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'Rust' producers wrap set for shooting investigation, calling it a 'pause'

Meg James, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Producers of Alec Baldwin's "Rust" have announced that they are going to "pause" the film production as law enforcement investigates the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

"As we go through this crisis, we have made the decision to wrap the set at least until the investigations are complete," the producers said in an email to crew members Sunday night.

"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 spirit that brought us all to this special place remains," the producers said.

Production already had been halted on the set at Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe since Thursday afternoon, when Baldwin, an actor and producer of the film, accidentally shot Hutchins with a prop gun while rehearsing a shoot-out scene in a wooden church. The production was on the 12th day of a 21-day film shoot.

The Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office, the New Mexico Occupational Health & Safety Bureau and the production firm are investigating.

Hutchins was shot once in the chest. She was pronounced dead after being airlifted to a hospital in Albuquerque, about 50 miles away. Director Joel Souza was also injured, but he has been treated and released.

The Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office, in a search warrant released Sunday night, said it would seize "all computer hardware equipment," including firearms, firearm components, used or unused ammunition ("whether it be live ammunition or prop ammunition"), plus all cameras and film or memory cards. The Sheriff's Office said it had taken blood, saliva and skin and hair samples but did not disclose whose samples it was testing.

"Our hearts are with all of you, as we all go through this tragic time and mourn the loss of our colleague and dear friend, Halyna Hutchins," the producers said in their email. "We are family and we must stand beside each other as families do in difficult times."

There were tensions on the set Thursday. Half a dozen camera operators and their assistants walked off the set in protest of working conditions. A camera operator had complained, in a text message, about accidental gun discharges just days before the fatal shooting.

 

The person in charge of the weaponry, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, 24, had served as head armorer on only one other film before "Rust," which began filming Oct. 6. According to court documents Gutierrez-Reed had brought three weapons to the set on a rolling cart.

"Rust" crew members who spoke with The Times also said they don't understand how the film's assistant director, Dave Halls, could have handed a gun with a "live round" to Baldwin without first checking it for safety.

In their email Sunday, the producers said, "We remain in close touch with Halyna's family and commend the strength they show in the face of unspeakable tragedy. It is beyond an inspiration."

In addition to Baldwin, executive producers include Allen Cheney, Chris M.B. Sharp, Jennifer Lamb and Emily Salveson, according to the film's call sheet.

"We want you to know that we continue to cooperate with the Sante Fe County Sheriff's Department as they conduct their investigation," the producers said. "We commend them for their diligence. Further, as you may know, we are conducting an internal review of safety protocols. As with any ongoing investigation, we are limited in our ability to say anything further publicly or privately, and ask for your patience in that regards."

Crew members were told they could pick up their personal items Monday morning.

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