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Script supervisor sues Alec Baldwin and others in ‘Rust’ shooting

  • >> Julia Jacobs and Graham Bowley, The New York Times
    Published: 2021-11-18 13:09:13 BdST

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Actor Alec Baldwin appears in court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, US, January 23, 2019. Alex Tabak/Pool via REUTERS

A script supervisor for the movie “Rust” recalled Wednesday how she had been watching actor Alec Baldwin practicing a move with a gun on the set in New Mexico last month, holding her script and checking photos on her iPhone to make sure that he was wearing the right shirt and vest, when she heard a loud blast.

“Then, an explosion,’’ the supervisor, Mamie Mitchell, recalled at a news conference in Los Angeles. “A deafening, loud gunshot. I was stunned. I heard someone moaning and I turned around and my director was falling backward and holding his upper body.”

Then, she said, she turned and saw the film’s cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, sink down to the ground. Law enforcement officials have said that Hutchins, 42, was shot and killed, and the film’s director, Joel Souza, 48, was wounded, when the gun that Baldwin had been practicing with, which he had been told did not contain any live ammunition, discharged, firing a real bullet that struck them both.

Mitchell, who said that she ran out of the wooden church set and used the phone in her hand to call 911, announced Wednesday that she had filed a lawsuit against the producers on the film, including Baldwin, and several members of its crew.

“Alec Baldwin intentionally, without just cause or excuse, cocked and fired the loaded gun even though the upcoming scene to be filmed did not call for the cocking and firing of a firearm,” the lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, said.

“The fact that live ammunition was allowed on a movie set, that guns and ammunition were left unattended, that the gun in question was handed to Mr Baldwin by the assistant director who had no business doing so, the fact that safety bulletins were not promulgated or ignored, coupled with the fact that the scene in question did not call for a gun to be fired at all, makes this a case where injury or death was much more than just a possibility — it was a likely result,” the lawsuit said.

A lawyer for Baldwin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit was announced at a news conference with Mitchell’s lawyer, Gloria Allred.

It claims assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and deliberate infliction of harm, and requested unspecified damages. It said Mitchell, who was standing less than 4 feet from Baldwin when the revolver discharged, “sustained serious physical trauma and shock and injury to her nervous system and person” and “will in the future be prevented from attending to her usual occupation as a script supervisor.”

The shooting took place Oct 21 on the set of the film on Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe County, New Mexico, as Baldwin prepared to film a close-up of him drawing a .45 revolver from a shoulder holster. According to Mitchell’s lawsuit, Baldwin failed to check the gun himself to see if it was loaded before handling it.

They were preparing for three tight camera shots, according to the lawsuit: one of Baldwin’s eyes, one of a blood stain on his shoulder, and one of his “torso as he reached his hand down to his holster and removed the gun.”

According to court papers filed by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department, the movie’s first assistant director, Dave Halls, had called out “cold gun” before handing the revolver to Baldwin, using a term indicating that the gun did not contain live ammunition. A lawyer for the movie’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, said that Gutierrez-Reed had loaded the revolver with what she believed to have been dummy rounds, which do not contain gunpowder and cannot be fired.

The lawsuit charges that Baldwin knew that it was typical protocol for an armorer or prop master to hand a gun to the actor after demonstrating that it is empty — not for the first assistant director to do so — and that Baldwin failed to follow those rules. It also charges that Gutierrez-Reed allowed guns and ammunition to be left unattended on the set that day. The lawsuit accuses the production of hiring Gutierrez-Reed, 24, who had just started out her career as a lead armorer in the film industry, as part of a series of “cost-cutting measures.”

Gutierrez-Reed’s lawyer, Jason Bowles, has said that his client noticed that day the gun was left unattended for several minutes after she had asked other crew members to watch the firearms and ammunition. Bowles has defended Gutierrez’s qualifications for the job, saying that she was dedicated to ensuring safety on set. Previously, lawyers for Gutierrez-Reed said that she had been hired to two positions on the film, “which made it extremely difficult to focus on her job as an armorer.”

Halls, Gutierrez-Reed and Sarah Zachry, the movie’s prop master, are all named as defendants in Mitchell’s lawsuit. Zachry and a lawyer for Halls did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Bowles said he had not yet reviewed the lawsuit.

Last week, Serge Svetnoy, the film’s gaffer, or chief lighting technician, filed a lawsuit accusing the movie’s producers, Baldwin and several other crew members of failing to follow appropriate firearm safety protocols that would have prevented the fatal shooting. Svetnoy said he was standing just 6 or 7 feet away from Baldwin and said that he was injured by discharge materials from the gun and traumatised by seeing his friend die, trauma that had left him unable to work.

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