‘They cut corners, ridiculously’: Michael Shannon suggests Rust’s budget played part in Alec Baldwin shooting

Actor Michael Shannon raged against low production budgets when asked about the recent charges facing Alec Baldwin over the death of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Hutchins was killed in October 2021 after a prop gun held by Baldwin discharged a real bullet, injuring director Joel Souza before fatally wounding Hutchins.

Last week, it was announced that Baldwin and the film’s armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed would each be charged with involuntary manslaughter, while first assistant director David Halls has agreed to plead guilty to the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.

In an interview with The Chicago Tribune, Shannon spoke about the case in light of his directorial debut Eric Larue, which deals with the aftermath of a school shooting.

“It’s not a sloppy procedure, in my experience. It’s very, very meticulous,” Shannon said about gun handling procedures on movie sets.

“But Rust is an example of a problem I see in filmmaking more and more these days. On smaller productions, independent productions, the producers keep wanting more and more for less and less. They don’t want to give you enough money,” he said.

Michael Shannon (left) and Alec Baldwin (Getty Images)
Michael Shannon (left) and Alec Baldwin (Getty Images)

“They cut corners, ridiculously, every which way. And they get away with it.”

Baldwin is among the six credited producers on Rust, which had a reported budget of just $7m (£5.65m).

“They whittle the budget down to the bare minimum,” Shannon continued, “but the one thing you can’t cut corners on is your armourer. If you have guns in your movie, that’s no place to cut corners.

Baldwin has placed responsibility for the tragedy on Gutierrez-Reed and Halls while repeatedly denying any wrongdoing and maintaining that he was told the gun was “cold”.

Shannon explained that usually, the actor and the assistant director are shown that the gun chamber is empty by the armourer before it is handed over.

Halyna Hutchins (Getty Images)
Halyna Hutchins (Getty Images)

“With Rust, before that gun went into his hand, [Baldwin] should have seen with his own eyes there was nothing in it,” he said.

Nevertheless, Shannon does not place blame on Baldwin for the incident. “You never settle for walking up to an actor and handing the gun over without showing them what’s inside of it. Ever,” he said.

“I’m not condemning Alec. I feel horrible for the guy. It’s a nightmare... But this is what happens when you lowball and cut corners and hire people that may not be qualified, and pay them next to nothing, and make the movie on the cheap.”

In a statement issued after the shooting, executive producer Allen Cheney defended the movie’s producers: “The six credited producers on the independent film Rust, Ryan Smith, Alec Baldwin, Nathan Klingher, Ryan Winterstern, Matt DelPiano and Anjul Nigam, collectively have more than 35 years experience producing small to mid-level film and television projects.

Rust is a union-certified production, in good standing with all of the major production unions and guilds, including IATSE, the Teamsters, SAG, and DGA.”

The Independent has contacted Cheney and his business partner Ryan Donnell Smith for additional comment.

The charges against Baldwin, Gutierrez-Reed and Halls are due to be filed at the end of the month, Mary Carmack-Altwies, the district attorney for New Mexico’s first judicial district, said.

Eric Larue – starring Alexander Skarsgård and Judy Greer – is currently in post-production.