Rust: Producers Were Warned About Dave Halls’ Safety Issues on Previous Movie

Rust set
AP

A crew member said that he warned the producers of Rust that Dave Halls, the first assistant director, was not careful about set safety during a previous production.

Halls has admitted that he failed to properly check a gun before handing it to Alec Baldwin on the set of “Rust” on Oct. 21. Baldwin fired that gun while rehearsing a scene, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding the director.

The production companies credited on “Rust” include Thomasville Pictures, led by Ryan Smith and Allen Cheney, as well as Short Porch Pictures, run by Nathan Klingher and Ryan Winterstern, among others. The same two companies also produced “One Way,” another independent film that shot in Georgia in February. Halls served as first assistant director on that project as well.

During the shoot, the crew member said he witnessed an unsafe situation in which cars were being driven in an open field by local people who were not stunt drivers. The crew member, who asked not to be identified, said that he specifically warned the producers that Halls was putting the crew in jeopardy.

“That man is a liability,” the crew member recalled saying. “He’s going to fucking kill someone someday, and you’re going to be responsible.”

A second crew member on “One Way” also said there were safety problems involving Halls and vehicles on set. This person said there was a scene with a “car hit” that had inadequate crew, and that background actors were driving cars, instead of stunt drivers.

“They put me in a position of danger,” the second crew member said.  “They’re getting the bottom-of-the-barrel people.”

A third crew member confirmed that he had heard about safety issues involving Halls and vehicles from a fourth person on set. This crew member also said he witnessed Halls losing his temper on set.

Jay Graves, the set dresser on “One Way,” also told Variety that he was nearly clipped by a car twice during the production. He said that they were filming on a street, but that the street was not completely closed, such that cross-traffic was able to drive through the set between takes.

“It was the least safe set I’ve ever worked on in my life,” Graves said.

Another crew member, Jared Tyree, was on set for a day. He told Variety that production shut down for about 30 minutes after two vehicles nearly collided.

A spokesperson for the producers provided a quote from Molly Mayeux, the line producer on “One Way,” who denied there were safety issues on the set.

“I can attest with 100% certainty that ‘One Way’ was extremely safety-conscious, and all safety protocols were followed during the shoot,” Mayeux said. “I am sickened by these ‘sources’ trying to capitalize on such a horrific accident.”

Mayeux also denied that the crew member issued the warning about Halls being a “liability,” according to the spokesperson.

Halls’ lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.

Halls was also fired from “Freedom’s Path,” in 2019, after an incident involving a gun that went off unexpectedly, according to that film’s producers.

Thomasville Pictures was also involved in “Bandit,” an independent film starring Mel Gibson, though they were not the primary producers. Two crew members on that project said that some of the workers were not fully paid for the time they worked. Two crew members on “One Way” also said there were issues with late paychecks on that film.

Heather McReynolds, the second second assistant director on “Bandit,” said that crew members were given downscale hotel accommodations, and were not paid their full per diems.

“My experience with Thomasville was not the best,” she said. “I never felt unsafe, but I was very frustrated and irritated the entire time.”

She said the crew was especially annoyed to see the producers posting glamor shots on social media. Some of the producers have posted images of private jets and luxury resorts.

“I’m trying to tell them my frustrations and irritations, but here they are just posting pictures on social media, like ‘This is so much fun,’” she said. “But your crew’s not happy. If you talked to anyone who worked on the movie ‘Bandit,’ they’d be like, ‘Oh yeah, that movie.’”

Not everyone had a bad experience with the company, however. J.M. Stelly, who worked as a digital imaging technician on “One Way,” said that Smith and Cheney treated him well. He also said he had been friends with Halls for years, and always knew him to be conscientious about safety. He said the fundamental question on “Rust” is how a live round made it on set.

“I don’t think this falls on Allen and I don’t think this falls on Ryan,” Stelly said. “And people should lay off Dave. He admitted to what he did. That’s the right thing to do.”