The LA Times reported yesterday that the fatal accident in which Baldwin killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins wasn’t the first gun-related mishap on the set. “There were two misfires on the prop gun and one the previous week,” the paper claimed, citing a source. That was big news, evidence that at least one gun on the set wasn’t working properly.
But “misfire” is a vague term. Sometimes it describes a gun *failing* to fire when the trigger is pulled. Is that what happened in the previous incidents on the set or did a gun actually fire accidentally before Hutchins was shot?
It fired accidentally, sources clarified for the Times last night. It’s not 100 percent clear that the gun that went off earlier when handled by Baldwin’s stunt double is the same gun that Baldwin was using when he shot Hutchins but it would stand to reason that the actor and his double were using the same weapon in scenes.
Why was a gun that had already gone off accidentally twice still being used on a film set?
Baldwin’s stunt double accidentally fired two rounds Saturday after being told that the gun was “cold” — lingo for a weapon that doesn’t have any ammunition, including blanks — two crew members who witnessed the episode told the Los Angeles Times.
“There should have been an investigation into what happened,” a crew member said. “There were no safety meetings. There was no assurance that it wouldn’t happen again. All they wanted to do was rush, rush, rush.”
A colleague was so alarmed by the prop gun misfires that he sent a text message to the unit production manager. “We’ve now had 3 accidental discharges. This is super unsafe,” according to a copy of the message reviewed by The Times.
Three accidental discharges before the fateful encounter between Baldwin and Hutchins. In fact, from what the Times hears, it’s not even clear that Baldwin pulled the trigger when Hutchins was shot. The paper describes the incident this way: “Baldwin removed the gun from its holster once without incident, but the second time he did so, ammunition flew toward the trio around the monitor.”
Did the scene simply call for him to pull his gun and point it, without firing, only to have the weapon discharge accidentally? A source with knowledge of the previous misfires on the set told Deadline, “They just fired loud pops – a person was just holding it in their hands and it went off.” It’s not clear if he’s describing what happened with Baldwin’s stunt double — presumably so — but if it’s true that the gun went off when someone was “just holding it” then the weapon was malfunctioning.
Is that the same weapon Baldwin was using when he shot Hutchins? If so, why was a defective gun still in use?
The detail about the stunt double being told the gun was “cold” is important. Baldwin was also told the gun was “cold” by the assistant director moments before he shot Hutchins according to a search-warrant affidavit. That means not only was there at least one faulty weapon on the set but weapons were twice falsely described as being unloaded when in reality there was some sort of ammunition in them.
That illustrates a point made yesterday by gun experts, that the only way you end up with someone being shot on a film set is if there are multiple safety failures. One expert who’s worked on films told the Deseret News that he once shut down an entire set because a crew member brought live rounds in for a scene in which an actor simply had to pick up those rounds off the ground. Just the presence of real ammo was too great a risk.
What the hell happened on Alec Baldwin’s set, then?
Suspicion has begun to focus on Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the “armorer” for production. (The armorer is the prop master in charge of weapons.) Gutierrez-Reed is all of 24 years old and was working on just her second film. Asked about her first film on a podcast recorded last month, she reportedly replied, “I almost didn’t take the job because I wasn’t sure if I was ready.” According to the Daily Mail, she also said on the podcast that she was initially scared to load blanks into guns because she didn’t know how to do it until she sought help from her father, a well-known gun expert. It was Gutierrez-Reed who reportedly placed Baldwin’s gun on the cart from which it was eventually taken by the assistant director, who handed it to the actor with the assurance that it was “cold” before he shot Hutchins.
Deadline reports that “[e]ven before Rust went into production, a number of armorers turned down the gig citing concerns about the budget of the film and the sheer amount of firearms to be utilized, we hear.” Did the producers opt for Gutierrez-Reed because they were strapped for expertise and on a tight budget and figured that a newbie would come cheap?
Even if they did, the blame might not lie entirely with her:
The prop master who handled the gun that killed the cinematographer on Alec Baldwin’s film “Rust” was “just brought in” amid a protest over conditions on the set, The Post has learned.
The unidentified employee was hired to replace someone else amid chaos on the set, according to a source involved with the movie.
It’s not clear if Gutierrez-Reed is the unknown prop master described here who was brought in belatedly as a replacement or if the excerpt is describing someone else. The Daily Mail notes, though, that “a link in her Instagram bio points to an article about Rust from May, suggesting she had been attached to the production for some time.” And the 911 call from the film’s script supervisor after Hutchins was shot has the supervisor blaming an unknown man for the mishap with the gun, not Gutierrez-Reed. A quote from the Post:
“OK, this f- -king [bleep] that yelled at me at lunch asking about revisions, this motherf- -ker,” she says, apparently to someone nearby.
“Did you see him lean over my desk and yell at me? He’s supposed to check the guns. He’s responsible for what happened.”
Was she referring to Baldwin? The assistant director? Or to a still-unknown prop master who was responsible for overseeing all props, including the guns supervised by Gutierrez-Reed? Was that prop master a mid-shoot replacement, as the Post claims?
If so, maybe he got the job because he was underqualified and willing to work for less.
In addition to the mystery of who was ultimately responsible for Baldwin’s gun, there are two other mysteries yet to be solved. First, what kind of ammo was in the gun? The taboo against bringing live rounds onto a set points to this having been a mishap involving blanks. Maybe something, like a spent casing, was lodged in the barrel and then the next firing of the gun propelled that casing towards Hutchins. But is it possible in that scenario for the casing to leave the barrel with such force that it would pass entirely through one person and hit another, as happened with Hutchins and director Joel Souza?
The Daily Mail has heard a “rumor” that “Hutchins sustained a gruesome wound from the shooting, raising the possibility that a real bullet was used.” How would a real bullet end up in a prop gun, though? Even the most amateur armorers presumably would be able to tell real ammo from blanks.
The other mystery is why Baldwin pointed a gun at Hutchins, even a gun he had good reason to believe wasn’t loaded. “Loaded or unloaded, a weapon never gets pointed at another human being,” said one Hollywood weapons expert to the Post. The fact that weapons on the set had already fired accidentally would have been all the more reason for Hutchins and Souza not to be positioned anywhere close to the line of fire, yet here we are. Everything that could have possibly gone wrong to end up with a person being fatally shot somehow did. The mind reels at the magnitude of the lawsuits that are coming.