Producers of the Western movie ‘Rust’ on Friday (Feb 24) said they had agreed to pay a US$100,000 civil fine for “serious” workplace safety breaches prior to the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on a New Mexico film set in 2021.
New Mexico’s worker safety bureau found the Rust Movie Productions (RMP) firm knew of the potential hazard of live rounds on set, as well as complaints of mishandling and misfires of weapons, but decided not to act, according to bureau investigator Lorenzo Montoya.
Hutchins was killed when actor Alec Baldwin fired a live round from a gun he was using during a rehearsal on a movie set outside Santa Fe.
Baldwin on Thursday pleaded not guilty to a charge of involuntary manslaughter brought by Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies.
“Our top priority has always been resuming production and completing this film so we can honor the life and work of Halyna Hutchins,” Melina Spadone, a lawyer for Rust Movie Productions, said in a statement. “Settling this case rather than litigating is how we can best move forward.”
Under the settlement, RMP’s fine was reduced from an original maximum penalty of $136,793. The New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The bureau found RMP showed “plain indifference” to firearm safety and ignored concerns by crew members about pyrotechnics misfires and two accidental weapons discharges prior to Hutchins’ death.
“They decided to just continue and tell people ‘Get back to work,'” Montoya testified on Jan 4.
Rust’s armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed told the safety agency on Dec 7 that Baldwin’s lack of knowledge and “poor form” using a revolver may have led to the discharge that killed Hutchins.
The armorer, who loaded the gun Baldwin fired, has also been charged with involuntary manslaughter and made her first court appearance on Friday.
Bureau investigator Montoya said Gutierrez-Reed asked for extra days for weapons handling duties and training but did not get them.
Rust Line Producer Gabrielle Pickle told the agency on Dec 20 Gutierrez-Reed’s requests for extra armorer days were granted.
Production of the movie is set to resume in the spring in Montana, RMP has said.