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'Rust': Alec Baldwin's Western That Led To Tragic On-Set Death is Actually About an Accidental Killing

'Someone put a live bullet in a gun, a bullet that wasn't even supposed to be on the property'

In a tragic turn of events in October 2021, Alec Baldwin discharged a prop firearm on the set of the upcoming Western film "Rust," resulting in the untimely death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza.

"Someone put a live bullet in a gun, a bullet that wasn't even supposed to be on the property," Baldwin said in a television interview with ABC News. "Someone is ?responsible for what happened, and I can't say who that is, but I know it's not me."

According to The New York Times, the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department revealed in an affidavit that an assistant director picked up one of three prop guns arranged by the armorer. He handed it to Baldwin, declaring, "Cold gun!" — a term in the film industry signaling a firearm without live ammunition. The affidavit noted that the assistant director was unaware of live rounds in the gun.

The incident unfolded mere hours after a significant portion of the crew had abandoned the set. Their departure was a protest against what they deemed unsafe working conditions, the Los Angeles Times reported. A source confided to the Times that these crew members, affiliated with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, were swiftly replaced by nonunion workers. Eyewitnesses further disclosed to the Times a chilling precursor: Baldwin's stunt double had inadvertently fired off two rounds from a gun he, too, believed was "cold."

"There should have been an investigation into what happened," a crewmember said. "There were no safety meetings. There was no assurance that it wouldn't happen again. All they wanted to do was rush, rush, rush."

Here's everything we know about "Rust" and what's going on behind the scenes.

Does Baldwin Face Any Jail Time?

(Photo by Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images for National Geographic)

On Jan. 19, 2024, Baldwin was indicted by a New Mexico grand jury. He faces charges of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the shooting, according to The New York Times.

Baldwin initially faced the same charge a year earlier, only for it to be retracted. But the legal tides have turned once again, as he now confronts charges of either involuntary manslaughter (negligent use of a firearm) or, alternatively, involuntary manslaughter (without due caution or circumspection). Which involuntary manslaughter charge he faces is currently pending.

Under the renewed charge, Baldwin could face up to 18 months in prison under New Mexico law.

In the wake of Friday's indictment, Baldwin's lawyers — Alex Spiro and Luke Nikas from Quinn Emanuel — expressed a determined stance. "We look forward to our day in court," they said in a statement.

Throughout the legal maelstrom, Baldwin has steadfastly asserted his innocence in the accidental death of Hutchins. He's held firm to his claim that he was assured the gun was free of live rounds and that live ammunition was not permitted on the set. Additionally, Baldwin has contended that he never pulled the trigger during the incident. However, a forensics report commissioned by the prosecution asserts that the trigger had to have been pulled for the gun to fire.

Baldwin, who was also a producer of the film, told ABC that any complaints of unsafe working conditions were never brought to his attention. Baldwin said that the day before the crew members quit, a camera assistant alerted him to issues with hotel rooms for the crew but made no mention of safety issues.

SAG-AFTRA Comes to Baldwin's Defense

(Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for 2022 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Gala)

The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), an American labor union for members of the entertainment industry, has recently come to Baldwin's defense. SAG-AFTRA argues that it is not the responsibility of an actor to be a weapons expert.

"To the extent that the charges filed on January 19 are based on an accusation of negligent use of a firearm predicated on this or any actor having a duty to inspect a firearm as part of its use, that is an incorrect assessment of the actual duties of an actor on set," the statement read (via The Wrap). "An actor's job is not to be a firearms or weapons expert. Firearms are provided for use on set under the guidance of multiple expert professionals directly responsible for the safe and accurate operation of that firearm."

Remembering the Life of Halyna Hutchins

(Photo by Fred Hayes/Getty Images for SAGindie)

Hutchins, whose life was tragically cut short, is being celebrated posthumously as not just a gifted artist but also a true team player. Her artistry shone through in her work on films including the action-packed "Archenemy," "Blindfire" and "The Mad Hatter." She was 42.

Back in 2019, when Hutchins was spotlighted as one of the American Society of Cinematographers' (ASC) Rising Stars, she shared her insights with American Cinematographer magazine. "You need to develop your own vision, but the key to a successful film is communication with your director and your team," she said (via NPR).

Joe Manganiello, who worked alongside Hutchins in "Archenemy," took to Instagram to pay tribute to her exceptional talent. "She had such an eye and a visual style, she was the kind of cinematographer that you wanted to see succeed because you wanted to see what she could pull off next," he wrote. "She was a fantastic person. There was no amount of pressure she couldn't handle. She was a great collaborator and an ally to anyone in front of her camera. "

Her work can be seen in the first-look photos released for the film.

What is 'Rust' About?

Halyna Hutchins/The Avenue

Set in 1880s Kansas, "Rust" follows a 13-year-old boy who accidentally kills a local rancher, thrusting him into a life on the lam with his estranged grandfather, the notorious and aging outlaw Harland Rust (Baldwin). Joining Baldwin are Patrick Scott McDermott, Travis Fimmel, Frances Fisher and Josh Hopkins.

After halting in the wake of the tragic on-set incident, the cameras were slated to roll again in January 2023, over a year following Hutchins' death. However, that same month, Baldwin found himself charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter, casting a shadow of uncertainty over his continued role in the film. But on April 20, the charges against Baldwin were dropped, clearing the path for "Rust" to pick up where it left off. Resuming on that very day, the production wrapped up the following month. A premiere date has not been announced.

The charges against Baldwin were renewed in January 2024.

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