A crew member disclosed that she had raised safety concerns in the past about the assistant director whom authorities say unwittingly handed actor Alec Baldwin the prop gun that killed a cinematographer on a film set in New Mexico last week.
Maggie Goll, a prop maker and licensed pyrotechnician, said she filed an internal complaint with the executive producers of Hulu’s Into the Dark TV series in 2019 over concerns about assistant director Dave Halls’ conduct on set.
Goll alleged in an interview that Halls had previously not followed safety protocols for weapons and pyrotechnics when she worked alongside him on a TV series in 2019.
Halls has not responded to requests for comment.
The fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the desert western Rust last week, and some of Goll’s previous experiences, point to larger safety issues that need to be addressed, Goll said.
She added that crew member safety and wellbeing were top issues in ongoing contract negotiations between the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) union, of which she is a member, that represents film and TV workers and a major producers’ group.
“This situation is not about Dave Halls … It’s in no way one person’s fault,” she said. “It’s a bigger conversation about safety on set and what we are trying to achieve with that culture.”
The gun Baldwin used was one of three that a firearms specialist, or “armorer”, had set on a cart outside the building where a scene was being rehearsed, according to court records.
Halls grabbed a gun off a cart and handed it to Baldwin, indicating that the weapon was safe by yelling “cold gun,” court papers noted. But it was, unknown to Halls, loaded with live rounds, according to the records.
Just six hours before that, half a dozen crew members had walked off the Rust set to protest against poor conditions and safety concerns, including gun safety amid reports of incidents of a prop gun being accidentally misfired earlier in filming, the LA Times reported on Friday.
Baldwin, 63, who is known for his roles in 30 Rock and The Hunt for Red October and his impressions of former president Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live, has described the killing as a “tragic accident”.
Goll said the death and injury on the Rust set should not have happened because there are “so many steps that you have to go through … that the possibility of it even getting there should be impossible”.
But she also told the Guardian of concerns when she worked on the Into The Dark TV set during filming in California in 2019, where prop guns were being used and Halls was also first assistant director, overseeing the work on set to a tight schedule.
“There is absolutely no reason that gun safety should be ignored on set, even when it is a non-firing prop firearm,” Goll wrote in an email to the Guardian.
She recalled there were times when she and other crew felt unsafe.
A fellow crew member had announced the presence on set of a firearm, she noted, when normally the first assistant director would do that, and this crew member “frequently admonished Dave for dismissing the talent [i.e. letting the actors know to stop work] without returning props – weapon included – or failing to make safety announcements”.
The fellow crew member has corroborated her account to the Guardian, while asking that his name be withheld over fears of jeopardising his employment.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, actor Ray Liotta said the checks on firearms during filming in the industry generally are usually extensive.
“They always – that I know of – they check it so you can see,” Liotta said in an interview at the Newport Beach film festival in California. “They give it to the person you’re pointing the gun at, they do it to the producer, they show whoever is there that it doesn’t work.”
Back in 2019, Goll said she filed an internal complaint with the executive producers of Blumhouse Productions, the production company on Into The Dark and had attempted to lodge a complaint with the Directors Guild of America (DGA).
“I am gutted at not pushing harder for greater accountability and safety,” she stated, adding that since the death on set in New Mexico last week: “Many of us have messaged each other wondering the same thing: is there something we could have done then that would have prevented the tragedy?”
Neither Rust Movie Productions nor the DGA have responded to requests for comment.
A spokesperson for Blumhouse Productions said: “Dave Halls worked on two films for Blumhouse Television in 2019, and was not rehired after that time. Further, any complaints that were received by the studio regarding safety issues were dealt with promptly.”
Baldwin met with Hutchins’ husband and nine-year-old son on Saturday at a hotel in Santa Fe where the actor had been staying during filming.