LOS ANGELES – As questions linger about safety protocols on the movie set where Alec Baldwin killed a cinematographer with a prop gun he’d been told was safe, Hollywood professionals say they’re baffled by the circumstances and production crews have quickly 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 news broke 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.”
The shooting on the set of the film “Rust” killed 42-year-old Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza, who was standing behind her.
The gun Baldwin used was one of three that a firearms specialist, or “armorer,” had set on a cart outside the building where a scene was being rehearsed, according to court records. Assistant director Dave Halls grabbed a gun off a cart and handed it to Baldwin, indicating that the weapon was safe by yelling “cold gun,” court papers say. But it was loaded with live rounds, according to the records.
Baldwin, 63, 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.”
“The Umbrella Academy” actor Justin Min, also at the Newport festival, said “it’s been a very somber time" in recent days on set as he’s been filming the indie thriller “Detained.”
“After that — I mean we have obviously already been careful, but it’s just another level of precaution,” Min said.
A prop maker and licensed pyrotechnician who worked with Halls, the assistant director, on another production said she had raised safety concerns about him in the past.
Maggie Goll 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' behavior 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. Rust Movie Productions has not answered repeated emails 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 wellbeing are top issues in ongoing 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.”
A vigil for Hutchins was held Sunday in Southern California, where attendees exchanged tearful hugs and speakers echoed calls for heightened safety standards.
Actor Rosanna Arquette joined many in Hollywood in calling for a move away from using real weapons, whether armed with blanks or bullets.
“I hope this wakes people up. Because there should be no live round anything ever on a movie. We have enough CGI, we have enough — it’s absurd,” she said. “All of us are shaken to the core in the industry about this.”
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 a producer on “Rust,” met with Hutchins' husband and 9-year-old son Saturday at a hotel in Santa Fe where the actor had been staying during filming. Baldwin and Hutchins' husband can be seen embracing in a photo published by the New York Post.
Flaccus reported from Portland, Oregon. Michelle Eaton in Newport Beach, California, contributed to this report.