Let computers do it: 'Rust' tragedy involving Alec Baldwin spurs call to ban guns on movie sets

NEW YORK (KABC) -- With computer-generated imagery, it seems the sky's the limit in the magic Hollywood can produce: elaborate dystopian universes. Trips to outer space, for those neither astronauts nor billionaires. Immersive journeys to the future, or back to bygone eras.

But as a shocked and saddened industry was reminded this week, many productions still use guns - real guns - when filming. And despite rules and regulations, people can get killed, as happened last week when Alec Baldwin fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins after he was handed a weapon and told it was safe.

The tragedy has led some in Hollywood, along with incredulous observers, to ask: Why are real guns ever used on set, when computers can create gunshots in post-production? Isn't even the smallest risk unacceptable?

For Alexi Hawley, it is. "Any risk is too much risk," the executive producer of ABC's police drama "The Rookie" announced in a staff memo Friday, saying the events in New Mexico had "shaken us all."
There "will be no more 'live' weapons on the show," he wrote in a note, first reported by The Hollywood Reporter and confirmed by The Associated Press.

Instead, he said, the policy would be to use replica guns, which use pellets and not bullets, with muzzle flashes added in post-production.

The director of the popular Kate Winslet drama "Mare of Easttown," Craig Zobel, called for the entire industry to follow suit and said gunshots on that show were added after filming, even though on previous productions he has used live rounds.

TIMELINE: Alec Baldwin's prop gun misfire joins list of fatal movie set accidents
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The apparent fatal accident involving actor Alec Baldwin and a prop gun brings to light similar cases on past movie sets.


"There's no reason to have guns loaded with blanks or anything on set anymore," Zobel wrote on Twitter. "Should just be fully outlawed. There's computers now. The gunshots on 'Mare of Easttown' are all digital. You can probably tell, but who cares? It's an unnecessary risk."

Bill Dill - a cinematographer who taught Hutchins, a rising star in her field, at the American Film Institute - expressed disgust in an interview over the "archaic practice of using real guns with blanks in them, when we have readily available and inexpensive computer graphics."

Dill, whose credits include "The Five Heartbeats" and "Dancing in September," said there was added danger from real guns because "people are working long hours" on films and "are exhausted."

"There's no excuse for using live weapons," he said.

A petition was launched over the weekend on change.org for real guns to be banned from production sets.

"There is no excuse for something like this to happen in the 21st century," it said of the tragedy. "This isn't the early 90s, when Brandon Lee was killed in the same manner. Change needs to happen before additional talented lives are lost." Lee, the actor son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, was killed in 1993 by a makeshift bullet left in a prop gun after a previous scene.

The petition appealed to Baldwin directly "to use his power and influence" in the industry and promote "Halyna's Law," which would ban the use of real firearms on set. As it stands, the U.S. federal workplace safety agency is silent on the issue and most of the preferred states for productions take a largely hands-off approach.

Hutchins, 42, died and director Joel Souza was wounded Thursday on the set of the Western "Rust" when Baldwin fired a prop gun that a crew member unwittingly told him was "cold" or not loaded with live rounds, according to court documents made public Friday.

Souza was later released from the hospital.
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