Production of the movie that Alec Baldwin was making when he shot and killed a cinematographer last week has been officially halted, but producers of the Western described the move as “a pause rather than an end.”
In an email to crew members, the movie's production team confirmed that work on “Rust” has been suspended at least until the investigation is complete. The team said it is working with law enforcement and is conducting its own internal safety review. The production company is also offering grief counselling.
The sheriff's investigation continued Monday. The team said that it could not respond to comments made in news reports or on social media. The email suggested that production could resume at some point.
“Although our hearts are broken, and it is hard to see beyond the horizon, this is, at the moment, a pause rather than an end,” the email read.
Moments before the shooting, Baldwin was explaining how he was going to draw the revolver from his holster and where his arm would be positioned, court records show.
The actor had been told that the gun was safe to use for the rehearsal of a scene in which he was supposed to pull out the weapon while sitting in a church pew and point it at the camera, the records said.
Cameraman Reid Russell told a detective that he was unsure whether the weapon was checked before it was handed to Baldwin, and he did not know why the gun was fired.
The camera was not rolling when the gun went off and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, Russell told authorities, according a search warrant affidavit released Sunday.
Authorities said on Friday that the assistant director, Dave Halls, had handed the weapon to Baldwin and announced “cold gun,” indicating it was safe.
When asked about how Baldwin treated firearms on the set, Russell said the actor was safe, citing a previous instance when Baldwin made sure a child actor was not near him when a gun was being discharged.
The affidavit released Sunday also included statements by director Joel Souza, who was standing behind Hutchins and was wounded.
It detailed the moments before the shooting and showed that there was turmoil on the set the day of the shooting. Several members of the camera crew walked off the production in a dispute over payment and lodging, Russell said, and he was left with a lot of work to do. Only one camera was available to shoot, and it had to be moved because the light had shifted and there was a shadow.
Souza said he was focused on how the scene would appear on camera. He said he recalled hearing the phrase “cold gun” before the shooting, the affidavit said.
He said the scene did not call for the use of live rounds. After a lunch break, Souza said he was not sure if the firearm had been checked again. Souza was looking over Hutchins' shoulder when he heard the gunshot, according to the affidavit.
On Sunday, a crew member who worked with Halls on another project said she had raised safety concerns about him in 2019.
Maggie Goll, a prop maker and licensed pyrotechnician, said in a statement that she filed an internal complaint with the executive producers of Hulu’s “Into the Dark” series in 2019 over concerns about Halls’ behaviour on set. Goll said in a phone interview Sunday that Halls disregarded safety protocols for weapons and pyrotechnics and tried to continue filming after the supervising pyrotechnician lost consciousness on set.
Halls has not returned phone calls and email messages seeking comment.
The fatal shooting and previous experiences point to larger safety issues that need to be addressed, Goll said, adding that crew member safety and well-being were top issues in recent contract negotiations between a union that represents film and TV workers and a major producers’ group.
“This situation is not about Dave Halls. ... It’s in no way one person’s fault,” she said. “It’s a bigger conversation about safety on set and what we are trying to achieve with that culture.”
The film’s chief electrician, Serge Svetnoy, blamed producers for Hutchins’ death in an emotional Facebook post on Sunday. Svetnoy said he had worked with Hutchins on multiple films and faulted “negligence and unprofessionalism” among those handling weapons on the set. He said producers hired an inexperienced armorer.
Since the shooting, other production crews have stepped up safety measures.
Jeffrey Wright, who has worked on projects including the James Bond franchise and the upcoming movie “The Batman,” was acting with a weapon on the set of “Westworld” when he learned of the shooting Thursday at a New Mexico ranch.
“We were all pretty shocked. And it informed what we did from that moment on,” he said in an interview Sunday at the Newport Beach Film Festival.
“I don’t recall ever being handed a weapon that was not cleared in front of me — meaning chamber open, barrel shown to me, light flashed inside the barrel to make sure that it’s cleared,” Wright said. “Clearly that was a mismanaged set.”
Actor Ray Liotta agreed with Wright that the checks on firearms are usually extensive.
“They always — that I know of — they check it so you can see,” Liotta said. “They give it to the person you’re pointing the gun at. They do it to the producer. They show whoever is there that it doesn’t work.”
Baldwin, who is known for his roles in “30 Rock” and “The Hunt for Red October” and his impression of former President Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live,” has described the killing as a “tragic accident.”