The death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins has also been painted as Alec Baldwin’s tragedy.
Really, it’s not. In fact, Alec Baldwin is likely to be held, at least in part, responsible.
“If you’re capable of memorizing 120 pages of dialogue, you can memorize four lines of gun safety,” special-effects and firearms expert Steve Wolf tells The Post.
“If that scene required him to put the gun to his head and pull the trigger, I’m sure he would have taken a look inside the gun. Wouldn’t you?”
As a producer on “Rust,” Baldwin could be held culpable for the cost-cutting, chaos and eventual hire of a young head armorer with just one stint in said job on her résumé — because, according to Deadline, multiple other armorers turned it down over low pay and high stakes, with too many firearms to manage.
“They hired someone who was insufficiently experienced,” Wolf says. “If he’s the producer, the buck stops with him.”
And as a veteran actor who has starred in multiple films involving firearms — “The Departed” and two installments of “Mission: Impossible” come to mind — you would think Baldwin would be extra cautious wielding a gun on set.
“Don’t point guns at people,” is the most elemental rule on sets, Wolf says.
“Don’t point guns at anything you don’t want to put a hole in.”
Retired FBI Agent Bobby Chacon, who works as a writer and consultant in Hollywood, agrees.
If fact, Chacon goes over the four basic rules of guns on sets so often that his actors roll their eyes. He takes this as a sign to keep going, because they’ve heard it all before, they know the rules, and still they listen:
- Treat EVERY weapon as if it’s loaded, even if you’re told it isn’t.
- NEVER point a gun at anything you’re not willing to kill or destroy.
- Never put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to kill or destroy something.
- Know where your target is and what’s behind it (where possible).
It’s often the bean counters, Chacon tells The Post, who prefer saving money over safety.
On one major network cop show, the line producer — the person responsible for the budget — “would nickel-and-dime me to no end,” Chacon says.
“They were very penny-wise and pound-foolish. Sometimes [they] would try to save my paltry daily fee on days when [actors] were just going have their guns out as opposed to using them.”
Chacon says he was paid $500 a day for this show that cost, “no kidding, $1,041 per minute to shoot.” Each episode was an eight-day production, so if an actor, writer or director had a question for Chacon and he wasn’t there, the 10-minute delay to get Chacon on the phone cost 20 times his day rate.
And Chacon had an experience not unlike what happened on “Rust.”
“I dug my heels in [about being there] on a particular day because the script called for our team to have their guns out and make an arrest,” Chacon recalls
“The line producer literally said something like, ‘We’ll be fine. Our first AD [assistant director] has done a ton of cop shows, so he can show them how to do the arrest.’ I walked away at that point.”
On the day Hutchins was fatally shot on the Santa Fe, NM, set of “Rust,” assistant director David Halls, not the head armorer, handed Baldwin the firearm and yelled, “Cold gun!” — meaning the gun was supposed to be empty, no blanks, nothing.
As for how live ammunition found its way on set, Wolf is speechless.
“It’s against all movie-making protocols,” he says.
This tragedy is not just down to cost-cutting measures or crew fatigue. Wolf says movie sets can be so intimidating, staffed with young crew members who are star-struck or cowed by a demanding director or just thrilled to be working in the industry, that most would never speak up.
“Rust” was a hasty 21-day shoot. Multiple reports say the crew felt dangerous compromises were being made.
“An old wiseass like me would say, ‘I’m not going to compromise safety,’ ” Wolf says, “but most people won’t say that because of fear they’ll be fired.”
Yet on “Rust,” we know seven crew members walked off set the morning Hutchins was killed — and they walked over safety concerns. During production, someone rang the alarm to the unit production manager, texting, “We’ve now had 3 accidental discharges. This is super unsafe.”
Wolf tells The Post that the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office has reached out to him about helping its investigation.
“Everything I find will probably point to negligence,” Wolf says. “Gross negligence, possibly criminal negligence. The armorer didn’t have the experience to command a set. You have a gun, a bullet, someone aiming it, and someone firing it. So it was inevitable if you bring together those ingredients.”
The question isn’t how this could have happened to Halyna Hutchins. The question really is: How could it not?
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