security meetings. There was no assurance that this would not happen again. All the production wanted was to rush, to rush, to rush. “ Another member was so alarmed by the misfires of the pistol that he texted one of the officials, reporting “Three accidental discharges”. “It’s super dangerous!”, he would have been indignant.

The response from the production company was not long in coming. “The safety of our actors and our team is the top priority of Rust Productions and of all those associated with the company”, she said in a statement. “Although we have not been made aware of any official complaints regarding the safety of weapons or accessories on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is down.”, she also said.

Dave Halls, an unscrupulous assistant director

The investigation is ongoing, but neither complaint nor prosecution has been announced. The accidental thesis seems privileged and Alec Baldwin, also co-producer of the feature film, remained at large after being questioned. A search warrant was issued by a judge the day after the tragedy, authorizing the police to seize the equipment related to the shooting, the weapons and ammunition used as accessories, and the clothes worn by the actor and the rest of the team at the time of the facts.

The responsibility of two people is nevertheless pointed out. That of the first assistant director, first, Dave Halls, who gave the gun to Baldwin, ensuring that it was loaded blank. Investigators said he did not know that live ammunition was in the weapon.

Dave Halls has, however, already been accused of negligence on previous shoots, as recounted The Parisian . Among the complaints addressed was the one concerning the non-respect of the security protocol on weapons. “He did not create a safe working environment”Maggie Goll, a prop designer who worked with Dave Halls, told the news channel. She mentions in particular emergency exits blocked on a plateau and the absence of safety meetings.

AFP also quotes one of the producers of a previous film on which the assistant director worked. Dave Halls had to quit filming Freedom’s Path, in 2019, “After a member of the team was slightly injured when a weapon was accidentally fired”. “Halls was kicked off the set immediately after the prop shot. The production did not resume filming until Dave left the scene ”, added this same source, specifying that a written report had been carried out on the spot.

Doubts about the skills of gunsmith Hannah Gutierrez-Reed

The second person implicated is the chief gunsmith, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed. She had prepared the weapon for the scene, along with two other pistols, placed on a cart where Dave Halls used. The 24-year-old is the daughter of veteran Hollywood gunsmith Thell Reed. This was her second shoot: Hannah Gutierrez-Reed had just finished working on The Old Way, with Clint Howard and Nicolas Cage, as chief gunsmith. The experience had gone badly since he was criticized for his lack of precautions, according to The Daily Beast which quotes two sources present on the set. Especially when she took charge of arming actress Ryan Kiera Armstrong, the 11-year-old heroine.

“I have a lot to learn and I almost refused because I was not sure I was ready”

Armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, on her previous shoot

In September, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed had expressed doubts about her skills. In a podcast of Voices of the West, site promoting the culture of the far west, the young woman confided that she had hesitated before accepting this first job, despite the experience acquired with her father. “I have a lot to learn and I almost refused because I was not sure I was ready, she explained. I found the loading of blank bales super scary, because I didn’t know anything about it.

The chief electrician of the filming, Serge Svetnoy, castigated on Facebook a tragedy caused by “Negligence and lack of professionalism”, feeling that she was too young to “To be a professional in matters of weapons”. “To save money, we sometimes hire people who are not fully qualified for a complicated and dangerous job”, he accuses.

Joel Souza clarified to authorities that Dave Halls was tasked, once prepared by Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, to re-check the weapon used as an accessory. This is absolutely not the norm in terms of safety, this task falling only to gunsmiths, as explained by several professionals at New York Times . To AFP, Guillaume Delouche, gunsmith in Hollywood for nearly 30 years, also said “very stunned” that someone of this age and with so little experience, “Could be the chief gunsmith on a film which must contain a lot of scenes of combat with firearms”.

Ban guns from film sets

A petition launched by screenwriter and director Bandar Albuliwi on, which calls for a ban on firearms on film sets and better working conditions for operators, had collected 49,000 signatures on Tuesday, October 26. “There is no excuse for something like this to happen in the 21st century”, says the text.

“There is an urgent need to address the problem of alarming (labor law) abuses and security breaches taking place on film sets, including unnecessary high-risk conditions, such as the use of weapons.” real fire “, also pleaded Saturday, October 23 in a statement Dave Cortese, elected Democrat in the Senate of California. “I intend to vote on a bill that would ban live ammunition on filming in California, in order to prevent this type of senseless violence.”, also said the elected.

A fundraiser is also organized by the union of directors of photography for the family of Halyna Hutchins. It exceeded $ 180,000 on Sunday morning, far exceeding the initial goal of $ 10,000. A vigil in tribute to Halyna Hutchins finally took place Sunday, October 24, in Burbank, a city near Los Angeles.


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