The setbacks continue for the trouble-plagued Western film Rust. Late last week the New Mexico Environment Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau announced it had reached a settlement with Rust Movie Productions LLC. Two citations were issued by the Bureau following the workplace fatality and injury that occurred on Oct. 21, 2021 at the Bonanza Creek Movie Ranch outside of Santa Fe. By the terms of the settlement, RMP will withdraw its contest of the citations and has agreed to pay a $100,000 fine. This is the largest OSHA penalty the State of New Mexico has issued since 2010.
The still-in-production feature made national headlines last year when a gun wielded by actor Alec Baldwin accidentally discharged during rehearsals. Somehow, the gun was loaded with live rounds, and a bullet ended up striking and killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Director Joel Souza was also hit by the bullet, but survived his injuries.
Following an investigation the Occupational Health and Safety Bureau determined that RMP violated workplace safety laws by exposing employees to being struck by discharged rounds or projectiles when firearms were used on the set of the motion picture production. Under the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees.
Actor Alec Baldwin, who also served as a producer on the film, and the movie’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, still face a string of charges filed by First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies back in February.
Earlier this month involuntary manslaughter charges against Baldwin were downgraded by prosecutors, who agreed to drop a firearm enhancement charge. The charge could have added significant jail time to the possible penalties Baldwin is facing. A statement released by Heather Brewer, a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office, said the enhancement charges were being dropped “to avoid further litigious distractions by Mr. Baldwin and his attorneys.” The decision to drop that particular charge reduces the prison sentence Baldwin could face by at least five years. Baldwin now faces a maximum sentence of 18 months with no minimum sentence.
The manslaughter charges against Gutierrez Reed were similarly downgraded.
Government fines and criminal charges aren’t the production’s only obstacle, however. Earlier week it was also announced that three other crew members would be suing Baldwin and the movie’s producers for “blast injuries” they suffered during the shooting. Dolly operator Ross Addiego, set costumer Doran Curtin and key grip Reese Price were on the set when Hutchins was shot and say they have suffered “anxiety and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder” as a result. The three are also claiming hearing injuries from the sound of the gunshot. The suit blames Baldwin for not paying attention during weapons training, Gutierrez Reed for her lack of experience and first assistant director David Halls for being “the subject of a previous safety complaint.” Halls agreed to plead no contest to a misdemeanor count of discharging a dangerous weapon and is expected to testify against Baldwin and Guttierez Reed.
Under an agreement with Halyna Hutchins’ widower, Matthew Hutchins—who now serves as an executive producer on the film—Rust will resume shooting this spring. The production has moved out of New Mexico, however, and is expected to finish filming at Yellowstone Film Ranch in Montana using a mixture of new and old cast and crew.