Things Were So Much Worse on the Set of Rust Than I Thought

Things Were So Much Worse on the Set of Rust Than I Thought

(BUMPED: Jan 19, 2023)

There is nothing more dangerous than an unloaded gun.

That was driven home to me when I was on weekend duty at battalion HQ and a report came in that one of the married Marines had committed suicide off base.  It turned out that he had shot himself in the brain because he had been playing with a pistol that he knew was “unloaded.”  As a joke, he had put it to his temple and pulled the trigger.  Death by Darwin ensued.

Supernatural star Jensen Ackles has a part in Rust.  Or possibly had.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the studio shutters this one. But I would be equally unsurprised if the studio moved forward to capitalize on the tragedy.

From what I can glean from the article below, Supernatural only used gas-guns on set.  That is a genuinely non-functional prop gun, it is physically impossible to load a round into one. Pull the trigger and a puff of gas is released that works the slide simulating a shot.  The flash and smoke are added in post.

Ackles had only worked with those before Rust.  Here is an interview with him where he describes his time on the set of Rust.

“After detailing how he got the part and sharing enthusiasm for starring in a Western, a lifelong dream, he said, “I’ve got a 6 a.m. call tomorrow to have a big shootout. They had me pick my gun, they were like, ‘All right, what gun would you like?’ and I was like, ‘I don’t know?’ and the armorer was like, ‘Do you have gun experience?’ I was like, ‘A little.’ And she’s like, ‘OK, well, this is how you load it, this is how we check it and make sure it’s safe.’” He went on to say that the armorer told him she was going to fill the gun with blanks so he could shoot off a couple of rounds toward a nearby hill, noting that he did so easily.”

YouTube pulled that interview, undoubtedly at the studio’s frantic pleading.  Because that paragraph breaks all of the film industry’s regulations for gun safety.

I haven’t covered this before because it was a Hollywood accident and that meant there would be a flood of contradictory stories coming out of it.  The show business press would be both covering and covering up for it because they have zero autonomy in Hollywood.  They don’t fact-check, they just run with what they hear or what the studio orders them to say.  The real media will eventually settle on a narrative that probably has nothing to do with the actual events either.  The closest to objective reality will be the police report but in bitter truth, all that really means is that everyone on set got their stories straight after the lawyers told them what to say.

The person you aren’t hearing from is the armorer because she was told not to say anything. Because she is the designated fall guy.

A friend of a friend who got into the film business was appalled when he heard about Jensen Ackles YouTube interview. Here are some things he had to say to me.

Terminology: a “hot gun” is a functional firearm.  A “cold gun” is a completely inoperable as a firearm.  The problem with a cold gun is that it falls into the same mental blank space as the “unloaded gun.”  

First. An actor doesn’t get to pick the firearm.  He is assigned it.

Second. If there is going to be any kind of familiarization firing of the weapon it will be done at a pistol range and not just fired at a cliff face like a damn hillbilly.

Third. On set, the chain of custody is (a) Armorer safety checks, then loads the weapon (if hot). Armorer hands it off to the (B) Prop Master and tells him if the gun is hot or cold. Then the Propmaster safety checks the weapon and hands it off to the (C) Assistant Director and tells him if the gun is hot or cold.  Then the Assistant Director safety checks the weapon and hands it off to (D) the Actor and tells him if the weapon is hot or cold. The Actor does NOT safety check the weapon. If he opens it, he has a broken chain of custody and it has to be returned to the (A) Armorer.  Because actors are retarded narcissists who can barely pick their own noses successfully, you don’t let them do anything important like a firearm safety check.  

Four.  The actor is given strict safety instructions and is made to follow them.

As far as I can tell, none of those things happened.  Because of its low budget, Rust doesn’t appear to have had a prop master.  Which means the armorer handed the weapon directly to the Assistant Director who didn’t check it because it was a “cold gun.”

There are some directors that will insist on live rounds for certain shots because there is no other effective way to simulate recoil.  The safety protocols for that would take several pages.  And they aren’t germane to this incident since the cinematographer was killed by a “cold gun.”

There is little question the armorer was bad at her job. She appears to have been lazy and lackadaisical in the performance of her duties.  The YouTube interview paints a picture of a goth girl who flushed all of her duties just to have some alone time with Dean Winchester.

But the big thing is this, when you have a major mishap despite a whole bunch of procedures in place to prevent it from happening, then it is never just one decision.  It is always a chain of bad decisions that lead up to the mishap. And it always starts at the very top.

A $7 million picture shot on a 21-day schedule is too fast for that kind of movie, it made people cut corners for the sake of time wherever possible.  The Armorer was incompetent, but she didn’t hire herself.  Her shortcomings were readily apparent long before the incident and she still wasn’t dismissed from her position.  The Propmaster is the only one who is blameless because he doesn’t exist. The same can’t be said for the Assistant Director, who didn’t safety check a “cold gun” despite the fact that he had to have known the armorer was a lazy idiot.  Baldwin was specifically prohibited from checking to see if the gun was loaded but that doesn’t relieve him of the responsibility to never point any gun, cold or hot, at someone he did not intend to shoot.  He has done enough action scenes to know the rules.

Top to bottom there was a whole slew of people who made this accident happen. 

But the armorer is the only one that’s going to pay for it because she is the most easily expendable. Because that is how Hollywood works.

Okay, done here.

Share this post