By: Lily Riesett
On October 21, 2021, Alec Baldwin was in the middle of shooting his low-budget, small crewed film, “Rust,” when a deadly set mishap occurred. This historic filming area, Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has been home to many famous westerns, all of which have gone off without a hitch as severe as this. In the middle of shooting a scene, Baldwin picked up and shot his supposedly unloaded prop gun, killing a member of his crew in the process.
Baldwin’s character, a cowboy outlaw named Hardin Rust, was in the middle of a shootout between a sheriff and a U.S. Marshal in a small wooden church when the fatality occurred. Baldwin was given a .45 Colt Revolver which was told to him to be “cold”, or not loaded with ammunition, by the props workers on set. He held the gun up facing the lens of the camera for a close-up shot of the action, but was stunned when he pulled the trigger and an actual bullet was released. Halyna Hutchins, the film’s cinematographer, was fatally wounded in her stomach while Joel Souza, the film’s director, was injured.
It is difficult to pinpoint the perpetrator of Hutchin’s death in this situation. Though Baldwin was the one who shot the gun, he was told the gun he was holding did not contain live ammunition. The majority of the film’s crew must be looked at to get a solid grasp on who messed up in this situation.
Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the lead armorer, or the person who handles weapons as props on a movie set, was only 24 when she was hired to work on the set of “Rust.” The gun wasn’t only in the hands of Gutierrez-Reed though. Her lawyer made the argument that “The first one on this set was the prop master, and the second was a stunt man after Hannah informed him his gun was hot with blanks.”
Sarah Zachary, the props master, was the first individual to handle the gun the day of the shooting, taking them out of a combination locked safe and handing them to Gutierrez-Reed. She then placed the gun on a cart on set. Dave Halls, the first-assistant director, checked the gun to make sure the only rounds loaded were dummies. These resemble bullets when shot but contain no gun powder. Halls recalls seeing three rounds in the gun, but Gutierrez-Reed did not turn the revolver for him to analyze if they were dummies or not.
Both Halls and Gutierrez-Reed had come under scrutiny for mishaps on sets before being hired for “Rust.” In 2019 Halls was hired from a movie “Freedom’s Path” after letting a live gun go unchecked causing it to injure a crewmate. Gutierrez-Reed acted as head armorer for Nicolas Cage’s film “The Old Way,” but was almost fired due to having two rounds of live ammunition go off accidentally.
Though no one has been charged with the death and injury during filming, Baldwin has been sued by multiple crewmembers over keeping an unsafe work environment. The decisions made regarding this case will forever change the way firearms are handled in Hollywood.