A stunt double on the set of Rust reportedly fired two rounds of ammunition in an accident that was among a number of issues raised by crew members before actor Alec Baldwin fatally shot a cinematographer.
Crew members on the New Mexico film set were in fact so concerned about safety conditions that some had walked off just hours before the Thursday incident, according to a new in-depth report.
The Los Angeles Times, using its extensive network of Hollywood sources, spoke with several on-set witnesses to the production, a western called Rust filming on the Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe. Mr Baldwin was starring in and producing the film, while the woman he accidentally killed – Halyna Hutchins – was a 42-year-old director of photography.
Three sources told the Times that “camera operators and their assistants were frustrated by the conditions surrounding the low-budget film, including complaints about long hours, long communities and collecting their paychecks ... safety protocols standard in the industry, including gun inspections, were not strictly followed on the Rust set”.
The armourer on set – tasked with overseeing prop guns and other potentially dangerous items – was a 24-year-old former model and actress who had only served as head armourer previously on one movie, The Old Way, which wrapped not long before the Rust shoot.
Hannah Gutierrez Reed, the daughter of a respected Hollywood firearms expert, told a podcast last month that her interest in following her father’s footsteps had only piqued in recent years and, before taking on the head armourer role for The Old Way, she “was really nervous about it” and “almost didn’t take the job.”
Sources also told the Los Angeles Times that complaints had been made about gun safety before the incident, with crew members saying they were “particularly concerned about two accidental prop gun discharges” days before the fatal shooting.
According to their accounts, Mr Baldwin’s stunt double had been the one to fire the rounds on Saturday after being told the weapon hadn’t been loaded with live ammunition.
“There should have been an investigation into what happened,” a crew member told the Times. “There were no safety meetings. There was no assurance that it wouldn’t happen again. All they wanted to do was rush, rush, rush.”
The paper also viewed a copy of a message sent by one production member to a unit manager. It read: “We’ve now had three accidental discharges. This is super unsafe.”
On the day of the incident, crew members walked out in protest – and were replaced by non-union members, according to reports. Within hours, Ms Hutchins was dead and director Joel Souza injured after the round that killed the young mother passed through her and hit Mr Souza.
They were injured by a “projectile” that fired from the gun Mr Baldwin was using for a shoot-out scene. Everyone had been under the impression the gun was “cold”, or not loaded with live rounds or anything that could cause serious bodily harm.
On the day after the incident, Mr Baldwin released a statement saying he was “heartbroken” and “fully co-operating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred and I am in touch with her husband, offering my support to him and his family”.
Ms Hutchins, originally from Ukraine, lived near Los Angeles with her lawyer husband and their young son.
New Mexico authorities continue to investigate the shooting but no charges have yet been filed.
Meanwhile, gun advocates from both sides of the political spectrum were this weekend seeking to politicise Ms Hutchins’ death, which has already sparked furious debate about safety protocols on set.
Donald Trump Jr, son of the United States’ 45th president, sought to ridicule Mr Baldwin, an outspoken liberal, rather than address larger issues. Following the death of Ms Hutchins, he made multiple posts on Instagram alluding to the actor’s role in parodying former President Donald Trump and attacking Mr Baldwin’s personal character.
The ex president’s son – a father-of-five who, after separating from his wife, got together with now-high-profile Republican spokeswoman Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former newscaster – has been relentless in his treatment of the tragedy on social media.
On Saturday he reposted a message from former Marine Dakota Meyer, a Medal of Honor winner who had two children with Sarah Palin’s daughter, Bristol, before the relationship broke up.
The post features a distraught photo of Mr Baldwin from the New Mexico set and reads: “I wonder if he will play himself in the SNL skit ... This man has made a living make (sic) jokes at the expense of other people. The saddest part is that this woman’s life was taken by someone who will never be held accountable.”
A request for comment from the Trump Organization was not immediately returned.