Safety issues plagued the set of Rust in the days leading up to the fatal accident, according to new reports. On Thursday, Alec Baldwin shot and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42, on set of the Western indie. Director Joel Souza, 48, was hospitalized but has since been released. The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the shooting, which occurred “during the filming of a scene.”
There were two misfires on the prop gun and one the previous week, a source tells the Los Angeles Times, adding “there was a serious lack of safety meetings on this set.”
Deadline confirms “at least one previous incident involving a misfiring of a weapon that was used days before in a scene.”
“A gun had two misfires in a closed cabin,” a source claimed. “They just fired loud pops — a person was just holding it in their hands and it went off.”
Both outlets report that the film’s camera crew walked off the set in protest of their working conditions before the accident.
“Corners were being cut — and they brought in nonunion people so they could continue shooting,” a source tells the Los Angeles Times. The paper notes that Hutchins was among those advocating for safer conditions.
One crew member purportedly addressed the walkout in a private Facebook post.
“We cited everything from lack of payment for three weeks, taking our hotels away despite asking for them in our deals, lack of COVID safety, and on top of that, poor gun safety! Poor on-set safety period!” the person wrote, per Deadline. “They brought in four non-union guys to replace us and tried calling the cops on us.”
Rust Movie Productions, LLC says it’s conducting an internal investigation.
“The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company. 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,” a spokesperson told Deadline. “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.”
Jensen Ackles, who stars in the film alongside Baldwin, addressed gun preparation on set just days before the tragedy. While attending a Supernatural fan event last weekend, the actor gushed about how excited he was to be starring in a Western film. Ackles said they’ve been shooting for two weeks and “going non-stop.”
“I’ve got a 6 a.m. call tomorrow to have a big shootout. They had me pick my gun, they were like, ‘Alright, what gun would you like?’ and I was like, ‘I don’t know?’ and the armorer was like, ‘You have gun experience?'” he told the crowd in the resurfaced video. “I was like, ‘Uh, a little.’ And she’s like, ‘OK, well, this is how you load it, this is how we check it and make sure it’s safe.’ I’m like ‘OK.’ She’s like, ‘Do you want a hip draw or a cross draw?'”
The armorer said she was “going to put some blanks” into the gun, and told Ackles to “fire off a couple rounds” towards a hill. Ackles nailed it because he knew what he was doing all along. “And no kidding, she goes, ‘You’re an a******.'”
Generally, a prop master or licensed armorer oversees the handling of all weapons that are used on a set. It’s unclear at this time who that person was on Rust. IATSE Local 44, a union that covers prop masters, sent an email saying the production’s prop master was not a member.
Baldwin is reportedly distraught over the accident.
“Alec is still trying to get his head around everything that happened,” a source tells People. “This has been devastating. It’s been incredibly difficult.”
Baldwin, who is also a producer on Rust, expressed his condolences in a statement on Friday.
“There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours,” he began. “I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred and I am in touch with her husband, offering my support to him and his family. My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna.”
Hutchins’s husband said the family is grieving the loss.
“I don’t think there are words to communicate the situation,” Matthew Hutchins, 38, told Insider. “I am not going to be able to comment about the facts or the process of what we’re going through right now, but I appreciate that everyone has been very sympathetic.”