George Clooney gave his perspective on the fatal shooting of “Rust” cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, calling the incident “insane” and “infuriating.”
In an appearance on the podcast “WTF with Marc Maron,” the Oscar-winning filmmaker described the shooting – in which “Rust” star and producer Alec Baldwin accidentally fired a prop gun, killing Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza – as “a terrible accident.”
Clooney drew from his own numerous experiences with productions that use firearms when he expressed disbelief at what happened on the set of “Rust.”
“I’ve been on sets for 40 years and the person that hands you the gun, the person who is responsible for the gun, is either the prop person or the armorer. Period,” the 60-year-old said.
He detailed the strict protocols outlined for the handling of firearms on sets. “Every single time I’m handed a gun on the set — every time — they hand me a gun, I look at it, I open it, I show it to the person I’m pointing it too, I show it to the crew,” he said. “Every single take.” Afterwards, “You hand it back to the armor when you’re done.”
Later, he elaborated on how he personally inspects the gun before every take. “I mean every time I get handed a six-gun” – a gun that holds six cartridges – “you point it at the ground and you squeeze it six times,” Clooney added, because it would be “just insane” not to.
Clooney said that “what happened to Brandon [Lee]” is part of the reason he and others exercise extreme caution around on-set weapons. In 1993, the actor and son of Bruce Lee died when his co-star shot him with a gun loaded with blanks. Unbeknownst to him, a metal bullet fragment was also lodged inside the gun. The tragedy was caused by the negligence of weapon handlers on the set, or as Clooney put it, “a series of stupid things that happened.”
On the podcast, he also discussed the death of another friend, Jon-Erik Hexum, who in 1984 shot himself on the set of the television show “Cover Up.” Unaware that the gun was loaded with blanks, he held the gun to his head as a joke and died later of internal bleeding.
Noting that he doesn’t know Baldwin very well and that he does not believe anyone intended to cause harm, Clooney criticized the production company for “skimping” on hiring qualified weapons handlers for the indie film.
“A 24-year-old person shouldn’t probably, with that little experience, be heading up a department with the guns and bullets,” he said of Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the film’s armorer.
He said for he didn’t understand “Why for the life of me this low-budget film with producers that haven’t produced anything wouldn’t have hired for the armorer someone with experience.”
Clooney then weighed in on the accusations that have been leveled against Baldwin, Gutierrez-Reed and first AD Dave Halls – who allegedly yelled “Cold gun!” before Baldwin picked up the firearm, thinking it was safe to use.
“I’ve never heard the term ‘cold gun,'” Clooney said. “I’ve never heard that term. Literally. They’re just talking about stuff I’ve never heard of. It’s just infuriating.”
The Santa Fe Sheriff’s investigation into the shooting is ongoing. Multiple lawsuits have been filed against the film’s producers and crew members involved in the incident.
Clooney says he hopes that the fallout of the tragedy changes the way weapons are handled on sets.
“After Brandon died, it really became a very clear thing of: 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 mistakes. A lot of stupid mistakes.”