The Rust assistant director who handed Alec Baldwin the prop gun that killed the film's cinematographer and wounded the director is allegedly known for being irresponsible with safety on previous movie sets.
David Halls, the Assistant Director in question, declared the prop was a "Cold Gun" (meaning it did not contain any live rounds) on Thursday, October 21, before Baldwin discharged the weapon on the New Mexico set. However, the 30 Rock alum was handed a gun with live ammunition, and ended up killing Halyna Hutchins, the director of photography, and wounding director Joel Souza.
Police are investigating what exactly happened that led to the fatal on-set accident, with pyrotechnicians and prop masters who worked with Halls in the past now sharing their concerns about him.
A crew member recalled the two times he worked with Halls on a similar low-budget set in Los Angeles in 2019. A revolver and Glock were used on one set, while another project involved shotguns, Daily Mail reported.
Recalling how the crew would meet each morning to discuss the weapons and other safety protocol, an industry standard on previous projects, the insider — who asked to use the pseudonym “Jay” — reportedly alleged Halls didn't think the meetings were needed to be had in the first place.
"[David] was very flippant about my insistence on having a safety meeting about the weapons, on both of the sets," Jay, whose been working on films for ten years, revealed. "He would rush through it and say, alright guys, be safe, let’s get to work."
The crew member noted: "Even though the guns were not loaded, you have to treat it as if it always is." Emphasizing the importance of safety, Jay continued: "For me that means doing a safety meeting that may be seen as unnecessary but should absolutely be done so that everyone is on the same page."
The source explained the first assistant directors — who are in charge of overseeing all department heads — are put under a lot of pressure to make sure everything is running on schedule. According to Jay, per the outlet, ADs "get annoyed" about having to wait while time is taken away from filming to talk about safety on set.
"They ultimately understand [safety meetings] needs to be done," Jay reportedly said of other ADs, before comparing them to Halls. "But when I worked with [David], it was the only time I’ve had any AD ask me, 'Do we really need to have a safety meeting?'"
On the previous sets the crew member worked on with Halls, no live bullets were used, and the guns were not pointed at another person, the outlet reported.
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Before an actor even placed their finger on the trigger, the person responsible for the weapons would reportedly shine a flashlight down the barrel to show there was no blockage nor potential projectile — meaning there were no objects that could be propelled by the force of gas from the burning gunpowder.
During the scene that led to the fatal shooting last week, Baldwin, 63, had to cross draw his weapon and point it towards the camera lens. According to cameraman Reid Russel, the actor was "trying to explain how he was going to draw out the firearm and where his arm would be at when the firearm was pulled from the holster."
Russel told authorities — per the search warrant, obtained by Front Page Detectives — he was not sure why the firearm was discharged.
Jay pointed out an assistant director would never touch the gun being used, saying: "His job is to check the guns, visually, check them with the actor and with the steward on set who is the property person or the armorer." (An armorer is the person responsible for the weapons.)
Jay noted the chain of command for the gun "should only be between the armorer, the property person and the actor directly handling it." (OK! reported the on-set armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed admitted last month that she felt she wasn't ready for the job as head armorer due to her lack of experience in film.)
Wrapping up his thoughts on the incident, Jay declared live ammunition shouldn't have been on the Rust set to begin with. He also alleged Halls was primarily responsible for the death and injury of his fellow crew members, insisting the AD shouldn't have shouted "Cold Gun" without visually checking the weapon to "clear the gun" first.
"That’s what makes me feel he is in every way responsible," Jay declared. "First of all, he was never supposed to handle that prop. Then he declared it a cold gun."
"It literally takes just a few seconds to check the gun to make sure it’s safe," the source blatantly said, questioning: "He had no idea if it was a cold gun, so why make that announcement?"
Maggie Goll — a pyrotechnician who worked with Halls on 2019's Hulu series The Dark — recalled how the embattled AD "neglected to hold safety meetings or make announcements prior to the appearance of a firearm on set on a daily basis." In fact, Goll reportedly claimed, "The only reason the crew was made aware of a weapon's presence was because the Assistant Prop Master demanded Dave acknowledge and announce the situation each day."
Pointing out the Assistant Prop Master was "extremely vigilant" with making sure all weapons were reclaimed before leaving set, the pyrotechnician said, per the outlet: "The Prop Master frequently admonished Dave for dismissing the talent without returning props, weapon included, or failing to make safety announcements."
After Hutchins, 42, was shot, she was airlifted to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque — where she was soon after pronounced dead. Souza was transported to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center to receive emergency medical care after reportedly being shot in the shoulder.