Alec Baldwin’s Rust ‘an accident waiting to happen’, says prop master who turned down film

He said the film managers appeared more concerned with cutting costs than ensuring the crew’s safety

Maanya Sachdeva
Tuesday 26 October 2021 07:12
Prop gun that Alec Baldwin discharged had misfired earlier

Prop master Neal W Zoromski said he was offered the Alec Baldwin film Rust but turned it down because it was “an accident waiting to happen”.

Zoromski, who has worked in Hollywood for 30 years, told the The Los Angeles Times he was approached by production managers to work as a prop master on Rust, the film where actor Baldwin on Thursday (21 October) shot two crew members with a prop gun, killing one.

The role included responsibilities for all the set props — including firearms, wagons and flour sacks — to transform the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico into Kansas in the 1880s.

However, after four days of internal discussions, Zoromski, whose previous film credits included Thank You For Smoking and The Day After Tomorrow, said he got a “bad feeling”.

Based on his conversations, Zoromski explained, it seemed like there was a greater focus on saving money, even at the cost of compromising set safety protocols. Additionally, he said his questions were dismissed by the film’s managers.

Despite the initial interest in working on Rust, Zoromski decided he couldn’t ignore the “massive red flags” and turned down the opportunity.

He told the publication: “After I pressed ‘send’ on that last email, I felt, in the pit of my stomach: ‘That is an accident waiting to happen.’”

In a statement to Deadline, the Rust production said: “The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company.”

The production team said it had not been “made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set” but that “an internal review of our procedures” would be conduction while production is halted.

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On 21 October, Baldwin misfired a prop gun on the sets of Rust in a tragic incident that led to 42-year-old cinematographer Halyna Hutchins’s death. The film’s director Joel Souza was also injured in the shooting and rushed to a nearby hospital. He was discharged the following day.

According to court documents filed by the Santa Fe Sheriff’s department on Sunday (24 October), the film’s assistant director Dave Halls handed Baldwin the “cold gun”, indicating it was safe for use.

Explaining how the shooting had occurred, the director of Crown Vic said that Baldwin had been sitting in a wooden church pew, rehearsing a scene that involved “cross drawing” a gun and pointing it at the camera lens.

Souza said he heard what “sounded like a whip and then a loud pop” and saw Hutchins stumble backwards while clutching her midriff. Souza was standing behind the cinematographer and was wounded by the bullet that went through Hutchins and hit his right shoulder.

A cameraman who was working when the shooting occurred also told authorities that six crew members had walked off set that day. They were reportedly having problems with the production over housing and payment.

He added that they had outlined these concerns in a letter to Rust production managers and that Baldwin was “very careful” of his surroundings when rehearsing or shooting with firearms, citing an instance when the 63-year-old actor ensured that no children were present when he discharged a gun.

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