News, Culture & Society

PIERS MORGAN: Alec Baldwin looks culpable of being EP of a chaotic and dangerous sh*t-show

Alec Baldwin believes passionately in gun safety and wants much tighter controls over who can have a gun.

The actor thinks fellow Americans should only be allowed to exercise their constitutional right to own firearms if they go through a lengthy stringent procedure to ensure they are fit and proper enough citizens to possess a deadly weapon.

I know this because we discussed it during an interview at CNN a few years ago in which he said: ‘I’m in favour of people owning guns but I’m in favour of there being the most arduous process for them to qualify to own that gun. We license many things in our society. You can’t walk into a store to get all the drugs you need. You could be in agonizing pain, and you still have to go to a hospital and stand in line and you have to go to a doctor and get a prescription, from a pharmacist. We license cars. We license a lot of things and I think that we need to license guns beyond the way we do it now. Meaning if you want a gun, you could have a gun, but it might take you a couple of weeks to get them do a proper background check.’

As he spoke to me, Baldwin was sporting bruised and battered knuckles which he’d sustained from an accident while making a film.

‘I injured myself on set,’ he explained. ‘I hit a ladder with my hand. When you’re on a sound stage, especially if you’re moving sets and shooting the way we do, you’re in pretty constant peril every five minutes of smashing your head on something. You know you’re on a real movie set when you trip on something or hit something, and I cracked my hand.’

I thought of these exchanges when I heard the shocking news about Baldwin accidentally shooting and killing a young female cinematographer, and also wounding a director, while filming his new movie Rust in New Mexico.

It seemed barely believable that a star of Alec Baldwin’s experience and stature could do something so lethally stupid as to fire a loaded gun towards co-workers, especially given his advocacy of gun safety and awareness of hazardous movie sets. But it quickly became clear that Baldwin didn’t realise the gun had real ammunition inside it. Pictured: Baldwin outside the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office after the shooting

However, the more we've learned about this appalling incident, the more questions have been raised about Baldwin's own culpability for the chaotically dangerous and amateurish working culture on the set of 'Rust' that led to the shooting. These questions are incredibly serious. The family of the woman who died, Halyna Hutchins (left), deserve and must get answers, and I'm sure they will seek them through criminal and civil lawsuits and courtrooms

However, the more we’ve learned about this appalling incident, the more questions have been raised about Baldwin’s own culpability for the chaotically dangerous and amateurish working culture on the set of ‘Rust’ that led to the shooting. These questions are incredibly serious. The family of the woman who died, Halyna Hutchins (left), deserve and must get answers, and I’m sure they will seek them through criminal and civil lawsuits and courtrooms

What we know so far, from affidavits given to police and search warrants executed by Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office, is that the shooting occurred after Baldwin and members of the production crew were setting up a shot that required him to 'cross-draw a revolver' - take it from a holster on the opposite side of the body to the draw hand - and point it at the camera. Pictured: The cast and crew of Rust at Bonanza Creek Ranch

What we know so far, from affidavits given to police and search warrants executed by Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, is that the shooting occurred after Baldwin and members of the production crew were setting up a shot that required him to ‘cross-draw a revolver’ – take it from a holster on the opposite side of the body to the draw hand – and point it at the camera. Pictured: The cast and crew of Rust at Bonanza Creek Ranch

It has emerged there were at least two and possibly three other accidental gun discharges on the set on October 16, a week before the fatal shooting. Following these incidents, a complaint was made to a supervisor about safety practices on the set. Pictured: The church on the ranch where Baldwin was rehearsing when the gun went off

It has emerged there were at least two and possibly three other accidental gun discharges on the set on October 16, a week before the fatal shooting. Following these incidents, a complaint was made to a supervisor about safety practices on the set. Pictured: The church on the ranch where Baldwin was rehearsing when the gun went off

It seemed barely believable that a star of his experience and stature could do something so lethally stupid as to fire a loaded gun towards co-workers, especially given his advocacy of gun safety and awareness of hazardous movie sets.

But it quickly became clear that Baldwin didn’t realize the gun had real ammunition inside it.

So, as many on social media rushed to instantly blame him for what happened,

I tweeted: ‘If it’s true that Alec Baldwin was handed a prop gun containing live rounds of ammunition, then the focus of people’s ire shouldn’t be on the guy who innocently fired it without knowing – but whoever gave it to him and must have known.’

However, the more we’ve learned about this appalling incident, the more questions have been raised about Baldwin’s own culpability for the chaotically dangerous and amateurish working culture on the set of ‘Rust’ that led to the shooting.

These questions are incredibly serious.

The family of the woman who died, Halyna Hutchins, deserve and must get answers, and I’m sure they will seek them through criminal and civil lawsuits and courtrooms.

What we know so far, from affidavits given to police and search warrants executed by Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, is that the shooting occurred after Baldwin and members of the production crew were setting up a shot that required him to ‘cross-draw a revolver’ – take it from a holster on the opposite side of the body to the draw hand – and point it at the camera.

An assistant director on the set, David Halls, had taken the gun off a cart — where it had been placed by the film’s armorer, or weapons handler — and handed it to Baldwin with the words ‘cold gun!’ which is movie set speak for confirming it was unloaded and safe for Baldwin to handle.

Baldwin was apparently demonstrating how he was going to do the cross-draw move when the gun it went off.

Director Joel Souza said he heard ‘what sounded like a whip and then a loud pop,’ and noticed Hutchins, who he was standing behind at the time, grab her stomach as she fell backwards.

She was airlifted to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she died.

Souza suffered a wound to his shoulder but was released from hospital.

So, just a terrible accident – right?

Well, yes in the sense that Baldwin obviously believed the gun wasn’t loaded.

The film's chief electrician Serge Svetnoy blamed producers for Hutchins' death in an emotional Facebook post on Sunday, slamming them for hiring an inexperienced armorer, 24-year-old Hannah Gutierrez-Reed (pictured), and accusing them of 'negligence and unprofessionalism' for the way weapons were handled on set.

A source who worked alongside Gutierrez-Reed, 24, on a previous film set said she has a history of recklessness around guns

The film’s chief electrician Serge Svetnoy blamed producers for Hutchins’ death in an emotional Facebook post on Sunday, slamming them for hiring an inexperienced armorer, 24-year-old Hannah Gutierrez-Reed (pictured), and accusing them of ‘negligence and unprofessionalism’ for the way weapons were handled on set. A source who worked alongside Gutierrez-Reed, 24, on a previous film set said she has a history of recklessness around guns 

An assistant director on the set, David Halls (pictured), had taken the gun off a cart ¿ where it had been placed by the film's armorer, or weapons handler ¿ and handed it to Baldwin with the words 'cold gun!' which is movie set speak for confirming it was unloaded and safe for Baldwin to handle. Baldwin was apparently demonstrating how he was going to do the cross-draw move when the gun it went off.

An assistant director on the set, David Halls (pictured), had taken the gun off a cart — where it had been placed by the film’s armorer, or weapons handler — and handed it to Baldwin with the words ‘cold gun!’ which is movie set speak for confirming it was unloaded and safe for Baldwin to handle. Baldwin was apparently demonstrating how he was going to do the cross-draw move when the gun it went off.

The camera wasn’t rolling when the gun went off ‘like a whip and a loud pop’, Souza said, during rehearsals in a church pew

But that doesn’t mean, from what we have now learned, that he should have automatically believed that, nor that he is absolved from any managerial responsibility for events leading up to the shooting.

It has emerged there were at least two and possibly three other accidental gun discharges on the set on October 16, a week before the fatal shooting.

Following these incidents, a complaint was made to a supervisor about safety practices on the set.

We also know that a 911 call made immediately after Hutchins’ death naming David Halls, the assistant director who handed Baldwin the gun, and an industry veteran who worked on movies including ‘Fargo’ and ‘The Matrix Reloaded’ as being responsible for what happened.

Halls had previously been the subject of complaints around his regard for safety protocols.

Maggie Goll, a prop maker and licensed pyrotechnician, said in a statement that she filed an internal complaint with the executive producers of Hulu’s ‘Into the Dark’ series in 2019 over concerns about Halls’ behaviour on set, saying he disregarded safety protocols for weapons and pyrotechnics and tried to continue filming after the supervising pyrotechnician lost consciousness on set.

It’s been asserted that Hall didn’t know the gun was loaded, either.

But that begs the question: why shout ‘cold gun’ if you don’t actually know it’s a cold gun?

And if he really didn’t know whether the gun was loaded or not, then who did?

Someone must have done.

The film’s chief electrician Serge Svetnoy blamed producers for Hutchins’ death in an emotional Facebook post on Sunday, slamming them for hiring an inexperienced armorer, 24-year-old Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, and accusing them of ‘negligence and unprofessionalism’ for the way weapons were handled on set.

A source who worked alongside Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, 24, on a previous film set said she has a history of recklessness around guns.

‘She was a bit careless with the guns, waving it around every now and again,’ the source told the Daily Beast. ‘There were a couple times she was loading the blanks and doing it in a fashion that we thought was unsafe.’

Gutierrez-Reed herself had expressed doubts about her level of experience. On a podcast a month ago, she said she had nearly turned down her last job ‘because I wasn’t sure if I was ready.’

So, we have a dangerously inexperienced armorer, a reckless safety-ignoring assistant director, and gun discharges going off on set.

This all sounds as worrying to me as it did to other crew members.

One worker was so worried about weapon safety he sent a text message to his manager warning of ‘super-unsafe’ conditions.

The text, sent to the unit production manager and seen by the Los Angeles Times, read: ‘We’ve now had 3 accidental discharges. This is super unsafe.’

Sources on Rust also told the LA Times that vital safety protocols, including regular gun inspections, were not strictly followed.

‘There should have been an investigation into what happened,’ the crew member 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.’

The chaotic environment created general turmoil on set, with six crew members quitting just hours before the fatal shooting, in protest at terrible working conditions including overlong workdays, delayed paychecks and hotels booked an hour’s commute from the location.

Alec Baldwin must have known about the gun discharge incidents, and crew concerns over the armorer's inexperience and the assistant director's record of dangerous on-set safety misconduct, because he wasn't just a jobbing actor on the movie ¿ he was a named Executive Producer. So, if he didn't know, he should have ensured he knew

Alec Baldwin must have known about the gun discharge incidents, and crew concerns over the armorer’s inexperience and the assistant director’s record of dangerous on-set safety misconduct, because he wasn’t just a jobbing actor on the movie – he was a named Executive Producer. So, if he didn’t know, he should have ensured he knew

The family of the woman who died, Halyna Hutchins, deserve and must get answers, and I'm sure they will seek them through criminal and civil lawsuits and courtrooms

Director Joel Souza said he heard 'what sounded like a whip and then a loud pop,' and noticed Hutchins, who he was standing behind at the time, grab her stomach as she fell backwards

Director Joel Souza (right) said he heard ‘what sounded like a whip and then a loud pop,’ and noticed Hutchins (left), who he was standing behind at the time, grab her stomach as she fell backwards. Souza was also injured in the shooting

But the big question remains: how and why did this fatal shooting happen?

Real guns are used all the time on movie sets, but there are very strict rules about how they are used.

All firearms must be managed by a trained armorer who holds government-issued permits.

Cast members must also be trained in gun safety before filming starts and significantly, guns should never be pointed directly at anyone, especially in rehearsals but also during actual filming. Cameras can be deployed in ways to make the angles work.

Most importantly, live ammunition must never be loaded inside guns on set.

If the guns need to be fired, then blanks are used instead of real bullets.

(Even blanks – made up of wads of papers, plastic, felt or cotton – must be handled very carefully as they can still cause serious harm or even death as happened to Jon-Erik Hexum on the set of CBS series Cover Up when he jokily aimed the fun at himself and died from the blast.)

Other industry experts were aghast at the Baldwin shooting.

Jeffrey Wright, who has worked on the James Bond franchise and the upcoming movie ‘The Batman’, said: ‘I don’t recall ever being handed a weapon that was not cleared in front of me — meaning chamber open, barrel shown to me, light flashed inside the barrel to make sure that it’s cleared. Clearly, that was a mismanaged set.’

Actor Ray Liotta agreed: ‘They always — that I know of — they check it so you can see. They give it to the person you’re pointing the gun at, they do it to the producer, they show whoever is there that it doesn’t work.’

More questions then: why did Alec Baldwin not insist on being shown the gun was safe? Why did he point it directly at his co-workers, if that is strictly prohibited?

Alec Baldwin must have known about the gun discharge incidents, and crew concerns over the armorer’s inexperience and the assistant director’s record of dangerous on-set safety misconduct, because he wasn’t just a jobbing actor on the movie – he was a named Executive Producer.

So, if he didn’t know, he should have ensured he knew.

And he should have also ensured his gun really was ‘cold’ before he aimed it at his co-workers and killed a talented young woman.

Baldwin’s called the shooting a ‘tragic accident’ and said: ‘There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours. My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna.’

I don’t doubt the sincerity of his sadness at the shooting, nor that he had no idea the gun he fired was loaded.

But what I do now doubt is Alec Baldwin’s depiction of it as a ‘tragic accident.’

Given what we have discovered about the circumstances leading up to the moment he pulled the trigger, this was an accident waiting to happen.

***
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk