The family of Halyna Hutchins, a rising star cinematographer killed on the set of the western “Rust,” have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the film’s producers.
The lawsuit is the latest in a wave of litigation against producers sparked by the shooting in New Mexico that sent shockwaves through Hollywood and renewed calls for stricter gun safety measures on film sets.
Hutchins, 42, was fatally wounded Oct. 21 when a gun fired by actor Alec Baldwin discharged during a rehearsal. The bullet also struck director Joel Souza, who recovered.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Hutchins’ husband Matthew, an attorney who works out of the L.A. office of Latham & Watkins, and their son Aldous, in Santa Fe against Rust Movie Productions LLC., Baldwin, 3rd Shift Media and other producers of the film.
The suit also names first assistant director David Halls, armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed and prop master Sarah Zachry.
“Defendant Baldwin and the other defendants in this case failed to perform industry standard safety checks and follow basic gun safety rules while using real guns to produce the movie rust with fatal consequences,” said the complaint filed in Santa Fe County District Court.
The litigation is the highest-profile claim to date against producers, who’ve also been sued by crew members who witnessed the incident, including script supervisor Mamie Mitchell and gaffer Serge Svetnoy.
It also comes amid an ongoing criminal investigation into the incident by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office that has focused on the actions of Gutierrez Reed, Halls and Baldwin. Investigators have been trying to determine how a live bullet wound up on the set of “Rust.”
According to law enforcement documents, during a rehearsal Halls handed Baldwin a replica of a vintage Colt .45 pistol, pronouncing it “cold,” to signal there was no ammunition inside. However the gun contained dummy rounds and at least one lead bullet.
Gutierrez Reed had loaded the weapons that day, according to affidavits filed by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office. But she told sheriff’s detectives that she didn’t realize that actual bullets were contained in a new box of ammunition that arrived on set that day.
She told the detectives she checked Baldwin’s gun that day before the unscheduled rehearsal, although she “didn’t really check it too much,” because the weapon had been locked in a safe during a lunch break.
Gutierrez Reed also told deputies that she was stretched too thin performing her props role and was unaware that a rehearsal was taking place. Santa Fe County authorities have not said where the live bullets came from.
The family hired the Los Angeles-based law firm of Panish Shea Boyle Ravipudi, which specializes in personal injury and wrongful-death claims.
Originally from Ukraine, Hutchins was killed just as her career was beginning to take off in a largely male-dominated field.
Hutchins graduated from the American Film Institute Conservatory in 2015 and had been selected as one of American Cinematographer’s Rising Stars of 2019.
She was starting to make a bigger name for herself after a string of indie features including “Archenemy,” “Blindfire” and “The Mad Hatter.”
Before getting into feature films, she worked as an investigative journalist on British documentary productions.
Her death highlighted the difficult working conditions, including long working hours, many crew face on film sets.
On the day of the shooting, crew members walked off the set to protest working conditions and lack of safety protocols, including accidental gun discharges, The Times reported.
Days before the shooting, Gutierrez Reed was chastised by the film’s line producer, Gabrielle Pickle, for leaving guns unattended. The production also scolded her for not doing enough to support Zachry, the prop master.
Gutierrez Reed protested the demand that she devote more time to her props role, saying she needed to pay attention to gun safety, according to emails viewed by The Times.