Thursday, October 21 was already off to a bad start on the set of “Rust” when a walk-off by the camera crew left the producers scrambling for replacements during a pivotal scene.
But the day quickly turned into a nightmare: by sundown, the film’s cinematographer was dead, the director injured and star actor Alec Baldwin distraught over having accidentally shot them both.
A picture of the day Halyna Hutchins died is starting to emerge through affidavits supplied by the Santa Fe sheriff’s department.
The workday began at 6:30 am at the Bonanza Creek Ranch, a several-thousand-acre property in the foothills of northern New Mexico and a favorite destination for producers of western movies.
Things quickly began to unravel when a six-person camera crew, angry over disputes about payment and accommodation during the three-week shoot, put down their gear and walked off set, leaving production bosses the task of sourcing replacement staff.
Director Joel Souza told investigators that even after a new crew had been found, they only had one camera to work with, so scenes were taking longer than they should.
In the late morning, Souza was preparing a scene in which Baldwin, sitting on a wooden church pew, draws a gun across his body and aims it at the camera, the affidavits say.
Souza worked with Hutchins to frame the shot to make it look like Baldwin was pointing the gun at the viewer.
Baldwin’s gun in the scene was one of three that had been placed on the props cart by armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, a 24-year-old who only had one previous movie to her name.
It was taken from the cart by assistant director Dave Halls.
Souza recalled the phrase “cold gun” being shouted as the weapon was introduced on set. The expression is industry lingo for an inert firearm.
‘A loud pop’
At 12:30 pm, the crew broke for lunch in an area away from the set.
When they returned, Souza said, he was not sure if the weapon had been checked again.
Cameraman Reid Russell came back to the set to find Baldwin, Souza and Hutchins setting up the scene, trying to get around the problem of a shadow being caused by the outside light.
Baldwin sat on the pew, as Hutchins checked how the scene would look from the viewer’s perspective. Souza hovered over her shoulder.
As Baldwin explained how he would draw the weapon and where his arm would be, the gun went off, Russell said.
Souza described a sound “like a whip, then a loud pop.”
Hutchins stumbled backwards, clutching her midsection and complaining about her stomach.
Russell remembers her saying she could not feel her legs. He saw she was bleeding as she lay on the ground, as medics rushed to help her.
Souza recalls realizing that he was bleeding from his shoulder.
A 911 call to police immediately afterward conveyed the shock and anger felt on the set.
“We’ve had two people accidentally shot by a prop gun, we need help immediately,” the caller tells a police dispatcher.
Emergency responders rushed to the ranch, where they airlifted Hutchins to hospital.
She was declared dead a short time later.