SANTA FE, NM – Alec Baldwin was filming his latest film, a low-budget western called “Rust,” and was working on a scene in which his character, a gray bandit named Harland Rust, finds himself in a small wooden church. The sheriff and the U.S. marshal bring him into a corner and decide to shoot him.
Members of a small team – including the director, cinematographer, cameraman and screenwriter – gathered around Mr. Baldwin inside a cramped, spartan scene. The location is on a large ranch outside of Santa Fe, where Hollywood has been sending some of its biggest actors in stetsons and leather holsters to record westerns since 1955, when Jimmy Stewart filmed ‘The Man From Laramie’ there.
As light streamed through the church windows and cast oblique rays of dust swirling over the pews, a shadow fell and the team had to adjust like cameras.
Then it was time for Mr. Baldwin, 63, sitting on a bench, rehearses his scene: close to his arm as he slowly reached across his chest, he pulled a .45 Long Colt revolver from his shoulder strap and moved it toward the camera lens. Crews were assured that the gun was “cold,” meaning it did not contain live ammunition, according to court documents. In fact, investigators said, it was charged with a live charge. A mistake would prove fatal.
Suddenly, a loud noise was heard, which director Joel Souza later told the detective to “sound like a whip and then a loud bang” when the gun fired.
Halyna Hutchins, a 42-year-old filmmaker who stood just a few feet away from Mr. Baldwin, on the left side of the camera, grabbed her by the middle and began to trip back, fatally shot in the chest with a lead bullet that investigators say went through it and then wounded the film ‘s director, Mr Souzo, 48.
Questions about why live ammunition was on the movie scene, where it is usually banned, and how a revolver loaded with a lethal charge was in the hands of the actor, began a complex investigation by law enforcement officials in New Mexico. try to determine if the negligence on the set of the movie “Rust” has risen to the level of a crime. This raised questions about the safety of the firearms on the set and about whether proper procedures were followed for “Rust,” a difficult production where some crew members left before the shooting.
Those key questions about guns and ammunition remain unanswered. But a reconstruction of the events, based on court documents and interviews with production members, the team and law enforcement officials, clearly shows that a cascading series of errors led to a fateful moment just before 13.48 on 21 October.
Delayed start, after problems on set
The “Rust” team started work before dawn, around 6.30am, and the team gathered for breakfast at Bonanza Creek Ranch, where they were filming the film.
But a major problem arose last night: six members of the cameramen sent resignation letters stating the problems, including a lack of hotel accommodation and delays in payment.
Tensions on set arose amid a broader national battle over working conditions in the industry. When “Rust” began its second week of on-site work in mid-October, the union, which represents members of the film crews, negotiated a new contract with the production studios. Trade Union, International Federation of Theater Stage Employees, voted this month to approve a nationwide strike if conversations fail.
Mr. Baldwin arrived at the shoot about a week after filming began in early October, and spent time riding, rehearsing scenes, and practicing with guns, including an attempt to simulate the deflection missing when there are no live circles. used.
Mr. Baldwin was not just the star of a film that cost about $ 6.5 million to make, one of its manufacturers, along with Ryan Winterstern, Matt DelPian, Anjul Nigam, Ryan Donnell Smith and Nathan Klingher.
After union leaders reached a pilot agreement with the studios, Mr Baldwin announced video on Instagram – filmed from Santa Fe – in which he called on members of the orders to strike if they were not satisfied with the job.
Tensions on the set of “Rust” were rising. And just a few days before the fatal shooting at least two inadvertently firing a gun during the filming, it brought the crew members to the brink.
One former crew member of “Rust” said in an interview that he was upset by safety conditions in production. “It was the most disorganized set I have ever seen,” said a crew member who was granted anonymity because he feared speaking would harm his future job opportunities.
He said they were concerned about the limited experience of the film’s bodyguard, who was responsible for the weapon on set: Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was 24 years old and had just started her career as a lead bodyguard.
Ms. Gutierrez-Reed’s lawyers, Jason Bowles and Robert Gorence, said Friday that Ms. Gutierrez-Reed worked two different jobs in the film, “which made it extremely difficult to focus on her armored work.” (The production did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the statement.)
Lawyers accused “the entire production kit became dangerous due to various factors, including a lack of safety meetings,” and suggested that others were responsible for previous unintentional releases on the set: “The first on this kit was a prop master, and the second he was a stuntman after Hannah informed him that his gun was hot from the charge.
What happened on the set of the movie “Rust”
Although tensions were rising, one of the former members of the “Rust” team said Ms. Hutchins, a cinematographer, connected with the team members and took them on sushi after a long day’s work.
“She was very passionate about what we were all doing,” he recalled.
Ms Hutchins told her friend Dan Frenkel over the phone that there were work tensions, but that she thought they could be resolved.
They couldn’t. Most of the filmmakers resigned because of issues that were no different from those discussed by union leaders at the negotiating table.
It remains undetected in the live circuit security check
Production was postponed, but replacement crew members were found and the crew returned to work.
They were working on the church scene when it was about 12:30 for lunch. Production workers were transported by van to a nearby catering tent. Weapons and some ammunition were locked in a safe in a white truck, and some ammunition was left unsecured in a trolley outside.
After lunch, film props Sarah Zachry brought the combination into the safe and handed out Mrs. Gutierrez-Reed’s rifles, which she placed on a gray cart in front of the church.
Both Ms. Gutierrez-Reed and Dave Halls, the director’s first assistant, are said to have checked the weapon before handing it to the actors.
Mr. Halls told the detective that the protocol was for Mrs. Gutierrez-Reed to show him the gun so he could check her barrel for obstruction, and then to open the revolver and rotate it so he could see the contents of the gun. chambers. He then called out a “cold rifle,” telling the crew that the gun contained no live ammunition.
When the players and crew returned from lunch that day, Mrs. Gutierrez-Reed Mr. Halls showed a .45 Colt revolver with which Mr. Baldwin would have. Mr. Halls told the detective that he remembers seeing three bullets inside, but he cannot remember whether Mrs. Gutierrez-Reed spun the drum so that he could check every chamber and every circle.
“He advised that I should check everything, but he didn’t,” Detective Alexandria Hancock wrote.
Both Ms Gutierrez-Reed and Mr Halls have been the subject of complaints about previous productions.
In 2019, Mr. Halls was fired from the movie “Path of Freedom” after a gun was unexpectedly fired during filming and caused minor injury to a crew member, the production house said. Neither Mr. Halls nor his attorneys responded to requests for comment.
Mrs. Gutierrez-Reed, who learned to be an armored car from her father, Thell Reed, a Hollywood weapons expert, had just started as an armored car herself. Recently podcast, she noted that she had just finished filming her first film as the main armored car, a western titled “The Old Way” starring Nicolas Cage, and confided that “I almost didn’t take the job because I wasn’t sure if I was ready . ”
Stu Brumbaugh, who opted for “The Old Way,” said in an interview that he recommended the dismissal of Ms. Gutierrez-Reed after witnessing two unannounced launches of the weapon she was holding, much to the surprise of others and in one case provoked an angry response from Mr. Cagea. He said they kept it, which he saw as evidence of a broader problem in which producers are trying to cut costs by hiring less experienced crews. The incident has been reported before according to CNN.
Ms Gutierrez-Reed’s lawyers said she had “never had an unintentional release” in her career; did not answer further questions about the incident on “The Old Way”.
“In the end, this kit would never have been compromised if live ammunition had not been introduced,” her lawyers said of the “Rust” kit. “Hannah has no idea where the live circles come from.”
The “cold gun” that was all before
“Cold gun!” Mr. Halls called after lunch as he handed the revolver to Mr. Baldwin.
After Mr. Baldwin practiced the draw, the gun fired.
Mrs. Hutchins stumbled and they helped her get to the ground. Mr. Souza saw blood on it – and then he noticed that he was bleeding too. Mrs. Hutchins said she could not hear her feet.
Mamie Mitchell, the screenwriter for the film, ran out of church with a cell phone in her hand and called 911.
“We accidentally shot two people on a movie set with a props gun,” Ms. Mitchell told the dispatcher. “We need help right away.”
At 1:48 p.m., the sheriff’s department was sent to the ranch.
Back on set is Mr. Halls picked up the revolver from the church pew and handed it to Mrs. Gutierrez-Reed, who opened it and saw what was inside. Mr. Halls told the detective he saw at least four bullets with a hole in the side, which sometimes indicates a round puppet. (Fake cartridges do not contain gunpowder and are used to resemble cartridges on camera.)
But there was another charge in the gun, he told the detective, one with a barrel, no cap, and no puncture hole.
Real sheriff deputies from Santa Fe County rushed to the church garrison, the first to arrive at 2 p.m. Ms. Hutchins was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Albuquerque, where she was pronounced dead. Mr. Souza was taken to a nearby hospital.
Mr. Baldwin’s western costume was turned over for proof because it appeared to be stained with blood.
A few days later, Sheriff Adan Mendoza of Santa Fe County announced what was becoming increasingly clear: the gun fired a live bullet, a lead bullet.
The bullet was pulled from the director’s shoulder. Now the investigation is focused on how he got into the revolver.
Simon Romero reported from Santa Fe, Julia Jacobs from New York and Graham Bowley from Toronto. Nicole Sperling contributed to the reporting.