‘Rust’ script supervisor sues Alec Baldwin and producers
The script supervisor on “Rust,” who was the first to call 911 after cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot on the movie’s set, is suing actor Alec Baldwin and the film’s producers, saying they intentionally ignored safety protocols that would have prevented the tragedy.
Mamie Mitchell, who was standing close to Hutchins when a bullet from Baldwin’s gun struck her, is the latest member of the “Rust” crew to take legal action against the film’s production company, Rust Movie Productions LLC, for the Oct. 21 tragedy in New Mexico.
According to the lawsuit, Mitchell was standing less than four feet from Hutchins at the time the cinematographer was shot, and was “in the line of fire” when the gun went off.
Reading from a statement at a press conference in Los Angeles, Mitchell said she was using her iPhone to check the continuity of Baldwin’s costume in the church where they were preparing to rehearse a scene when she heard the explosion of the gun.
“I was stunned,” said Mitchell, accompanied by her attorney, Gloria Allred. “I heard someone moaning and I turned around, and my director was falling backward and holding his upper body, and I turned around toward Alec and saw Halyna going down to the left of me.”
The allegations in the suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday, include assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress and deliberate infliction of harm.
Producers ignored standard protocols by allowing live ammunition on set and by allowing weapons and ammunition to be left unattended on a cart, the complaint stated. The lawsuit also said that Baldwin was handed the gun by the film’s first assistant director, Dave Halls, when it should have been given to him by the armorer or prop master.
“Every safety protocol designed to ensure that firearms would be safely used were ignored, and actions that were taken were against all industry norms,” Mitchell’s complaint alleged. The suit said Baldwin “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.”
Interviews with multiple members of the “Rust” crew paint an hour- by-hour picture of a cascade of bad decisions that created a chaotic set on which a lead bullet was put into a prop gun.
“We allege in our lawsuit that the events that led to the shooting by Mr. Baldwin of a loaded gun do not constitute simple negligence,” Allred said.“His behavior and that of the producers of ‘Rust’ was reckless.”
The new legal action comes after Serge Svetnoy, the chief electrician or gaffer on “Rust,” recently filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles that alleged negligence on the part of the film’s producers — including Baldwin — in Hutchins’ death. Svetnoy held Hutchins in his arms as she lay dying.
Matthew Hutchins, husband of the late “Rust” cinematographer, has enlisted the law firm of Panish Shea Boyle Ravipudi. He has not filed a lawsuit.
Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office detectives are still investigating the shooting, including how live ammunition got onto the movie set — a major violation of film production safety protocols — and how at least one lead bullet got into the revolver used by Baldwin. No criminal charges have been filed.
Deputies seized more than 500 rounds of ammunition from the set of “Rust,” a low-budget period film set in 1880s Kansas. Additional rounds were found inside the revolver that Baldwin fired, Sheriff Adan Mendoza said last month.
Mitchell’s suit said that Baldwin should have checked the gun that was handed to him to make sure that it was safe to use, even after Halls handed him the weapon and allegedly declared it a “cold gun,” meaning it was safe.
“Mr. Baldwin cannot hide behind the assistant director to attempt to excuse that fact that he did not check the gun himself,” the suit alleged.
The suit names as defendants Rust Movie Productions LLC and multiple individual producers and other production companies, including Thomasville Pictures, Streamline Global, Short Porch Pictures and 3rd Shift Media. Hannah Gutierrez Reed, the armorer on “Rust,” and Halls were also named as defendants.
Representatives for the production companies and Baldwin did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Baldwin has previously said he is “fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred.” The “30 Rock” and “Saturday Night Live” star added: “My heart is broken for her husband, their son and all who knew and loved Halyna.”
In a video obtained by TMZ, Baldwin described the “Rust” team as “a very, very well-oiled crew shooting a film together.”
Attorneys for Gutierrez Reed have suggested the set was sabotaged and that the scene was tampered with before police arrived.
“Hannah had no idea that live rounds were on the set, but we do believe someone brought live rounds onto the set, and we are investigating how they got there,” Jason Bowles, the Albuquerque lawyer representing Gutierrez Reed, said in a statement. “We have no other comments on the lawsuit.”
Gutierrez Reed’s lawyers had previously issued a statement that said safety was their client’s No. 1 priority on set, and that she had no idea where the live rounds came from.
In statements made to Santa Fe County investigators, Halls told detectives he saw three rounds in the revolver before it was given to Baldwin and acknowledged he “should have checked all of them, but didn’t,” according to an affidavit.
Halls’ attorney, Lisa Torraco, has since disputed the claim that the assistant director gave Baldwin the weapon or that he failed to examine the rounds in the chamber. She also contended gun safety was not Halls’ responsibility.
Hutchins died and director Joel Souza was injured as Baldwin rehearsed a scene — a shootout in the weathered wooden church on the edge of the old western town — at the Bonanza Creek Ranch movie set, near Santa Fe.
On the morning of the incident, Mitchell said she drove to the set for a 6:30 a.m. call time. When she arrived, she learned that members of the camera crew had quit because of safety concerns. The Times has previously reported that there were two accidental weapon discharges on Oct. 16 — just days before the fatal shooting.
The production did three camera setups at the church before breaking for lunch. The deadly shooting occurred after the production came back from lunch. In the scene, Baldwin was supposed to reach across his chest and pull a revolver from his holster.
After Hutchins and Souza were shot, Mitchell ran outside to call 911, she said. According to audio from a 911 call obtained by The Times, Mitchell expressed frustration that an assistant director, presumably Dave Halls, yelled at her at lunch and asked about revisions.
“He’s supposed to check the guns,” Mitchell said on the 911 call. “He’s responsible for what happens on the set.”
She drove home after speaking with law enforcement officers, she said Wednesday. “Ten minutes after I got home, someone notified me that [Hutchins] was dead,” she said. “I stood in my driveway screaming.”
The incident robbed Mitchell of a new friend, she said. “I relive the shooting and sounds of the explosion from the gun over and over again,” she said. “I am depressed. I don’t feel safe. ... This violent tragedy has taken away the joy in my life.”
Mitchell is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Inside the business of entertainment
The Wide Shot brings you news, analysis and insights on everything from streaming wars to production — and what it all means for the future.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.