‘Rust’ assistant director had a history of unsafe practices, prop maker says – NBC News

LOS ANGELES — The assistant director on the set of “Rust” where Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins had previously allowed an unsafe working environment on productions, according to a prop maker who worked with him.

Dave Halls “at first he seemed like an older, affable first [assistant director] with the usual run of idiosyncrasies, but that facade soon disappeared,” according to prop maker Maggie Goll, who said she was called to work on Hulu’s “Into the Dark” anthology series in February 2019.

“He did not maintain a safe working environment,” Goll said in a detailed statement to NBC News. “Sets were almost always allowed to become increasingly claustrophobic, no established fire lanes, exits blocked … safety meetings were nonexistent.”

According to court records, Halls handed the prop gun to Baldwin before the fatal shooting, indicating incorrectly that the weapon didn’t carry live rounds by yelling “cold gun.”

Alec Baldwin takes a call in the parking lot outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s offices after being questioned on the shooting.Jim Weber / The New Mexican

Halls did not respond to requests for comment Friday and Saturday.

Goll, an experienced special effects technician and pyrotechnician, said that in one instance on set, Halls attempted to keep filming even after the lead pyrotechnician had suffered a medical emergency and the set had become unsafe.

In a statement to NBC News, a spokesperson for Blumhouse Television, which produced “Into the Dark” with Hulu, said they couldn’t comment “on personnel matters” when asked about complaints against Dave Halls.

The gun Baldwin used that was supposed to contain blanks had misfired before on the New Mexico set, sources familiar with the situation told NBC News Friday. Investigators have not said whether the gun held blanks.

When Baldwin pulled the trigger, he killed Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza, who was standing behind her.

“There is absolutely no reason that gun safety should be ignored on set, even when it is a non-firing prop firearm,” Goll said.

On the set of “Into the Dark,” Halls “did not feel the same” and neglected to hold safety meetings or make announcements prior to the appearance of a firearm on set, Goll added.

“The only reason the crew was made aware of a weapon’s presence was because the assistant prop master demanded Dave acknowledge and announce the situation each day,” she said.

“The anthology series was a ‘side letter’ agreement … that allowed for lesser working conditions, no true jurisdiction over covered union work, aka non-preferential hiring and what amounts to poverty wages for the crew,” she added.

No one has been arrested or charged in the New Mexico shooting and the investigation is ongoing.

Diana Dasrath and The Associated Press contributed.