George Clooney blasts the ‘Rust’ crew for ‘a lot of stupid mistakes’

65th BFI London Film Festival: The Tender Bar - American Express Gala, Royal Festival Hall in South Bank, London

George Clooney has been on film and television sets for forty years. He’s done it all – medical dramas, period dramas, romances, action, superhero films and everything in between. He’s an actor, producer, writer and director. He understands film sets and how things are supposed to happen. So George obviously had strong opinions about what went down on the New Mexico set of Rust, where Alec Baldwin accidentally shot and killed Halyna Hutchins because Baldwin didn’t know he was handling a gun with live rounds. Clooney sounded furious that there was a chain of events soaked in incompetence which led to the tragedy:

On Brandon Lee’s on-set death: “That was a series of stupid things… My cousin Miguel was going to be his best man the next week at their wedding. Brandon and I played ball and hung out at The Hollywood Y three days a week. We were buddies. You know, this was his big break.”

What happened with Lee’s death: “The first unit, low-budget probably… I don’t even remember if the guy was even a union prop guy, sent it down to a second unit, a different group of shooting, and they wanted to use the same gun so they sent the gun down there. It was the guy’s girlfriend that was the prop assistant. They didn’t have dummy bullets so they made them by taking the gun powder out and putting the bullet back in… She takes the bullets out of the cylinder and one of the shells, one of the bullets, had lodged in the barrel of the gun.” Clooney said that, after the gun was sent back to first unit, “No one checks the barrel. No one notices of the six shells, one of them is missing the bullet and hands it to the first unit. They put a full load in it. The actor, which you never do with a full load, points it directly at Brandon and pulls the trigger and it’s like getting shot with a normal bullet. And killed him.”

Lee’s death taught him to follow safety protocols whenever given a prop gun. “Every single time I’m handed a gun on the set … I open it, I show it to the person I’m pointing it to, I show it to the crew. Every single take, you hand it back to the armorer when you’re done and you do it again.”

What happened on the ‘Rust’ set: Clooney, who said he doesn’t know Baldwin personally, added, “I’ve been on sets for 40 years and the person that hands you the gun, the person that is responsible for the gun, is either the prop person or the armorer, period.”

He doesn’t know how an inexperienced armorer like Hannah Gutierrez Reed was hired: “Why for the life of me, this low budget film with producers who haven’t produced anything wouldn’t have hired, for the armorer, someone with experience,” Clooney said, calling unverified reports of staff on set using the prop guns for target practice “insane” and “infuriating” if true. “We need to be better at making sure the heads of our department are experienced and know what they’re doing.”

Clooney on the “cold gun” call: Authorities have said that Rust assistant director David Halls handed the weapon to Baldwin and announced “cold gun,” indicating that the weapon was safe to use. Clooney called that a term he’s “never heard.”

He doesn’t believe what happened was intentional: Clooney added that he doesn’t believe “there’s any intent by anybody to do anything wrong” and called the Rust shooting a “terrible accident,” but stressed the importance of always checking every prop, noting “it’s harder” when trying to distinguish between a dummy bullet and real bullet. “After Brandon [Lee] died, it really became a very clear thing: open the gun, look down the barrel, look in the cylinder, make sure,” he said. “It’s a series of tragedies. But also, a lot of stupid mistakes.”

[From THR]

Yeah, I agree with his assessment entirely – people weren’t intentionally trying to screw things up and hurt people. But there was a carelessness on-set and a series of bad decisions and lack of conscientiousness up and down the food chain. I didn’t know that George knew Brandon Lee so well, nor did I know that Clooney learned some lessons about on-set weapons from Lee’s death. I mean, it makes sense that a lot of film productions put a lot of rules into place following Lee’s death, but I’ve never heard of an actor who immediately opens up his prop/real gun as soon as he gets it.

London Film Festival 2021 - The Tender Bar Arrivals at Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London

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13 Responses to “George Clooney blasts the ‘Rust’ crew for ‘a lot of stupid mistakes’”

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  1. Bettyrose says:

    I would have guessed that George and Alec were friends. IDK they seem like they would be. But if Clooney was good friends with Brandon Lee his outrage here makes sense. It sounds like Lee has been on Clooney’s mind every time he was on a set with a gun.

  2. JayBlue says:

    Never cared much for Clooney, but I agree with everything he’s said here. I had no idea he is such a careful worker. Good for him!

  3. MarcelMarcel says:

    I think it’s great that Clooney coupled his criticism with practical advice about how he safely handles gun on set.
    Rust is a very example of why you should shut down a workplace if union members feel so unsafe that they walk out. IATSE members rarely strike or do hard actions like a walk out. A lot of mistakes were made on Rust and it’s heartbreaking that management ignored the valid concerns of unionised workers. If they had listened maybe Halyna Hutchins would still be alive.
    It was bittersweet to hear him talk about the loss of Brandon Lee. I would have loved to see him act in more films. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to lose a loved one like that. I’m grateful that Clooney shared lessons he learnt from that tragic loss.

  4. Eurydice says:

    I think the Actors’ Equity guidelines say that the armorer or prop master should open the gun and show the actors that it’s properly loaded (or unloaded) and that the actors themselves should test fire the weapon before using it on the set. Sounds like George is taking it one step further.

  5. STRIPE says:

    I grew up around guns and George is doing the right thing. Check the weapon yourself, period. I love the extra steps of showing someone else and shooting 6 times for good measure.

    It may sound like a little much but any mistake is literally life and death.

    It is astounding to me that the set was so loose with gun handling.

  6. Lady Baden-Baden says:

    This is from Marc Maron’s podcast this week – was a decent interview in general. Would recommend. Clooney is a good guy. And I loved how he acknowledged the goddess that is Tilda Swinton!

  7. Becks1 says:

    Yeah, I think he nails it – it obviously wasnt intentional, but it was preventable, and thats what makes it such a tragedy.

    • bettyrose says:

      It seems that it was more than preventable; there were multiple fail safes in place that fell to neglect. I believe the same can probably be said about the Houston disaster. I Just feel like anyone of us who’s ever worked in an institution larger than ourselves has seen this shit. Someone at the bottom is screaming loudly but no one on the many gradations to the top hears it. But in most jobs that BS doesn’t lead to death.

  8. CE says:

    It’s very busy in film and TV right now, almost impossible to get good or experienced people even on big jobs. Also, can’t get experience without gaining experience… which is what those low-budget jobs are for: getting your foot in the door. All that being said, the armored was negligent and a nepotism hire. Producers should be blamed for allowing the complaints made against her to not be followed-up on

  9. molly says:

    Some of the carelessness is a result of American gun culture. Beyond George and Alec’s personal comfort with guns, they are largely no big deal in this country. You can buy a gun where you get groceries. You can walk into Starbucks with one on your belt. A previous job went to a shooting ranges for a fun team building activity! I’ve never shot one, but I live in the suburbs of a boring midwest city, and I could probably find 100 guns (hunting and otherwise) in the basements of my kids’ friends.

    Guns aren’t some scary thing people have never seen in real life. We see them everywhere, in entertainment and in real life. Of course people should treat them with the utmost care and reverence, but I’m not the least bit surprised when they don’t.

  10. Virginfangirl says:

    From what I understand a dummy bullet looks like a real one. Even George said that. I would prefer if some kind of expert loaded the gun, then another expert checked it. What the heck does an actor necessarily know about guns and ammunition.

    • windyriver says:

      In one of the articles that came out around the time of the incident, one person with experience (believe it was either a prop master or armorer) said the actor should NOT be the last person checking the weapon, that it compromises what should be proper safety protocols on set for weapons to be handled and set up only by the professionals whose responsibility is preparing the weapons for use in a scene, and if the actor does open it, the protocols have to be started over. That makes sense to me. So I’m not exactly sure how it’s okay for Clooney to be able to open the gun himself. If I were the actor though, I’d certainly ask the gun be opened by the appropriate professional and shown to the other actors and crew as he describes before I used it. And he’s right, the person handing it to the actor should be the armorer (or possibly the prop master?) – and certainly not the assistant director or any non-professional.

  11. SomeChick says:

    why are they still even using real guns?! this would be 100% avoidable.