A tragic incident occurred on the set of Rust on October 21, 2021—a low-budget western filmed on a ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe, New Mexico: Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot by Alec Baldwin.
In a recent interview, Baldwin describes the day as both shocking and seemingly surreal: he had been told that the gun was cold and had trusted the Principal Safety Officer. At first, he thought Halyna might have fainted, but he was horrified when he was told she had died at his hands after others had tried to save her in a hospital.
There has been a lot of debate and controversy surrounding the actor ever since: should Baldwin face charges, even though this was clearly an accident on his part?!
His lawyer believes he should not.
"This is the third time the New Mexico authorities have found that Alec Baldwin had no authority or knowledge of the allegedly unsafe conditions on the set, that he was told by the person in charge of safety on the set that the gun was ‘cold,’ and believed the gun was safe." —Attorney Luke Nikas (Baldwin’s lawyer)
The shooting has been ruled accidental by the medical investigator.
"The shooting has been ruled as accidental by the medical investigator: there was no intent to kill on Baldwin's part. He did not know he was holding a gun with live rounds. The incident on the set of the film 'Rust' that left cinematographer Halyna Hutchins dead was an accident. This was the determination made by New Mexico's Office of the Medical Investigator following the completion of an autopsy and a review of law enforcement reports, CTV News reported." —Jim Wilson
The questions being asked should be:
- Who put a live round in the gun?
- Why was Baldwin informed that he was holding a cold gun by the Principle Safety Officer—in front of everyone involved with the film—when he clearly was not?
- How can the entertainment industry and others ensure that this never happens again by enforcing more effective safety measures?
Unfortunately, the actor has had to bear the brunt of judgement while also carrying deep remorse for this horrible accident. He has stated publicly that he feels horrible about the situation and—despite the relentless attacks on his reputation and assumptions about his character—has said that he does not consider himself a victim and he feels deeply for Halyna's family.
Baldwin could face criminal charges in the future. That is still to be determined.
"The FBI’s report could still potentially lead to criminal charges against the Hollywood star and other people involved in the fatal accident." —Jim Wilson
The gun could not have fired without the trigger being pulled, according to FBI reports. Baldwin denies pulling the trigger nonetheless, but has stated that Halyna Hutchins had instructed him to point the gun at her for the purpose of the project.
It is horrible to lose a gifted cinematographer due to what can only be described as carelessness on set, and there are arguably quite a few people to blame, not to mention unnecessary negligence on during the filming of this movie when it came to handling firearms.
"In April, Rust Movie Productions, LLC was fined a maximum USD $136,793 after the New Mexico Environment Department’s Occupational Health & Safety Bureau found that the movie crew had 'willfully violated' safety rules, leading to the death of Hutchins. Serge Svetnoy, the film’s chief of lighting, has also filed a complaint of 'general negligence' against actor/producer Alec Baldwin, armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, assistant director Dave Halls, prop master Sarah Zachry, the production and its financial backers." —Jim Wilson
That being said, it is increasingly clear that Baldwin did not intend for this death to occur.
Nonetheless, improved safety measures should be required on all sets in the future to ensure that this never happens again.