Baldwin film crew shot at beer cans with live rounds on morning of killing

Crew members on the set of the film Rust used guns with live ammunition for target practice the morning Alec Baldwin accidentally shot dead a cinematographer, it has been reported, as it emerged spent casings were later discovered by detectives.

he crew would regularly take guns off the set at Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, New Mexico, to shoot at beer cans nearby in a pastime known as “plinking”, CNN and The Wrap website reported.

One of the guns used was later handed to Baldwin, who fired the shot that killed Halyna Hutchins (42) and injured director Joel Souza.

The star believed he was handed a “cold gun”, meaning it did not contain any live bullets.

“There’s this pastime that crew members sometimes do, it’s called ‘plinking’, and they go out into the rural areas and they shoot at beer cans,” Sharon Waxman, founder and CEO of The Wrap, told CNN.

“This is with live ammunition. We learned that this happened the morning of the day that Halyna Hutchins was killed.”

Ms Waxman said the activity is common when there is downtime during a shoot.

Rust Movie Productions said in a statement: “The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company.

“Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down.”

It came as it emerged three revolvers, spent casings and ammunition – in boxes, loose and in a small bag – were found on the set after the shooting.

An inventory, filed in Santa Fe County Magistrate Court, of what was discovered on the set did not specify what kind of ammunition was seized and whether it included regular bullets, blank cartridges or dummies. Live bullets are generally forbidden on film sets.

Mike Tristano, a veteran professional armourer based in Los Angeles, told the New York Times the loose ammunition and casings raise “questions about the organisation of the armoury department”.

Director of photography Halyna Hutchins (42) was shot and killed by actor Alec Baldwin (63) in an accident with a prop gun while filming his new movie Rust.

It was also reported that a prop master with 30 years’ experience revealed he was in talks to join the film, but decided not to because he was not given the team he needed to do the job safely

“There were massive red flags,” Neal Zoromski, whose prop credits include Day After Tomorrow and Thank You for Smoking, told the LA Times.

What concerned Mr Zoromski the most was his request for five technicians in the department, a figure he revised to two due to Rust’s low budget. But producers wanted one person to serve as both assistant prop master and armourer.

“You never have a prop assistant double as the armourer,” he said. “Those are two really big jobs.”

Serge Svetnoy, the film’s head electrician, described the moment he held Ms Hutchins as she lay dying, after she was struck during rehearsals as Baldwin practised drawing the weapon in a church pew.

Writing in a Facebook post, Mr Svetnoy said: “The negligence from the person who was supposed to check the weapon on the site did not do this; the person who had to announce that the loaded gun was on the site did not do this.

“To save a dime sometimes, you hire people who are not fully qualified for the complicated and dangerous job and you risk the lives of the other people who are close and your lives as well.”

The gun Baldwin used was one of three that a firearms specialist, or “armourer”, had set on a cart outside the building where a scene was being rehearsed, according to court records.

Assistant director Dave Halls grabbed a gun off a cart and handed it to Baldwin, indicating that the weapon was safe by yelling “cold gun”, court papers say. But it was loaded with live rounds, according to the records.

A prop maker and licensed pyrotechnician who worked with Mr Halls, the assistant director, on another production said she had previously raised safety concerns about him.

Maggie Goll said in a statement that she filed an internal complaint with the executive producers of Hulu’s Into the Dark series in 2019 over concerns about Mr Halls’s behaviour on set.

Ms Goll said Ms Halls disregarded safety protocols for weapons and pyrotechnics and tried to continue filming after the supervising pyrotechnician lost consciousness on set.

Mr Halls did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]

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