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Experienced prop master turned down ‘Rust’ over “massive red flags”

The veteran prop master said he had a "bad feeling" during discussions with film managers

Alec Baldwin in a tuxedo at a red carpet event
Baldwin was set to play the lead in the low-budget western 'Rust', as well as produce. (Photo: Nadja Sayej/ Alamy).

A veteran film industry prop master has revealed he turned down a job on ‘Rust’ due to “massive red flags”.

Neal W Zoromski told the Los Angeles Times he got a “bad feeling” during informal discussions with managers about a potential work opportunity on Alec Baldwin’s new film.

Last week (October 21), cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed on set of the film at Bonanza Creed Ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico when Baldwin fired a prop gun towards the camera which also injured director ​​Joel Souza.

“After I pressed ‘send’ on that last email, I felt, in the pit of my stomach: ‘That is an accident waiting to happen,’” Zoromski said.

He added that he felt the film was too concerned with saving money rather than safety. He also said production managers didn’t seem to value experience and were brushing off his questions, adding they were “evasive” when he asked about his terms of employment.

He added: “In the movies, the prep is everything. …You also need time to clean, inspect and repair guns.

Zoromski, who has three decades of experience in Hollywood, added that he requested a department of five technicians, but after being told ‘Rust’ was a low production film, asked for two experienced crew members: an assistant prop master and an armorer, or gun wrangler, whose job it would be to make sure weapons were safe and functioning properly. But producers insisted one person could do both jobs.

“You never have a prop assistant double as the armorer,” Zoromski said. “Those are two really big jobs.”

He added: “You need time to fix old clocks. In period films, you are sometimes using antiques. But here, there was absolutely no time to prepare, and that gave me a bad feeling.”

This week Souza, who was hospitalised after the accident, spoke about the moment he witnessed the Baldwin shoot Hutchins.

In an affidavit secured by The New York Times, Souza said he had been told the gun was safe and had been described as a “cold gun” in safety briefings.

He added that weapons were usually checked by chief armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, before follow-up checks by assistant director Dave Halls.

Souza explained that the crew had set up a scene in a church then went for lunch, but he was “not sure if the firearm was checked again” upon their return.

The fatal incident saw Baldwin “cross drawing” a revolver and pointing it at the camera.

He was “viewing the camera angle” next to Hutchins when he suddenly noticed her grabbing her stomach and stumbling backwards, while also noticing he was bleeding from his shoulder.

Hutchins was transported via helicopter to the University of New Mexico hospital where she was pronounced dead.