Producers announced this week that Alec Baldwin will be returning as the lead in the ongoing production of the Western Rust, which was put on hold following a tragic accident in October 2021. But how exactly did we get here? It’s a long and complex story, but here are some of the key points.
The Rust accident occurred on 21 October 2021, when, during rehearsals for a scene, the gun Baldwin was holding misfired, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.
A report from the New Mexico Environment Department’s Occupational Health & Safety Bureau later found there had been a series of problems with gun safety on set. The film had just one contracted armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, and the wider attitude to gun safety was described as “very fast and loose,” with 2 accidental weapons discharges and 1 accidental SFX explosive having already occurred prior to the fatal shooting.
At this point, Baldwin and his representatives were still maintaining that the actor never pulled the trigger. However, an investigation from the FBI in the Autumn of 2022 found this could not have been the case, though the medical examiner acknowledged the whole affair was indeed a tragic accident.
Not long afterwards, however, a settlement was reached between Hutchins’ widower and the Rust producers, including Baldwin, and the film’s production seemed to be cleared to move ahead. That was, until a month ago, when Santa Fe’s District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies announced both Alec Baldwin and Hannah Gutierrez-Reed would be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter.
If found guilty, Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed could face a $5000 fine, along with up to 18 months in prison.
So, what’s happening now? Well, producers last week were ‘confident’ in completing the troubled production, and now reports are suggesting Baldwin will be back to star, legal proceedings notwithstanding. The scene being rehearsed at the time of the incident has been re-written, and the set will no-longer involve arms or live ammunition of any kind.
Meanwhile, Ms Hutchins’ widower Matthew has approved a documentary on her life and work, “including the completion of the film [Rust].”
Both projects currently seem to be moving full-speed ahead, though that may change following a preliminary hearing on 24 February.