‘Rust’ Assistant Director Calls on Film Industry to Reevaluate Practices After On-Set Shooting

2November 2021

The first assistant director on the movie “Rust” spoke out publicly Monday for the first time since the on-set shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins by actor Alec Baldwin — calling on the film industry to “reevaluate its values and practices” but not addressing specifics of the tragedy.

“Halyna Hutchins was not just one of the most talented people I’ve worked with, but also a friend,” the assistant director, David Halls, said in a statement to the New York Post.

“I’m shocked and saddened by her death. It’s my hope that this tragedy prompts the industry to reevaluate its values and practices to ensure no one is harmed through the creative process again.”

Halls also told the newspaper he is “overwhelmed by the love and support,” and that “my thoughts are with all who knew and loved Halyna.” 

Earlier reports had said that Halls had declared “cold gun” — meaning the weapon was not loaded — before handing it to Baldwin during an Oct. 21 rehearsal on the film’s Santa Fe, New Mexico, set. 

When Baldwin aimed the .45-caliber Colt revolver at the camera, an apparently live round struck Hutchins and wounded the film’s director, Joel Souza.

Hutchins, a 42-year-old mother of a 9-year-old boy, later died. Souza, 48, was hit in the shoulder. 

New Mexico authorities said last week it was too early to say if criminal charges will be filed against anyone — but the sheriff said more than 500 rounds of ammunition, likely including some live rounds, were found on the set.

Sheriff Adan Mendoza said the ammunition — apparently a mix of blanks and dummy rounds, along with some suspected live ammunition — is among 600 pieces of evidence that have been gathered so far in the investigation. 

The sheriff also confirmed that the lead projectile apparently fired by Baldwin was recovered from Souza’s shoulder. 

According to an affidavit filed last week in support of a search warrant in Santa Fe, investigators stated that Halls picked up one of three guns from a mobile cart that had been prepared by the production’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed.

According to another affidavit filed last week, Halls acknowledged to investigators that he did not check all of the rounds in the weapon before handing it to Baldwin and declaring it a “cold gun,” according to media reports out of New Mexico.

He told investigators that Reed showed him the weapon earlier and “he could only remember seeing three rounds. He advised he should have checked all of them, but didn’t, and couldn’t recall if she (Reed) spun the drum.” Meanwhile, Reed has denied reports that crew members had fired live rounds from prop weapons during down time in the production, and insisted she

did not know how live ammunition wound up on set. 

In a joint statement Friday, attorneys for Reed called Hutchins “an inspiration to women in film who Hannah looked up to.”

“Hannah is devastated and completely beside herself over the events that have transpired,” attorneys Jason Bowles and Robert Gorence said in the statement on behalf of Reed.

“She would like to address some untruths that have been told to the media, which have falsely portrayed her and slandered her,” the attorneys said. “Safety is Hannah’s No. 1 priority on set. Ultimately, this set would never have been compromised if live ammo were not introduced. Hannah has no idea where the live rounds came from.

“Hannah and the prop master gained control over the guns and she never witnessed anyone shoot live rounds with these guns … nor would she permit that. They were locked up every night and at lunch and there’s no way a single one of them was unaccounted for or being shot by crew members. Hannah still, to this day, has never had an accidental discharge. 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.”

In their statement Friday, Reed’s attorneys also described overall “unsafe” conditions on the “Rust” set. 

“Hannah was hired on two positions on this film, which made it extremely difficult to focus on her job as an armorer,” they said. “She fought for training, days to maintain weapons and proper time to prepare for gunfire but ultimately was overruled by production and her department.

The whole production set became unsafe due to various factors, including lack of safety meetings. This was not the fault of Hannah.” 

Over the weekend, Baldwin also spoke publicly for the first time about the death of Hutchins.

Tracked down Saturday by paparazzi on the side of a road in Vermont alongside his wife Hilaria, Baldwin said he couldn’t comment on the investigation into the death.

“I’ve been ordered by the sheriff’s department in Santa Fe (not to comment on the case). … It’s an active investigation in terms of a woman who died, she was my friend,” Baldwin said. “… We were a very, very well-oiled crew shooting a film together, and then this horrible event happened.”

Baldwin also confirmed that he had met with Hutchins’ husband, Matthew, and the couple’s 9-year-old son, adding that the husband was “overwhelmed with grief.”

“There are incidental accidents on film sets from time to time, but nothing like this,” he continued “This is a one-in-a-trillion episode. It’s a one-in-a-trillion event. … We’re eagerly awaiting for the sheriff’s department to tell us what their investigation has yielded.”

Baldwin also said he doubted production would start up again on “Rust.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.