Michael Shannon criticizes on-set gun safety in 'Rust' shooting, feels 'horrible' for Alec Baldwin

Amy Haneline

Michael Shannon, the "Bullet Train" actor who has handled his fair share of guns on set, says the Alec Baldwin "Rust" tragedy is a result of "making a movie on the cheap."

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune published Tuesday, Shannon talked about the process of handling guns on movie sets and shared what he thinks could have led to the 2021 shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

"'Rust' is an example of a problem I see in filmmaking more and more these days. On smaller productions, independent productions, the producers keep wanting more and more for less and less," he said. "They don’t want to give you enough money. They cut corners, ridiculously, every which way. And they get away with it."

"The person on 'Rust' clearly was not qualified for the job. She should not have been there," he added, referring to "Rust" armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed.

Michael Shannon says the Alec Baldwin "Rust" tragedy is a result of "making a movie on the cheap."

Shannon said that the armorer's "hard" and "demanding" job is to ensure that when an actual gun is being handled by an actor, it is empty. He said the gun should go through multiple checks by the armorer, the assistant director and the actor to confirm it is empty.

"The armorer should’ve brought the gun over to (Baldwin) and said: Here is your firearm. It is empty," he said. "But you never settle for walking up to an actor and handing the gun over without showing them what’s inside of it. Ever. That was the cataclysmic event on 'Rust.'"

The 48-year-old actor also said he doesn't condemn Baldwin. "I feel horrible for the guy. It’s a nightmare. I feel terrible for everyone on that production."

But, "this is what happens when you lowball and cut corners and hire people that may not be qualified."

Alec Baldwin being processed after the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins at the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico, October 21, 2022.

Hutchins, 42, died shortly after being wounded by a gunshot while setting up a scene at a ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe on Oct. 21, 2021. Baldwin was pointing a prop pistol at Hutchins when the gun went off, killing her and wounding the film's director, Joel Souza. 

Last week, Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies and Special Prosecutor Andrea Reeb announced that Baldwin, who was holding the gun at the time it fired, and Gutierrez-Reed will be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Hutchins. No charges will be filed in the shooting of Souza.

Assistant director David Halls, who handed Baldwin the gun that day, signed a plea deal for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon, according to the DA's office. He has a suspended sentence and six months probation.

Following the charges, Baldwin's attorney Luke Nikas said the actor "had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun – or anywhere on the movie set. He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds."

"Rust," a low-budget Western film, is still on track to be completed.

Get the latest on the 'Rust' tragedy

Contributing: Naledi Ushe