Kurt Sutter loves to work with on-screen violence — but only on screen. The Sons of Anarchy creator says he and his crew stress safety on set and make sure they follow all proper protocols. A recent shooting on a film set reminded Hollywood what can happen when safety isn’t paramount during filming.
Deadline asked Kurt Sutter about his approach to safety following the shooting death of Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust. Actor/producer Alec Baldwin shot and killed her during a rehearsal last month after a live round somehow ended up in a gun he was using in a scene. The bullet also hit director Joel Souza, though doctors were able to treat him. New Mexico police are still investigating the incident.
Hutchins’ death brought back painful memories for the movie industry of the death of Brandon Lee. He died after being shot while filming a scene for The Crow in 1994.
“I have tried to avoid talking because anything I might say would feel like judgment,” Kurt Sutter said. “On all my sets, from The Shield to Sons, we had guns in almost every scene, but we never had an incident. … That’s because we followed protocol. Especially after what happened to Brandon Lee, that kicked a certain amount of safety protocols into gear. We hired competent prop people, and we had actors who were smart. And there were always gun tests in front of the cast and crew.”
Sutter doesn’t know what happened on the set of Rust. But it seems like the crew was inexperienced and the production cut corners, he said.
“I don’t know what went down on that set. My sense, from listening to the information that’s coming in — the letting go of union crew and bringing on non-union crew — that those safety protocols were not met,” he said. “You didn’t have people that either knew about them or thought they were important, right? Because, experientially, they didn’t know. Now, whose fault is that? Is it the producer’s fault? Is it the director’s fault? I don’t know where the blame lands, but to me, that’s the hole, right?”
George Clooney Calls ‘Rust’ Shooting ‘Infuriating’ And ‘Insane’
George Clooney said he can’t understand how the shooting on the set of Rust happened. There are safety protocols in place that, if followed, should prevent it, he said on a recent episode of WTF with Marc Maron Podcast.
“Why, for the life of me, this low-budget film with producers who haven’t produced anything wouldn’t have hired for the armorer someone with experience,” the Oceans 11 actor said. “Maybe they weren’t even using that gun to do target practice. But they had live ammo with dummies in her pack, and that is insane.”
Clooney believes that the shooting was a “terrible accident.” But he hopes it will be a costly learning lesson about firearm safety and the need to follow industry safety protocols.
“We need to be better at making the heads of department experienced and know what they’re doing. Because this is just infuriating,” he said. “Every time I get handed a six-gun, you point it at the ground, and you fire. You squeeze it six times. Always.”