Notorious anti-gun Twitter advocate and occasional actor Alec Baldwin was given a real gun to handle on set, one that was supposed to be loaded with blanks, and now one woman is dead and a man injured — how could this have happened?
First, despite reports that Baldwin was using a “prop gun,” that’s dangerously inexact. He was using a real gun being used as a prop, as is often the case in moviemaking.
Somehow a genuine round was loaded into the genuine firearm.
In the email that IATSE [International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees] Local 44 sent to its membership, Secretary-Treasurer Anthony Pawluc described the event as an “an accidental weapons discharge” in which “A live single round was accidentally fired on set by the principal actor, hitting both the Director of Photography, Local 600 member Halnya Hutchins, and Director Joel Souza … Local 44 has confirmed that the Props, Set Decoration, Special Effects and Construction Departments were staffed by New Mexico crew members.
A “blank” is a semi-real round. It contains powder for realistic noise and flash, but no bullet (or shot pellets for shotgun blanks).
Still, a blank round can be dangerous at point-blank range because of the wadding used to hold the powder in place.
While shooting a short-lived TV series called Cover Up in 1984, 26-year-old actor Jon-Erik Hexum as a “joke” pretended to commit suicide by firing a blank round into his own temple. He died for real days later after being pronounced brain dead.
Here’s what we don’t know yet about what happened on the set of Rust, and it could make all the difference in whether or not Baldwin faces criminal charges or a civil suit from the family of the deceased: Why was Baldwin firing that pistol at that moment?
If you’re pointing a weapon at anyone on set without permission from the armorer, director & 1st AD, then you should be reprimanded for the first offense, fired for the second.
If you do so and harm/kill someone, you should be be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
— Adam Baldwin (@AdamBaldwin) October 22, 2021
Note: That’s Hollywood conservative ADAM Baldwin’s tweet, not Alec’s.
If a scene was being shot or rehearsed and Baldwin was doing what he was supposed to be doing, then it would seem this was a tragic mistake. A two-part mistake to be sure, however.
The first mistake was whatever prop master accidentally loaded a live round. The second mistake was one of those deadly sins-of-omission: How could Baldwin or any actor, not check their own not-prop gun to make sure it was loaded correctly.
Those of with military, police, or just range experience know you always check your load before firing if you didn’t just load it yourself. Or maybe Hollywood has some stupid rule that actors aren’t allowed to check for themselves.
In any case, a similar mistake killed 28-year-old Brandon Lee (son of Bruce) on the set of The Crow in 1993.
But what if Baldwin wasn’t shooting or rehearsing a scene? What if he was goofing around, pointing and firing a pistol he hadn’t first checked? That’s the kind of recklessly deadly behavior that ought to get a person put in front of a jury — assuming Hollywood fame couldn’t shield them from justice.
Again: We don’t know what happened on that set Thursday.
It will be telling over the next few hours or days what we see happen next, whether the Hollywood people involved circle the wagons, or there’s an honest investigation.
Baldwin has already been taken in and released, so maybe there’s no there-there for the star of Hunt for Red October and 30 Rock.
For his part, Baldwin tweeted earlier today:
There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours. I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred and I am in touch with her husband, offering my support to him and his family. My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna.
All that can be said at this early hour in the process is that a propmaster made a terrible mistake, and that Hollywood needs much better on-set rules for firearms handling — and much better training for the know-it-all actors who handle them.