The decision to charge Alec Baldwin with manslaughter caused deep concern and debate among his peers.
In an interview with The Times, New Mexico’s First Judicial Dist. atty Mary Carmack-Altwies and Special Attorney Andrea Reeb said they interviewed actors who told them Baldwin failed to follow protocols before the October 2021 fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film Rust.
“We spoke to several actors, A-list and less than A-list, and they all confirmed that if you’re handed a gun, you have to look at it and make sure it’s safe,” Carmack-Altwies said .
But many actors and creators are questioning the move to pursue criminal charges against one of their own. Baldwin – who authorities said fired the prop cannon that led to the fatal shooting – could face a five-year sentence if a jury convicts him on one of the charges.
Prosecutors also plan to file involuntary manslaughter charges against arms dealer Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who has admitted she loaded the gun involved in the fatal shooting of Hutchins but was unaware that among the sluggish dummy There was at least one sharp ball in the rounds.
“We are very concerned about the precedent this could set,” said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA national executive director. “Actors are not trained to be weapons experts.”
That sentiment is widely shared by members of Hollywood’s largest labor union.
“Putting pressure on an actor who is working is so wrong that it’s a scapegoat,” said Rust actress Frances Fisher in her first interview since the fatal shooting. She played the great aunt of Lucas, the young leading man in the western.
“There’s also a certain level of trust that develops on set. We’re becoming a family very quickly,” Fisher said. “And if someone says something to you like, ‘That’s a cold weapon,’ trust them,” she said, citing assurances from assistant director David Halls, according to an affidavit.
Fisher said she will only use dummy guns going forward. “Real guns should never be used on a set,” she said.
Matthew Arkin, an actor who was shot at with dummies or placeholders for his role on an episode of the CBS show Criminal Minds, argued that actors are at the bottom of the chain of command when it comes to guns.
“It’s disgusting, I think it’s horrible,” Arkin said of the pending charges against Baldwin. “A movie set is an expert environment, and I should be an expert on the acting, not the props, not the guns.”
Lisa Ann Walter, who plays Melissa Schemmenti on the ABC sitcom Abbott Elementary and is a member of the SAG-AFTRA executive committee, said actors shouldn’t take the blame in gun accidents.
“If you’re asking for an actor to be in charge of the armory or stunts, we’re not here for that,” Walter said.
She said she used to feel safe with guns on film sets, but not anymore.
“Things like this just feel like you never know what could go wrong,” Walter said. “The training, the top-notch union crew, and most importantly, the time to plan the stunts and effects are absolutely critical to safety on set, otherwise you get these tragic results.”
Walter plans to petition SAG-AFTRA to ban the use of real weapons and use fake weapons with effects created in post-production. She wants the rules to be included in upcoming contract negotiations with producers later this year, she said.
Fisher said she would support such a motion.
Crabtree-Ireland said some members told him “they could no longer participate in productions involving real firearms or they would face criminal penalties.”
After the “Rust” tragedy in 2021, many shows quickly banned real guns from their productions and switched to toy guns known as airsoft guns. Dwayne Johnson, known as The Rock, was one of the first high-profile artists to say he wouldn’t use a gun in the future.
Although legislative attempts to ban guns from film sets have failed, Crabtree-Ireland said there is interest in using non-lethal replica guns such as airsoft guns.
Other actors have chimed in with support for Baldwin.
“Under no circumstances should actor Alec Baldwin be charged with negligence,” Mickey Rourke said via Instagram. “Most actors don’t know anything about guns, especially if they weren’t raised with them.”
Some actors have found that pre-existing security procedures have protected them in countless productions involving real guns over the years. And it was also surprising that the assistant director responsible for on-set security would receive a lower fee than the cast member who uses a gun.
Dave Halls, assistant director on Rust, agreed to plead guilty to negligent use of a deadly weapon in a deal that resulted in a suspended sentence and six months’ probation. According to prosecutors, he will testify against Baldwin.
However, some actors privately and publicly supported the arraignment decision, noting that Baldwin was more than an actor on the production: he was also one of its producers.
“[I]involuntary manslaughter seems appropriate. He was the producer/authority on the production,” said actor Ethan Embry tweeted.
Baldwin said his role was limited to creative decisions, not budgets or attitudes, and that he was not responsible for the fatal shooting.
“This decision distorts the tragic death of Halyna Hutchins and constitutes a horrific miscarriage of justice,” said Baldwin’s attorney, Luke Nikas of Quinn Emanuel, adding that his client “relyed on the professionals he worked with who assured him that the gun doesn’t have live rounds. We will fight these allegations and we will win.”