‘Rust’ Producer Denies Responsibility in Tragic On-Set Shooting

by Suzanne Halliburton

The production company for the movie Rust told a New Mexico state safety agency that it isn’t responsible for the death of a cinematographer and injuries to the film’s director.

It’s been nearly a year since Rust star Alex Baldwin accidentally shot and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza. During a rehearsal, Baldwin fired a prop gun. The gun wasn’t supposed to be loaded with live rounds. Baldwin also was one of the movie’s producers.

Rust Movie Productions contended Tuesday that it couldn’t be responsible for the accident. The company said it employed no one on the movie. Rather, the workers were independent contractors. The company said it relied on armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed for gun safety issues.

State Agency Fined Rust Production Company $137,000

In filings, the company said that Gutierrez-Reed was “singularly responsible for all tasks associated with the use of firearms and ammunition,” The company said that it prohibited live ammunition. And the company also said that only blanks could be used, if called for by the script.

Back in April, the New Mexico Environment Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau fined the company $136,793, the maximum allowed by state law. The agency said that the production company showed “plain indifference” for the safety of the cast and crew. It also ruled that the production company failed to train the crew on how to handle firearms on a movie set.

Alec Baldwin thought the gun was loaded with blanks when he pulled the trigger.. (Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights)

Agency Contended Production Company Failed to Keep Cast, Crew Safe

The agency criticized the production company even more. It said that the company routinely didn’t practice their own safety protocols. The agency also contended that the production company failed to ensure the safety of the cast and crew. In addition, the agency said that the production company also disregarded, with no follow up, when employees let them know that there were some misfire incidents on set. The agency said the employees also told the production company they did not feel safe.

The Rust production company appealed the fine. It’s answer on Tuesday said that the company responsibilities involved only movie financing and contracting others to make the movie.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez-Reed said in court documents that she loaded a revolver for Baldwin. She said she believed the bullets were not live rounds. And she said she handed the gun to assistant director Dave Halls. Legally, she said she no longer was responsible for the gun once she handed it to the assistant director.

The Santa Fe County district attorney’s office will decide whether to file criminal charges by next month. You can read more details here from the Hollywood Reporter.