On October 21st, 2021, the production of Rust, a western starring and produced by Alec Baldwin, was met with grave tragedy when a live round was discharged in a prop revolver held by Baldwin, resulting in the untimely death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, along with an injury to director Joel Souza. The fatal incident instantly sparked a controversial conversation about the nature of guns used in film shoots, along with the importance of weapon safety and the extreme dangers of weapon malpractice in Hollywood films. It was a terrible reminder of how dangerous moviemaking can ultimately be when things go horribly, horribly wrong, and it’s been unclear what the fallout would be for this horrendous firearm misuse. That conversation will remain ongoing, but there have been some new developments in Rust’s tragic tale. As it was announced earlier today, the suspended production reached a settlement with the Hutchins‘ estate, and in a surprising new development, filming is slated to continue shooting in January.
As Variety revealed, Matthew Hutchins, the husband of the late Hutchins, issued a statement saying that his team has “reached a settlement, subject to court approval, for our wrongful death case against the producers” of the upcoming film, which includes Baldwin and Rust Movie Productions, LLC. “As part of that settlement,” the statement continues, “our case will be dismissed.” Furthermore, the settlement also notes that Hutchins will receive a posthumous executive producer credit. The terms of the settlement are not disclosed at this time, though the publication notes that Baldwin took the lead in an earlier effort from the beginning of the year to settle with the Hutchins estate, which was before the suit was officially filed. Brian Panish, the attorney for the Hutchins estate, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in February of this year. The lawsuit alleged that the fatal shooting was due to the low-budget film’s negligence and cost-cutting.
According to an arbitration filing from March, which was reported by LA Times, the proposal wanted to compensate the Hutchins family through insurance proceeds, as well as a portion of the film’s profits. Baldwin was hoping to resolve these civil claims as quickly as possible in order to resume production, particularly since Rust‘s cast includes a child actor who would soon age out of the role. Those initial talks would eventually collapse. In the statement, it was revealed that “all the original principal players” will be returning to the production when it begins again in January.
Here’s what Matthew Hutchins said in the second part of his statement:
I have no interest in engaging in recriminations of attributions of blame (to the producers or Mr. Baldwin). All of us believe Halyna’s death was a terrible accident. I am grateful that the producers and the entertainment community have come together to pay tribute to Halyna’s final work.
Luke Nikas, Baldwin’s attorney, stated in his own statement:
Throughout this difficult process, everyone has maintained the specific desire to do what is best for Halyna’s son. We are grateful to everyone who contributed to the resolution of this tragic and painful situation.
New Mexico prosecutors have yet to make a decision regarding whether to file charges against Baldwin or the other crew members involved with the shooting. During their investigation, the FBI concluded that the firearm that killed Hutchins could not have been fired “without a pull of the trigger while the working internal components were intact and functional.” Baldwin has spoken openly about the situation, as he believes that he didn’t pull the trigger on the gun, causing it to fire and kill Hutchins and injure Souza. As noted earlier, this story remains ongoing — particularly with how it’ll affect future firearm usage in future movies.
Described as a passion project for Baldwin, who co-wrote the story, Rust tells the tale of an outlaw in 1880s Kansas who rescues his thirteen-year-old grandson, who has been sentenced to hang for murder after an accidental shooting. Now, these fugitives roam the land, trying to outrun the law. As expected, there is no release date set for the suspended film, but we should expect more details to be forthcoming.