“In my 10 years as camera assistant, I’ve never worked on a show that cares so little for the safety of its crew,” Luper wrote in his resignation letter, snippets of which GMA shared on air. He wasn’t the only member of the camera crew to leave the project; according to an affidavit filed by a Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office detective, around six members had walked out in total.
Producers denied Luper’s allegations in a statement, asserting that he would have had no knowledge of safety protocols on set. Luper, speaking to GMA co-host George Stephanopoulos, disputed their claim. He noted how vital it is for the head of the camera department to be looped in to those conversations, so they are able to protect camera operators and the equipment itself while setting up shots.
“There is no personal gain in this for me,” Luper said of his decision to speak out. “I’m kind of sticking my neck out here.”
A central question in the case concerns how a live round wound up in the weapon Baldwin discharged, drawing attention to the armorer who would have been in charge of handling and safely storing all the firearms on set.
“I think with ‘Rust,’ it was a perfect storm of the armorer, the assistant director, the culture that was on set — the rushing,” Luper said on GMA. “It was everything. It wasn’t just one individual. Everything had to fall into place perfectly for this one-in-a-trillion thing to happen.”
The 24-year-old armorer, Hannah Gutierrez, previously told a detective that “no live ammo is ever kept on set.” Her attorneys, Jason Bowles and Robert Gorence, appeared on the “Today” show Wednesday morning to defend their client, who they said in a statement last week had “no idea where the live rounds came from.”
After “Today” co-host Savannah Guthrie pressed the issue, Bowles said Gutierrez had loaded the gun with rounds from a box labeled “dummy,” only to discover while inspecting the weapon after the incident that there had been a live round inside. The attorneys are operating on the assumption that the round in question came from the box, Bowles continued, suggesting that someone could have “put the live round in the box of dummy rounds [with] the purpose of sabotaging the set.”
“I believe that somebody who would do that would want to sabotage the set, want to prove a point, want to say that they’re disgruntled, they’re unhappy,” Bowles said, expanding on the theory. “And we know that people had already walked off the set the day before.”
Bowles added that Gutierrez was spread thin on “Rust” after having been hired for two separate positions — armorer and key props assistant — which he and Gorence wrote in their Friday statement made it “extremely difficult to focus on her job as an armorer.”
Luper and Gutierrez’s attorneys are the latest to make public comments about working on “Rust,” a film production that has become the subject of an intense legal investigation.
At a news conference held last week with the district attorney overseeing Santa Fe County, Sheriff Adan Mendoza announced that a “lead projectile” had been recovered from Souza’s shoulder. In addition to Gutierrez, details from the investigation have increasingly drawn scrutiny to the behavior of assistant director Dave Halls, who handed Baldwin the .45 Long Colt revolver.
The affidavit states that Halls yelled “Cold gun!” before giving Baldwin the revolver, an industry term used to indicate it did not contain any live rounds. Halls said in an interview with the detective that he should have checked the weapon more thoroughly before handing it over — but other armorers working in Hollywood dispute that an assistant director should have handled the weapon at all.
In a statement to the New York Post on Monday, Halls, breaking his silence, said he hopes “this tragedy prompts the industry to reevaluate its values and practices to ensure no one is harmed through the creative process again.” His lawyer, Lisa Torraco, spoke evasively to Fox News’s Martha MacCallum the same day about whether her client handled the gun at all, eventually stating that it “doesn’t matter” because it’s “not the assistant director’s job” to check weapons before they are given to actors.
Baldwin, who was also a producer on “Rust,” spoke about the Oct. 21 incident for the first time on camera when he was approached Saturday by photographers on the side of a road in Vermont: “She was my friend,” he said of Hutchins, according to the Associated Press. “We were a very, very well-oiled crew shooting a film together and then this horrible event happened.”
On Tuesday, Baldwin posted to Instagram a series of screenshots of a Facebook comment written by “Rust” costume designer Terese Magpale Davis. He captioned the first screenshot, “Read this.”
Davis wrote in the comment that she was “sick of this narrative,” referring to “the story being spun of us being overworked and surrounded by unsafe, chaotic conditions.” She defended the producers at length and refuted claims like Luper’s of long work hours, a difficult housing situation in Albuquerque and a lack of safety meetings. “This was about gun safety,” she stated.
When Stephanopoulos brought up Davis’s comment on GMA, Luper stuck to his version of what had unfolded on set. But he agreed with her statement on gun safety.
“It’s a very rare thing to happen,” Luper said. “In the film industry, we have these things called safety bulletins that are basically an owner’s manual for how to run a safe set. … The very first sentence in the very first safety bulletin about firearm safety is, ‘There shall never be live rounds anywhere on a studio lot or stage or set.’ It’s so unheard of.”