Alec Baldwin and 'Rust' producers sued by crew members over fatal shooting
Three additional film crew members have sued Alec Baldwin and other producers of the low-budget western "Rust," alleging "dangerous cost-cutting" and reckless behavior contributed to the deadly accident that continues to haunt them.
The lawsuit, which alleges negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress, was filed Friday in state court in Santa Fe, N.M., by crew members Ross Addiego, Doran Curtin and Reese Price. It names Baldwin, his El Dorado Pictures company and Rust Movie Productions LLC, and adds to the tangle of civil litigation stemming from the Oct. 21, 2021, shooting that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
The latest filing — which contains new details about the shooting — alleged that the tragedy was caused, in large part, by the producers' desire to prioritize speed and cost containment over crew members' safety.
Hutchins died, director Joel Souza suffered a gunshot wound and other crew members have grappled with the physical and emotional toll without support from the producers, the lawsuit said.
"Defendants cut corners; ignored reports of multiple, unscripted firearms discharges; and persisted, rushed and understaffed, to finish the film," said the lawsuit filed by prominent Albuquerque attorney Jacob G. Vigil.
A spokesperson for Baldwin declined to comment Monday.
Rust producers, who also declined to comment, have previously denied allegations of wrongdoing.
The lawsuit comes more than a year after the tragedy and as criminal cases get underway in New Mexico.
Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed have been charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter and negligent use of a deadly weapon. Last week, Baldwin pleaded not guilty. An attorney for Gutierrez Reed — who has acknowledged loading the gun that day — has said she will soon enter a not guilty plea.
Assistant director David Halls separately reached an agreement with prosecutors to plead no contest to a misdemeanor charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon in exchange for a suspended six-month sentence of unsupervised probation.
Late last week, Rust Movie Productions, the company behind the troubled western, reached a settlement with New Mexico’s Health and Safety Bureau. As part of the deal, the state agency agreed to downgrade a citation it made last year against the production and reduce the financial penalty to $100,000 from $136,793, the maximum under the law.
The agency initially struck a strident tone, saying producers “demonstrated plain indifference” to employee safety, noting that safety procedures were not followed on set and that earlier accidental gun discharges were not investigated.
The lawsuit by Addiego, Curtin and Price alleges producers passed over "a highly trained and experienced firearms specialist" who was willing to work on the gun-heavy Baldwin film, and instead hired Gutierrez Reed, who previously had served as head armorer on just one film.
"This decision was motivated by Defendants’ aim for a quick and cheap production," the lawsuit said, noting that Gutierrez Reed, then 24, took on a dual role as armorer and key props assistant for the film.
"Other armorer candidates cautioned against splitting time in a gun-heavy production which required the handling of multiple operable firearms nearly every day," according to the lawsuit. "But Defendants charged ahead with Gutierrez Reed, an inexperienced armorer who would work two jobs for the price of one."
The suit notes the fatal day started out "strained" after seven of the eight camera crew members walked off the job amid complaints about alleged inattention to safety and a lack of nearby lodging. After lunch, the three crew members crowded into a tight space, the small wooden church, with Baldwin, Hutchins, Souza and Halls.
No one bothered to check the gun in the church before the rehearsal, the lawsuit said.
The crew members said they had no warning that Baldwin was going to fire his gun, and they were not wearing earplugs, eye protection or safety shields. All said they suffered physical effects of the blast, including trauma, hearing loss and vibrational shock. In the months that followed, they grappled with other trauma associated with the shooting, but the defendants "offered no diagnostic services or any meaningful emotional or mental health services," according to the suit.
"Despite this, Plaintiffs have independently sought support in dealing with their injuries which include, but are not limited to, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder," the lawsuit said.
Addiego was the film's dolly operator, responsible for operating the mechanisms for camera movement. Curtin was the set costumer, overseeing costumes and accessories, and Price was the key grip, who handled the non-electric support gear.
Previously, at least two other crew members — the script supervisor Mamie Mitchell and gaffer Serge Svetnoy — sued the producers, contending the set was unsafe and they were placed in harm's way during the rehearsal. The set medic Cherlyn Schaefer also sued.
"With his right hand, Defendant Baldwin repeatedly drew the revolver across his body from the left shoulder holster and pointed it in the direction of the crew members standing in front of him, including plaintiffs," the lawsuit said.
"On his third draw, Defendant Baldwin cocked the hammer of the revolver with the trigger pulled and fired it towards the crew striking Hutchins, and injuring Plaintiffs," the lawsuit said.
The production is planning to resume filming this spring in Montana with Souza, Baldwin and other original cast members.
Staff writer Anousha Sakoui contributed to this report.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.