“Bullet Train” star Michael Shannon is weighing in on the “Rust” shooting.
Shannon addressed the pending involuntary manslaughter charge against actor-producer Alec Baldwin after the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in October 2021. Baldwin, along with armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, will face the same charge under New Mexico law, with each involuntary manslaughter charge being a fourth-degree felony and punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Two-time Oscar nominee Shannon shared his reaction to Baldwin’s charge, but also pointed to how the “Rust” production “cut corners” as an independent film.
“I’m not condemning Alec. I feel horrible for the guy. It’s a nightmare,” Shannon told The Chicago Tribune. “I feel terrible for everyone on that production. But this is what happens when you lowball and cut corners and hire people that may not be qualified, and pay them next to nothing, and make the movie on the cheap. People get jobs in this business because they’re willing to work for a low enough fee. I see it all the time.”
“Rust” had a reported budget of $7 million, with Baldwin as one of the producers.
Shanoon added, “If it were up to the actor to determine whether a firearm is safe or not, you wouldn’t need an armorer in the first place. Being an armorer is a hard job, a demanding job, and I have nothing but respect for them. But in this instance, it was going into the ER and finding out your doctor isn’t a real doctor.”
The “George & Tammy” star, who is marking his directorial debut with film “Eric Larue” about the aftermath of a school shooting, said that on-set armory is “not a sloppy procedure” at all. “It’s very, very meticulous. On most sets, if there is any activity that’s considered potentially risky in any way, shape or form, they start the day with a safety meeting the assistant director runs,” Shannon shared. “They go through all the possible dangerous on-camera activity, and how we’re going to handle that to make sure nobody gets hurt. That’s how the day starts. And all of the armorers I’ve worked with have been super fastidious about what they do.”
He continued, “But ‘Rust’ is an example of a problem I see in filmmaking more and more these days. On smaller productions, independent productions, the producers keep wanting more and more for less and less. They don’t want to give you enough money. They cut corners, ridiculously, every which way. And they get away with it. So every time someone makes a great movie for a million dollars, it sets a precedent.”
Shannon added, “The financiers say, well, Joe Blow made a movie for a million, we’re gonna give you a million, too. And you’re, like, ‘But I need $3 million to make it the right way.’ And they say ‘Well, I guess you won’t do it, then.’ They whittle the budget down to the bare minimum — but the one thing you can’t cut corners on is your armorer. If you have guns in your movie, that’s no place to cut corners…The person on ‘Rust’ clearly was not qualified for the job. She should not have been there.”
And during rehearsals on the set of his film, Shannon noted that rarely do actors handle real guns and instead have a walkthrough with a plastic firearm when blocking.
“You shouldn’t have the actual weapon in your hand until immediately before doing the take,” he said. “Now, sometimes that doesn’t happen. Sometimes they’ll give you the actual gun to rehearse with a little closer to filming. But there’s a procedure for that. They open the barrel. They show you there’s nothing in there. They show you the chambers, they show the assistant director, and it’s a visual confirmation. The AD’s supposed to check it, the actor checks it and the armorer has checked it. All three of those people have to see there’s nothing in there. And then they hand it to you.”
He added, “With ‘Rust,’ before that gun went into his hand, [Baldwin] should have seen with his own eyes there was nothing in it. The armorer should’ve brought the gun over to him and said: ‘Here is your firearm. It is empty.’ Or maybe [the gun] has decoy or dummy rounds in it; you pull the trigger, nothing happens. But you never settle for walking up to an actor and handing the gun over without showing them what’s inside of it. Ever. That was the cataclysmic event on ‘Rust.'”
“Rust” is set to continue production, with Hutchins’ widower executive producing, despite the charge against Baldwin.
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