LOS ANGELES — The family of a cinematographer shot and killed on the set of the movie “Rust” sued Alec Baldwin and the film’s producers on Tuesday, alleging their “callous” disregard for safety complaints led directly to his death.
At a news conference announcing the trial, attorneys for Halyna Hutchins’ husband and 9-year-old son said Baldwin refused to train for the type of “cross draw” he was performing when he fired the shot that killed her.
Baldwin’s attorney responded that any claim the actor was reckless is “entirely false.”
The lawsuit filed in Santa Fe County, New Mexico on behalf of Matthew and Andros Hutchins shows a text exchange between a cameraman and a producer in which a gun safety complaint was upheld by what the lawsuit calls it “ruthless sarcasm”.
The operator, Lane Luper, texted the unit’s production manager, Katherine Walters, saying, “We’ve now had 3 accidental discharges. It’s super dangerous.
Walters replies, “Accidental discharge on the firearm? Impressive. It looks good.”
At least four other lawsuits have been filed over the shooting, but this is the first directly linked to one of the two people shot dead.
The defendants’ “reckless driving and cost-cutting measures resulted in the death of Halyna Hutchins,” attorney Brian Panish said.
Had proper protocols been followed, the suit reads, “Halyna Hutchins would be alive and well, hugging her husband and 9-year-old son.”
Baldwin, who was also the film’s producer, was pointing a gun at Hutchins inside a small church while preparing to shoot a scene for the Western in New Mexico on October 21 when he went off, killing Hutchins and injuring the director, Joël Souza. The lawyers showed an animated recreation of the shooting during the press conference.
Baldwin said he pointed the gun at Hutchins on his instructions and it happened without him pulling the trigger.
The suit indicates that industry standards require the use of a rubber prop gun or similar when setting up, and there was no call for a real gun.
He also indicates that Baldwin and Assistant Manager David Halls, who gave him the gun, should have checked the revolver for live ammunition.
The lawsuit also names Halls, Walters, film gunsmith Hannah Guttierez Reed and ammunition supplier Seth Kenney as defendants.
“Any claim that Alec was reckless is entirely false,” Aaron Dyer, attorney for Baldwin and other producers, said in a statement on Tuesday. “He, Halyna and the rest of the crew relied on the statement of the two professionals in charge of checking the gun that it was a ‘cold gun’ – meaning there is no possibility of discharge.”
He added that “actors should be able to rely on gunsmiths and prop department professionals, as well as assistant directors, rather than deciding for themselves when a firearm is safe to use.”
Last month, Baldwin turned over his cellphone to investigators and Dyer said he continues to cooperate fully with the investigation.
Authorities described “a certain complacency” in the way weapons were handled on the “Rust” set. They said it is too early to determine whether charges will be brought.
Baldwin said he did not believe he would face criminal charges in the shooting.
Several crew members filed lawsuits, including Gutierrez Reed, who blamed Kenney for the shooting.
His attorney Jason Bowles did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new trial. A lawyer for Kenney could not be found. He previously said he was sure his company didn’t send any live tours to the set.
In an interview with ABC, Baldwin said Hutchins asked him to point the gun right next to the camera and at his armpit before it went off.
“I didn’t pull the trigger,” Baldwin said. “I would never point a gun at someone and pull the trigger. Never.”
Panish said Tuesday the claim was unrealistic.
“I think what happened is clear,” he said. “Alec had the gun in his hand, he shot it, Halyna was killed.”
The complaint does not cite a dollar amount, but Panish said it would be substantial.
“A long marriage, a soul mate is lost and a boy raised without a mother at a young age is a huge loss,” he said. “And anyone who has even been close to this experience knows that it lasts forever and ever.”
Plaintiffs’ attorney in New Mexico, Randi McGinn, said the lawsuit would likely move much faster than if it were filed in California, as others have been.
“In New Mexico, we’re used to people coming from out of town to play cowboy, who don’t know how to use guns,” McGinn said.
Hutchins, 42, grew up on a remote Soviet military base and worked on documentary films in Eastern Europe before studying film in Los Angeles and embarking on a promising film career.
On her Instagram page, Hutchins identified herself as a “restless dreamer” and an “adrenaline junkie.”
In 2019, the American cinematographer called her “one of the rising stars of the year”.
Dyer’s statement said, “Everyone’s hearts and thoughts remain with Halyna’s family as they continue to deal with this untold tragedy.”
Follow AP Entertainment writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton
This story has been updated to correct the spelling of attorney Brian Panish’s last name.