Back in October 2021, when the movie Rust was in production in New Mexico, this project made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Namely, when lead actor Alec Baldwin was handed a gun by the assistant director and told that it was “cold” (in other words, the gun was safe to use), Baldwin pulled the trigger. And horrifically, it turned out that the firearm he was holding was not a cold gun but rather a loaded weapon. The end result: cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was shot dead and director Joel Souza was wounded.
After a prolonged investigation, it was announced last week that Baldwin and the head armourer on the set, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, were charged with involuntary manslaughter.
But still, the question arises: how did this grotesque event occur in the first place?
So it is that we reached out to Craig, an Oakville, Ont.-based firearms and explosives expert to weigh in on what likely went wrong on the set. It should be noted that Craig has worked on the sets of almost 100 movies and more than 150 TV episodes in which he was responsible for the firearms and explosives used on the set. And over the years Craig has witnessed firsthand situations that could’ve ended tragically due to crew members not subscribing to the mantra of “safety first.”
In summary, Craig does not believe Baldwin should’ve been charged. His rationale:
1. When it comes to live rounds on set: It is NOT the role of the producer to micro-manage every department. This was clearly the responsibility of the gun handler, not the actor. Craig notes that not once in 30 years of working on sets has he witnessed a producer checking every detail with every department. “That is why professionals are hired,” he says.
2. Some condemn Baldwin for not checking the gun, but Craig notes that no actor has the skill to check the status of a firearm on set. Says he: “How could they possibly know how to check every gun that is used in a movie? Should actors be able to check .30 caliber machine guns? Every semi-auto handgun used on set? In one picture I worked there were 30 firearms on the set: how would it be possible for the actor or producer to check every gun for every scene? This is just nonsense. And it shows the prosecutors don't have a clue about making movies.”
3. Craig contends that if an actor was charged every time a gun was used in a scene to point at another actor then “every actor would be in jail. And there would be no John Wick movies, no Jason Bourne movies.”
Bottom line: Craig notes that as much as he dislikes Baldwin personally, “I can say that from my experience the charges are ridiculous. The gun handler is definitely guilty, however.”