A script supervisor who was standing next to cinematographer Halyna Hutchins when she was fatally shot with a prop weapon fired by actor Alec Baldwin on the set of the film “Rust” sued the movie’s producers Wednesday, alleging widespread negligence and claiming the scene Baldwin was rehearsing never called for him to fire the weapon.
Mamie Mitchell contends in her lawsuit — which was submitted to Los Angeles Superior Court Wednesday but had not yet been officially processed and filed — that she was “standing in the line of fire when the gun went off.” The suit alleges assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress and harm.
Hutchins, 42, was killed on Oct. 21 while Baldwin, a producer and star of “Rust,” was helping to prepare camera angles for a scene on the film’s set near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Baldwin fired a weapon which was supposed to contain only blank rounds but discharged a lead bullet that struck Hutchins in the chest then lodged in the shoulder of director Joel Souza, 48.
The mishap has led to a criminal investigation and an array of legal actions by crew members alleging widespread negligence and unsafe conditions on the film set.
Mitchell’s lawsuit reiterates many of those claims, noting that union camera operators had walked off the job to protest working conditions, that two “unexpected gun discharges” had occurred days before the shooting, and that live ammunition was permitted on the set. But Mitchell’s suit, filed by attorney Gloria Allred, also alleges specific wrongdoing by Baldwin, claiming he fired the weapon during the rehearsal “even though the upcoming scene to be filmed did not call for the cocking and firing of a firearm.”
“Alec Baldwin intentionally, without just cause or excuse, fired the gun towards individuals, including plaintiff, Ms. Hutchins and Mr. Souza, even though protocol was not to do so,” according to the lawsuit.
“Rust” producers and representatives for Baldwin could not be reached for immediate comment on the lawsuit. Shortly after the shooting, the “Rust” production company issued a statement saying, “The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company. Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down. We will continue to cooperate with the Santa Fe authorities in their investigation and offer mental health services to the cast and crew during this tragic time.”
Baldwin spoke to reporters in late October, calling the shooting a “once-in-a-trillion episode.”
“There are incidental accidents on film sets from time to time, but nothing like this,” he said. “This is a once-in-a-trillion episode. It’s a one-in-a-trillion event. … We’re eagerly awaiting for the sheriff’s department to tell us what their investigation has yielded.”
Also named as defendants in Mitchell’s lawsuit were the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, and assistant director David Halls, who handed Baldwin the weapon on set and declared it to be a “cold” gun, meaning it did not contain any live rounds.
“Guns are never to be handed to an actor by anyone other than the prop master or armorer,” Mitchell’s lawsuit contends. “Mr. Baldwin, being an industry veteran, knew that the gun in question should not have been handed to him by the assistant director and he also knew that he could not rely upon the assistant director’s representation that it was a `cold gun’ and the gun was safe to use.”
The suit also claims Baldwin should have assumed the gun was loaded unless “it was demonstrated to him or checked by him” that it was not loaded. The lawsuit also says Baldwin “failed to check the gun to see if the firearm was loaded.”
“Alec Baldwin knew that these were the safety protocols and chose to ignore them,” the suit states.
The suit also criticizes Reed’s actions on the set, saying the armorer “allowed guns and ammunition to be left unattended on a rolling cart” on the set during a lunch break.
“The fact that live ammunition was allowed on a movie set, that guns and ammunition were left unattended, that the gun in question was handed to Mr. Baldwin by the assistant director who had no business doing so, the fact that safety bulletins were not promulgated or ignored, coupled with the fact that the scene in question did not call for a gun to be fired at all, makes this a case where injury or death was much more than a possibility — it was a likely result,” according to the suit.
Attorneys for Reed have denied any wrongdoing on her part, even suggesting that someone attempted to “sabotage” the production by placing live ammunition in a box containing dummy rounds.
“… We are asking for a full and complete investigation of all of the facts, including the live rounds themselves, how they ended up in the `dummies’ box, and who put them in there,” attorney Jason Bowles said in a statement last week. “We are convinced that this was sabotage and Hannah is being framed. We believe that the scene was tampered with as well before the police arrived.”
The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.