‘Rust’ Assistant Director Linked to Injury of 74-year-old Actress on ‘Freedom’s Path’
Before Dave Halls was fired from the set of the upcoming film Freedom’s Path in 2019, following the unexpected discharge of a firearm, two other people suffered on-set injuries that raised red flags about the assistant director’s attention to safety, a crew member tells Rolling Stone.
Quinton Rodriguez, a first assistant camera operator on Freedom’s Path who witnessed the discharge, says Halls declined to take a recommended precaution that could have prevented an injury suffered by veteran actress Carol Sutton.
Sutton, who died last year at age 76, was in a scene that called for her to drop to her knees in anguish upon learning of the death of another character, Rodriguez says.
“I remember turning to Dave, and I was like, ‘Dave, should we get her a crash pad? We should get her a crash pad,’” Rodriguez recalls. “He was like, ‘No, she’s not going to fall all the way.’ So we had like a furniture pad instead. And she ended up fully falling over and injuring herself. A furniture pad is not a pad that you would want to fall on. You should have a crash pad. We had stunts on set. It would have taken 60 seconds.”
Halls is now under intense scrutiny after he admittedly handed Alec Baldwin a loaded Colt revolver on the set of the Western movie Rust last Thursday and declared it a “cold gun” — indicating it was unloaded — shortly before the actor pulled the trigger and fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
In yet another incident before he was fired from Freedom’s Path, Halls allegedly failed to step in when a crew member ran into a shot to remove an errant coat and subsequently fell and injured herself to the point that she “couldn’t get up and out of the shot,” Rodriguez said.
“Traditionally, that would be where the first assistant director, whose job is safety, would call ‘Cut,’ and then step over to make sure the person was alright. That didn’t happen. My second assistant camera [operator] ended up stepping in to make sure she was alright. I cut camera on my own,” Rodriguez recalls.
“A lot of his mentality was just, ‘Get the shot. And get the shot on time.’ He seemed willing to cut whatever corners were necessary to make that happen,” Rodriguez says of Halls.
Rodriguez says he also was on hand the day that Halls was fired. According to producers, the termination came after a gun “unexpectedly discharged,” causing “a minor and temporary injury” to a crew member.
That incident was previously reported by CNN, but Rodriguez gives new insight into what happened that day. He says the period movie involved handmade, muzzle-loaded firearms that would be filled with enough gunpowder to cause a flash when fired.
“We started out in a wide shot, and we ended up doing it a couple times, and then we had to cut in the middle of the take, before the gun would have been fired in the shot,” he explains. “Then we moved into the close-up on the shot, and the gun obviously had not been cleared to become a ‘cold’ weapon. We went in for the take, and to literally everybody’s surprise, all eight people within a 10-foot range, the gun ended up firing right in our boom operator’s face.”
He said the boom operator immediately “threw his headphones off to the ground, dropped the boom mic and essentially ran from the set.”
“He caught the full volume of this gun going off in his ears, which is what caused him to have that reaction,” Rodriguez said. “Had that been an actual blank, it could have caused some proper damage.”
Rodriguez says Halls was fired over the incident because the gun should have been cleared once they moved from a wide shot to a close-up that didn’t even show the barrel of the weapon: “Normally, we would have gone through the whole take, the gun would have fired, and then, when we moved on to the next take, it would have already have been emptied. But because we ended up cutting early, the gun wasn’t fired. What should have happened was the armorer should have cocked the gun and shot it to show everybody it was cleared, that it was a ‘cold gun.’ And then it should have gone back to the actor. That didn’t happen.”
He says Halls was blamed because “a big part of the first AD’s role is safety. When the gun didn’t go off and we moved on from the shot, he should have made sure going into the next shot that it was a ‘cold gun,’” Rodriguez says.
According to a statement from producers, “Halls was removed from set immediately after the prop gun discharged. Production did not resume filming until Dave was off-site.”
Asked about the prior incident involving Sutton, the producers declined to comment Wednesday.
“Unfortunately, we cannot comment any further as all communication moving forward will be between production and the Sante Fe Sheriff’s Department,” they told Rolling Stone.
Halls did not respond to a request for comment.