Hopefully more studios will do the same after the tragic death of Halyna Hutchins.
One of the more horrific stories to come out this year was the recent, tragic fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust. The Alec Baldwin led and produced picture is now the center of a litany of controversies and a criminal investigation into the incompetence that day that led to Hutchins’ death. Rumors of poor set safety and crew walkouts have circulated, and the court of public opinion on Baldwin’s role has very much been in session. While there is little that can likely bring peace to the family and friends of Hutchins after such a haphazard, preventable act took her life — the only thing that can really be productive moving forward is for Hollywood to make some serious promises to change how they operate. Luckily, one of the industry’s leading men has stepped up to set an example. Dwayne Johnson has vowed to never use real firearms on set ever again, personally nor on any sets of his company Seven Bucks Productions.
While that promise might ring a bit performative — because most of Hollywood’s promises to make progressive change are — coming from one of the biggest action stars in cinema, it actually could make eliminating guns on set a trend. At the high profile premier of his new Netflix film Red Notice, which also stars major action stars Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot, he told Variety, “First of all, I was heartbroken. We lost a life. My heart goes out to her family and everybody on set. I’ve known Alec, too, for a very long time.” He went on, “I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can tell you, without an absence of clarity here, that any movie that we have moving forward with Seven Bucks Productions — any movie, any television show, or anything we do or produce — we won’t use real guns at all.”
He made the important point as well that safety on set should spare no expense—which should be a given especially when you consider how much money a lot of these studios and production companies have to work with (Red Notice is the highest budget film Netflix has made to date). “We’re going to switch over to rubber guns, and we’re going to take care of it in post,” he said. “We’re not going to worry about the dollars; we won’t worry about what it costs.” He went on, “I love the movie business. There are safety protocols and measures that we have always taken in the movie business and we take very seriously, and these sets are safe sets, and we’re proud of that. But accidents do happen. And when something like this happens of this magnitude, [that is] this heartbreaking, I think the most prudent thing and the smartest thing to do is just pause for a second and really re-examine how you’re going to move forward and how we’re going to work together.”
This news from Johnson comes at a time when Hollywood is having a bit of a reckoning in general in how it treats below the line crew, and the general conditions of set life. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and its 13 local Hollywood unions have been working on a strike and subsequent negotiations with movie studios for months now over unsafe and inhumane set conditions and expectations for crew workers. There have been rumblings online as well that the failures on the Rust set that caused Hutchins’ death were partly due to the production hiring non-union workers because of the strike. That has yet to be proven, but would not be unheard of in the movie industry, which categorically bristles at union organizing. Hopefully Johnson, who is a megastar and beloved Hollywood industry voice, can help to affect real change that is a turning point in set safety and crew conditions after such a massive tragedy.