The family of a cinematographer shot and killed on the set of the film Rust sued Alec Baldwin and the movie’s producers Tuesday alleging their “callous” disregard in the face of safety complaints led directly to her death.
At a news conference announcing the lawsuit, attorneys for the husband and nine-year-old son of Halyna Hutchins said that Baldwin refused training for the type of “cross-draw” he was performing when he fired the shot that killed her.
Baldwin’s attorney responded that any claim the actor was reckless is “entirely false.”
The suit filed in New Mexico’s Santa Fe County in the name of Matthew and Andros Hutchins shows a text message exchange between a camera operator and a producer in which a complaint over gun safety was met with what the suit calls “callous sarcasm". The operator, Lane Luper, texted unit production manager Katherine Walters saying: “We’ve now had three accidental discharges. This is super unsafe."
Walters responds: “Accidental discharge on the firearm? Awesome. Sounds good.”
At least four other lawsuits have been filed over the shooting, but this is the first directly tied to one of the two people shot. The defendants’ “reckless conduct and cost-cutting measures led to the death of Halyna Hutchins,” attorney Brian Panish said. Had proper protocols been followed, the suit says, “Halyna Hutchins would be alive and well, hugging her husband and nine-year-old son."
Baldwin, who was also a producer on the film, was pointing a gun at Hutchins inside a small church during the setup for the filming of a scene for the Western in New Mexico on October 21 when it went off, killing Hutchins and wounding the director, Joel Souza. The attorneys showed an animated recreation of the shooting at the news conference.
Baldwin has said he was pointing the gun at Hutchins at her instruction and it went off without him pulling the trigger.
The suit says industry standards call for using a rubber or similar prop gun during the setup, and there was no call for a real gun. It also says that both Baldwin and assistant director David Halls, who handed him the gun, should have checked the revolver for live bullets. The suit also names as defendants Halls, Walters, the film’s armorer Hannah Guttierez Reed, and ammunition supplier Seth Kenney.
“Any claim that Alec was reckless is entirely false,” Aaron Dyer, attorney for Baldwin and other producers, said in a statement Tuesday. “He, Halyna and the rest of the crew relied on the statement by the two professionals responsible for checking the gun that it was a ‘cold gun’ – meaning there is no possibility of a discharge”. He added that “actors should be able to rely on armorers and prop department professionals, as well as assistant directors, rather than deciding on their own when a gun is safe to use.” Last month Baldwin turned over his cellphone to investigators, and Dyer said he continues to cooperate fully with the investigation.
Authorities have described “some complacency” in how weapons were handled on the Rust set. They have said it is too soon to determine whether charges will be filed.
Baldwin said he does not believe he will be criminally charged in the shooting.
Several crew members have filed lawsuits, including Gutierrez Reed, who blamed Kenney for the shooting. Her attorney Jason Bowles did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new lawsuit. An attorney for Kenney could not be found. He has said previously that he was sure his company did not send any live rounds to the set.
In an interview with ABC, Baldwin said Hutchins had asked him to point the gun just off camera and toward her armpit before it went off.“I didn’t pull the trigger,” Baldwin said. “I would never point a gun at anyone and pull the trigger at them. Never.”
Panish said Tuesday that the assertion was unrealistic. “I think it’s clear what happened,” he said. “Alec had the gun in his hand, he shot it, Halyna was killed.” The complaint does not cite a dollar amount, but Panish said it would be considerable.
“A longtime marriage, a soulmate is lost, and a boy to be raised without a mother at a young age is a tremendous loss,” he said. “And anyone who’s even been close to that experience knows, that that goes on forever and ever and ever.”
The plaintiffs’ attorney in New Mexico, Randi McGinn, said the lawsuit is likely to move much more quickly than if it were filed in California, as others have been. “In New Mexico, we’re used to people coming in from out of town to play cowboy, who don’t know how to use guns,” McGinn said.
Hutchins, 42, grew up on a remote Soviet military base and worked on documentary films in Eastern Europe before studying film in Los Angeles and embarking on a promising movie-making career. On her Instagram page, Hutchins identified herself as a “restless dreamer” and “adrenaline junkie.” In 2019, American Cinematographer called her “one of the year’s rising stars.”
Dyer’s statement said: “Everyone’s hearts and thoughts remain with Halyna’s family as they continue to process this unspeakable tragedy.”