A Longtime Prop Master Turned Down A Job On ‘Rust’ Because He Thought The Production Was Too Chaotic

It’s been four months since the tragic, accidental shooting on the set of the Western Rust, and details remain murky. An investigation is underway, hoping to discover what exactly led to the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who was killed by a prop gun wielded by actor and producer Alec Baldwin. A new piece by Vanity Fair digs into what we now know. No one, from Baldwin to novice armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed, is accepting blame. But one person who is wasn’t even on set.

Vanity Fair spoke with Neal W. Zoromski, a longtime Hollywood prop master whose credits include The Day After Tomorrow, Species, and Thank You for Smoking. Zoromski was offered the lead position on set less than wo weeks before principal photography was to begin.

“These folks started talking to me roughly 10 days before they were going to begin shooting,” Zoromski told VF. “And that’s a disservice, not only to the department and what the department is responsible for, but it’s a disservice to the film and a disservice to the actors that are working on the film.”

That was a big red flag but it wasn’t a deal-breaker. What was the deal-breaker was when he learned that he would only have two prop assistants, neither of which would focus exclusively on the many firearms. Instead, the unit production manager suggested making one of the assistants the armorer.

Then he learned he would have two prop assistants but no separate armorer to focus exclusively on the film’s array of firearms. “We’d really like one of the assistants to be the armorer that can push up on the gunfights and heavy armorer days,” Walters emailed him the next day. (She did not respond to requests for comment.)

“This would definitely create a dangerous situation with safety being minimized,” Zoromski said. When he realized he couldn’t hire a full-time armorer, he turned down the job — and is now overcome with grief, believing he could have prevented the accident. Indeed, when he heard the news, he was shooting a Super Bowl commercial with LeBron James. Feeling sick to his stomach, he went to the bathroom and threw up.

The investigation, meanwhile, continues. Last week, Hutchins’ family filed a wrongful death suit against Baldwin, who recently returned to work for the first time since the shooting.

(Via Vanity Fair)