“Rust” cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed while Alec Baldwin was rehearsing a scene that involved the actor pointing a revolver in the direction of a camera lens, the film’s director Joel Souza said in an affidavit released Sunday that provides new details into the circumstances of the shooting.
Souza, who was also injured in the on-set accident, said that the cast and crew had been assured that Baldwin was handling a “cold gun,” meaning it had no live rounds. Safety protocols on the set required that the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, checked to make sure that the barrel was empty, with her work double-checked by “Rust” assistant director Dave Halls before the firearm was handed to the actors. Souza and Hutchins were standing behind the camera to see the angle. Baldwin was sitting on a wooden pew facing south towards the camera and crew, outfitted in Western garb. After noticing a shadow, Souza and Hutchins repositioned their gear and were talking with Baldwin, who was showing them how he planned to pull the gun from his holster when it discharged.
Reid Russell, a cameraman who was standing next to the two, told police that he “remembered Joel having blood on his person, and Ms. Hutchins speaking and saying she couldn’t feel her legs.” Souza told investigators that Hutchins grabbed her midsection, at which point he noticed he was bleeding from his shoulder. Hutchins was pronounced dead Thursday after being airlifted to an Albuquerque hospital. She was 42.
The “Rust” production had been grappling with labor issues in the lead-up to the accident. Several IATSE crew members on the New Mexico set of “Rust” quit the production because they felt producers were not following safety guidelines, according to numerous reports. “Rust” began shooting Oct. 6 at Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, and crew members had been observing safety problems for several days. Souza referenced those conflicts in his discussion with police, noting that on Thursday, production “…started off late due to a camera crew that had quit and they had to find another camera crew to help film the movie.”
The “Rust” production broke for lunch around 12:30 p.m. on Thursday. When the cast and crew returned back to the set after lunch, Souza said he was not sure if the firearm that Baldwin was using was checked again. As Baldwin was practicing a cross draw. Souza looked over the shoulder of Hutchins when he heard what sounded to him “like a whip and then loud pop.”
Hutchins’ death has prompted calls for greater safety measures on sets and inspired a petition on change.org to ban the use of real firearms on sets. That petition has drawn more than 25,000 signatories.
The producers of the movie “Rust” announced Sunday that they are suspending production while sheriffs investigate Hutchins’ death.
“As we go through this crisis, we have made the decision to wrap the set at least until the investigations are complete,” said the statement from the “Rust” production company.