In the six days since cinematographer Halyna Hutchins heartbreakingly—and needlessly—lost her life on the set of the New Mexico-set Western Rust when a live bullet from a prop gun was accidentally discharged by Alec Baldwin, we’ve been learning more and more about the circumstances surrounding this seemingly avoidable tragedy. Through on-set investigations and interviews with people involved in the production, what has emerged is a picture of a set that, even before Hutchins’ death, was in disarray. Just hours before the fatal shooting, the Los Angeles Times reported that several members of the camera crew walked off the project over working conditions that included “long, long commutes and waiting for their paychecks.”
One of the key players in the incident is Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the 24-year-old with little experience who was ultimately hired as the set’s armorer and put in charge of the cache of weapons. (Shortly before Gutierrez-Reed was hired, a prop master with more than 30 years of experience turned down a job on the movie due to what he described as “massive red flags.”)
According to her IMDb profile, Gutierrez-Reed had only ever worked on two films before—and one of those gigs was as a costume assistant. The other was as head armorer on Brett Donowho’s The Old Way, in which Nicolas Cage plays an aging gunslinger whose past is catching up with him. But The Wrap is reporting that Gutierrez-Reed—who is the daughter of noted weapons expert Thell Reed, who has served as a gun coach and/or armorer on several major productions, including L.A. Confidential, Miami Vice, and Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood—“was the subject of numerous complaints” while working on The Old Way, and reportedly even had a dust-up with Cage directly.
As Sharon Waxman and Brian Welk wrote for The Wrap:
Stu Brumbaugh, who served as key grip on the Cage Western The Old Way this summer, told The Wrap that Gutierrez-Reed upset both Cage and other crew members on the Montana production by failing to follow basic gun safety protocols like announcing the arrival and usage of weapons onto the set.
After firing a gun near the cast and crew for a second time in three days without warning, Brumbaugh said that Cage yelled at her, “Make an announcement, you just blew my f—ing eardrums out!” before walking off set in a rage. “I told the AD, ‘She needs to be let go,’” Brumbaugh, adding, ‘After the second round I was pissed off. We were moving too fast. She’s a rookie.’”
While an unnamed producer on The Old Way dismissed the story of Cage’s outburst or that it was suggested that Gutierrez-Reed be fired to The Wrap, Brumbaugh and another members of the production claimed that the young armorer’s inexperience “put the cast and crew in several unnecessary and dangerous situations,” noting that she had “walked onto the set with live rounds of blanks and no public announcement to the cast and crew, breaking established safety protocols,” that “she tucked pistols under her armpits and carried rifles in each hand that were ready to be used in a scene [and] firearms were aimed at people,” and that “she twice fired guns on the set without giving any warning to the cast and crew, as required.”
On the set of Rust, the shot that killed Hutchins allegedly wasn’t the first time a gun was accidentally discharged.
Just one month ago, The Wrap reported that Gutierrez-Reed was a guest on the “Voices of the West” podcast, where she discussed her job and described her role on The Old Way as a “really badass way” to kick off her career. While she admitted that she learned part of her craft from her father, she mostly claimed to being self-taught in tasks like loading blanks into a weapon.
“The best part about my job,” Gutierrez-Reed said, “is just showing people who are normally kind of freaked out by guns how safe they can be and how they’re not really problematic unless put in the wrong hands.”
(Via The Wrap)