In a controversial move, Alec Baldwin's movie "Rust" is resuming a year after production was shut down in New Mexico due to the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who was shot with a prop gun. The New York Post has described the film as “doomed,” but such descriptions aren’t stopping these filmmakers.
Melina Spadone, attorney for Rust Movie Productions LLC, says the idea is to submit the movie for cinematography awards so Hutchins can be a posthumous winner.
Ed Pinkard, a horse wrangler working on the movie, says he's glad to see the movie resume production. “I’d like to see ’em finish," he told us, "because I feel Halyna would want that. It might bring a sense of closure. I mean, it's obviously bad to shoot somebody in the face, but if you give 'em an award it makes it a little better.”
Director Joel Souza justified the continuation of his movie by saying the show must go on. “Obviously it’s bad when somebody dies but you can’t let that stop you. So many great movies where somebody died on the set. But the greatness of the film lingers on. Twilight Zone: The Movie, The Crow. Expendables 2, Vampire in Brooklyn, Gone Fishin’. The greatness of the films is what you remember but you also remember the great people who died. So you are remembering a lot of greatness.”
Souza leaves to prepare the next shot. Some time later, an assistant director comes out and announces, “Okay, people, we’re ready to shoot.” This sends actors and crew members scurrying for cover. They hide behind beer barrels, they hide behind wagons. It takes some coaxing to get them to come out. “Come on people,” the AD says, “I was only speaking figuratively.”
It took some extra financing to get the money going, and much of that came in the form of ammunition donated by the NRA (National Rifle Association). NRA president Carolyn D. Meadows commented, “Movies today are full of senseless violence and random gunplay, and we at the NRA are always glad to encourage it. And we’re pleased to help ‘Rust’ finish completion by supplying the company with all the free guns they can handle.” Therefore, the new movie is blessed with an elaborate array of weapons, whether they are appropriate to the time period or not.
Some blamed Hutchins’ death on Hannah Gutierrez Reed, the film’s official armorer, whose slipshop recklessness led to a live gun being substituted for a harmless prop gun. But Reed is back, and so is a lot of ammunition. We try to get a full interview with the lively, blonde Reed, but she’s busy running around, shouting at assistants while toting assault rifles in her arms. “Making movies is so much fun. They’re giving me a huge arms budget, and so I have all kinds of opportunities to play with guns and ammo. I’m hosting a little war game right now. Basically, it involves me and my assistants shooting at each other. Whoever gets shot the least is the winner.”
Reed at least offers us one candid moment during which she offers her condolences for the Hutchins incident. “I really don’t know what happened,” she says. “The whole thing is one big blur of rifle tests and turkey shoots. Somehow, in the middle of all these games and shooting matches, some live ammo slipped through.”
“Sorry I don’t have more time,” she says, before offering, “Here, fellas, have a free gift,” tossing a grenade in our general direction. This causes us to scatter and flee, but she assures us, “Don’t worry, fellas, they’re not live.” Somewhat relieved, we walk back to the set.
But the big star of the shoot is Alec Baldwin, who is here both as actor and producer. Baldwin takes a sip of sherry as he contemplates the shoot. “I see no reason not to continue,” he says. “Some might consider it unwholesome to continue. Diabolical, even, Satanic. Which reminds me. My NPR radio show, Live at the New York Philiharmonic, will be featuring The Mephisto Waltz by Franz Liszt, in two weeks. As far as educating the children of America to the merits of classical music, no greater musical tool can be found. But back to the subject at hand, which is the subject of cinema. I feel that Rust will be one of my greatest cinematic works, right up on the mountains of Parnassus with Beetlejuice and all the other greats. Perhaps, as producer, I should feel a tinge of guilt. But I don’t.”
And so, the shooting continues. Hopefully, this time, it will only happen on the screen.