Neal W Zoromski, an experienced prop master in the film industry, has said he turned down an opportunity to work on Rust due to “massive red flags” about the production.
Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed on set at Bonanza Creed Ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico last week (October 21) after actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun, which also injured director Joel Souza.
Speaking to the LA Times, Zoromski, who has worked in Hollywood for three decades, recalled how he’d been offered to join the Rust film crew last month in New Mexico, but turned it down after informal discussions with film managers.
“After I pressed ‘send’ on that last email, I felt, in the pit of my stomach: ‘That is an accident waiting to happen,’” Zoromski said.
According to Zoromski, Rust felt like a production more focused on saving money than people’s safety, which raised “massive red flags” about signing up for the job.
He also notes they were looking for a prop master two weeks before filming was scheduled to begin, which gave him “a bad feeling”.
“In the movies, the prep is everything,” Zoromski said. “You also need time to clean, inspect and repair guns. You need time to fix old clocks. In period films, you are sometimes using antiques. But here, there was absolutely no time to prepare, and that gave me a bad feeling.”
His other major concern came when he requested to have at least two experienced crew members, one as an assistant prop master and the other an armourer dedicated to making sure the weapons were safe, alongside him. Producers on Rust however allegedly said only one person is required to handle both jobs.
“You never have a prop assistant double as the armourer,” Zoromski said. “Those are two really big jobs.”
Baldwin, who also acts as a producer on Rust, released a statement following the incident.
“There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother, and deeply admired colleagues of ours.
“I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred and I am in touch with her husband, offering my support to him and his family.
“My heart is broken for her husband, their son and all who knew and loved Halyna.”
Production on Rust is currently paused while police conduct an investigation.