Actors worry about fallout from ‘Rust’ criminal charges

Actors worry about fallout from ‘Rust’ criminal charges

Actors worry about fallout from ‘Rust’ criminal charges

The decision to charge Alec Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter is arousing deep anxiety and debate among his peers.

In an interview with The Times, New Mexico’s First Judicial District. Atty. Mary Carmack-Altwies and Special Prosecutor Andrea Reeb said they interviewed actors who told them Baldwin failed to follow protocols before the fatal murder of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie “Rust” in October 2021.

“We spoke to a number of actors, A-list and less than A-list, and they all confirmed that when you get a gun, you need to look at it and make sure it’s safe,” said Carmack-Altwies.

But many actors and creators are questioning the move to file criminal charges against one of their own. Baldwin – who authorities say fired the gun that led to the fatal shooting – faces up to five years in prison if a jury finds him on one of the counts.

Prosecutors also plan to bring charges of involuntary manslaughter against gun handler Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who acknowledged carrying the gun involved in Hutchins’ fatal shooting but failed to realize there was at least one live bullet among the inert bullets.

“We are very concerned about the precedent this could set,” said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, national executive director of SAG-AFTRA. “Actors are not trained to be firearms experts.”

That sentiment is widely shared among members of Hollywood’s biggest union.

Matthew Arkin, an actor who was shot by mannequins or blanks for his role in an episode of CBS’s “Criminal Minds,” argued that actors are at the bottom of the chain of command when it comes to guns.

“It’s abominable, 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 part, not the props, not the weapons.”

Lisa Ann Walter, who plays Melissa Schemmenti on ABC’s “Abbott Elementary” and is a member of the SAG-AFTRA executive committee, said actors should not take the blame for gun accidents.

“If you’re demanding an actor be responsible for the arsenal or stunts, that’s not what we’re there for,” Walter said.

She said she once felt safe on movie sets with guns, but not anymore.

“Stuff like that makes you feel like you never know what could go wrong,” Walker said. “The training, top-notch union staff and, most importantly, the time to plan the stunts and effects are absolutely essential for safety on set, otherwise you get these tragic results.”

Walter is planning to raise a motion with SAG-AFTRA to ban the use of real weapons and use fake weapons with effects done in post-production. She would like the rules to be incorporated into this year’s upcoming contract negotiations with producers, she said.

Crabtree-Ireland said some members had told him they “can no longer participate in productions using real firearms because of the risk of being exposed to criminal sanctions”.

After the tragedy of “Rust” in 2021, many shows were quick to ban real guns from their productions and switch to toy guns known as airsoft guns. Dwayne Johnson, known as The Rock, was one of the first prominent artists to say that he would not use a gun in the future.

While legislative attempts to ban guns from film sets have failed, Crabtree-Ireland said there is interest in a shift towards the use of non-lethal replica weapons such as airsoft guns.

Other actors agreed to support Baldwin.

“In no way should actor Alec Baldwin be accused of any negligence,” said Mickey Rourke via Instagram. “Most actors don’t know anything about guns, especially if they didn’t grow up around them.”

Some actors have noted that the safety procedures already in place have kept them safe on countless productions over the years using real weapons. And there was also surprise that the assistant director, who is responsible for security on the sets, receives a smaller load than the performer who uses a gun.

Dave Halls, assistant director of “Rust,” agreed to plead guilty to negligent use of a lethal weapon in a plea deal that resulted in a suspended sentence and six months of probation. He will testify against Baldwin, according to prosecutors.

However, some actors privately and publicly supported the billing decision, noting that Baldwin was more than an actor in the production: he was also one of its producers.

“[I]involuntary manslaughter seems appropriate. He was a producer/authority figure on the production,” actor Ethan Embry tweeted.

Baldwin previously said his role was limited to making creative decisions, not budgets or hiring, and that he was not to blame for the tragedy.

“This decision distorts the tragic death of Halyna Hutchins and represents a terrible miscarriage of justice,” said Baldwin’s attorney, Luke Nikas de Quinn Emanuel, adding that his client “trusted the professionals he worked with, who assured him that the gun had not live rounds. We will fight these accusations and we will win.”

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