David Halls, the assistant director who handed to actor Alec Baldwin the gun that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the sets of Rust, said he hopes the incident will prompt “the industry to re-evaluate its values and practices to ensure no one is harmed through the creative process again.”
Speaking for the first time since the incident, Halls told the New York Post that Halyna Hutchins was “not just one of the most talented people” he has worked with, but also a friend. “I’m shocked and saddened by her death,” he added.
The AD also said that he has been “overwhelmed by the love and support,” and added that his “thoughts are with all who knew and loved” Hutchins.
On October 21, Baldwin discharged a prop gun on the sets of Rust killing the film’s cinematographer Hutchins and leaving director Joel Souza injured. According to an affidavit filed with the Santa Fe Police Department, Souza said Baldwin was rehearsing with the firearm when the former heard what sounded like “a whip and then loud pop.” A moment later, Souza saw Hutchins grab her midsection and complain about her stomach, while he realised that he was hurt in the shoulder.
Camera operator Reid Russell, who stood next to Souza and Hutchins while the incident transpired, confirmed Souza’s account. He recalled Hutchins saying “she couldn’t feel her legs” and medics treating her as she was bleeding on the floor.
The affidavit mentions that Halls had declared the firearm a “cold gun”- production jargon for a weapon with no live rounds – before handing it over to Baldwin. The assistant director later admitted that he should have checked the gun before giving it to the actor.
Halls is said to have a history of not following safety precautions on earlier projects, including Hulu’s Into the Dark and the film Freedom’s Path. He was fired from the latter project “after a crew member incurred a minor and temporary injury when a gun was unexpectedly discharged,” a producer told Variety.
The armorer of the film has been identified as 24-year-old Hannah Gutierrez. Rust is her second project.
The film’s producers have been criticised for hiring people with less experience. They have also been called out for replacing striking crew members with non-union people shortly before the shooting incident took place.
The Santa Fe Police Department has reportedly recovered 600 pieces of evidence so far – including three firearms and 500 rounds of ammunition. The investigation is ongoing and New Mexico’s District Attorney has said that all options are still open, including the possibility of filing criminal charges against Baldwin.