By Sandy Malone and Holly Matkin
Santa Fe, NM – The shooting on the set of the movie “Rust” on Thursday occurred just six hours after the union crew left after a dispute over unsafe working conditions, and now the union has said the “prop gun” that Alec Baldwin fired on the set contained a “live” round.
Believing he was using a prop weapon, Baldwin fatally shot 42-year-old Halyna Hutchins, the director of photography, and wounded the film’s director, 48-year-old Joel Souza, on Oct. 21.
A member of the crew told the Los Angeles Times that the camera crew arrived on the set at 6:30 a.m. and began gathering their gear and personal belongings so they could leave.
There had been problems on the set at the famous Bonanza Creek Ranch, where epic films like “Blazing Saddles” and “All the Pretty Horses” were filmed, since production began, according to the source.
When filming started on Oct. 6, crewmembers were upset over production’s failure to provide promised hotel rooms in Santa Fe to help the crew avoid the daily 50-mile commute each way to Albuquerque.
The camera crew were all members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.
Multiple sources told the Los Angeles Times that camera operators and their assistants were frustrated by the working conditions.
Sources complained of problems with their hours and getting their paychecks from the low-budget film.
On Thursday morning, as the crew was assembling their gear, several nonunion camera crew members arrived to replace them, sources told the Los Angeles Times.
Then somebody on the production staff told the union members to leave the set.
The source told the Los Angeles Times that a producer threatened to call security to remove the union crew members if they didn’t leave on their own.
“Corners were being cut — and they brought in nonunion people so they could continue shooting,” the source said.
The source told the Los Angeles Times that there had been two misfires with the prop gun on Saturday, and another the week before.
“There was a serious lack of safety meetings on this set,” the source said.
The production company denied the allegations in a statement to the Los Angeles Times.
“The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company, ” Rust Movie Productions LLC said in a statement. “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.”
Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office (SFCSO) detectives said they are investigating how and what type of projectile was discharged, the New York Post reported.
But the union that represents propmasters sent an email to its membership on Friday morning that said the gun used in the scene had contained a live round, and that the movie’s propmaster was not a member of Local 44, according to Indie Wire.
Prop guns are supposed to contain blank rounds.
“A live single round was accidentally fired on set by the principal actor, hitting both the Director of Photography, Local 600 member Halnya Hutchins, and Director Joel Souza … Local 44 has confirmed that the Props, Set Decoration, Special Effects and Construction Departments were staffed by New Mexico crew members. There were no Local 44 members on the call sheet,” Local 44 Secretary-Treasurer Anthony Pawluc wrote in the email.
A source who was on the set when the double-shooting occurred said Baldwin was distraught and repeatedly asked why he was given a “hot gun,” Showbiz 411 reported.
“In all my years, I’ve never been handed a hot gun,” the actor repeated over and over, according to the source.
In addition to starring in the film, Baldwin is one of the producers and co-wrote the movie alongside Souza, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
He willingly provided a statement to investigators, sheriff’s department spokesman Juan Rios told The New York Times.
“Detectives are investigating how and what type of projectile was discharged,” SFCSO said in statement.
Hutchins was originally from Ukraine and was raised on a Soviet military base in the Arctic Circle, according to the paper.
The self-described “adrenaline junkie” and “restless dreamer” studied journalism in Ukraine before relocating to Los Angeles to study film, The New York Times reported.
Baldwin, an Academy Award nominee, has won numerous Emmy, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild awards during his lengthy career in movies and television, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
In 2017, Baldwin took to Twitter to denounce Huntington Beach Police Officer Eric Esparza after Officer Esparza fatally shot a suspect who punched him and tried to grab his gun, the New York Post reported.
“I wonder how it must feel to wrongfully kill someone,” Baldwin wrote.
The shooting was later ruled as justified.
The film’s production company, Rust Movie Productions LLC, released a statement about shooting on Thursday night, according to The New York Times.
“The entire cast and crew has been absolutely devastated by today’s tragedy, and we send our deepest condolences to Halyna’s family and loved ones,” the statement read. “We have halted production on the film for an undetermined period of time and are fully cooperating with the Santa Fe Police Department’s investigation. We will be providing counseling services to everyone connected to the film as we work to process this awful event.”
Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists President Fran Drescher and National Executive Director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland issued a joint statement on Thursday, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
“We are devastated by this tragic news. Our hearts go out to the family of Director of Photography Halyna Hutchins who has passed away and to Director Joel Souza who is injured and hospitalized,” Drescher and Crabtree-Ireland said. “This is still an active investigation and we do not yet have all the facts. We will continue to work with production, the other unions, and the authorities to investigate this incident and to understand how to prevent such a thing from happening again.”