Neal Zoromski, who was in talks to be the prop master for the Alec Baldwin film Rust, walked away from the project after finding there were “massive red flags,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

Production on Rust halted last week after Alec Baldwin fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins with a prop gun, an incident which is under investigation by the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office. 

Zoromski’s chilling comments came on the same day that CNN reported that Rust assistant director Dave Halls, who allegedly handed Baldwin the prop gun, was fired from a 2019 production after another firearm discharge injured a crew member working on set. 

Rust Was an ‘Accident Waiting to Happen’ 

Neal Zoromski told the Times that he was having informal discussions with Rust producers to be the film’s prop master, and that he was initially “very interested” in the role. 

But Zoromski said he got a “bad feeling” when producers dismissed his questions and seemed to be mostly focused on keeping the film’s budget down. 

“There were massive red flags,” he told the Times.

The veteran crewman said that producers were “evasive” about how big his prop budget would be, and that they wanted to combine the roles of assistant prop master and armorer — who is responsible for prop gun preparation and safety —  into one. 

“You never have a prop assistant double as the armorer,” Zoromski said. “Those are two really big jobs.”

Most worryingly, Neal Zoromski said, was that the film was set to enter production two weeks from when he was contacted. 

Now, Zoromski said he believes the tragic accident that killed Halyna Hutchins may have never taken place had he accepted the role. Photo credit: Instagram 

“In the movies, the prep is everything,” he said. “You also need time to clean, inspect and repair guns,” he said. “You need time to fix old clocks. In period films, you are sometimes using antiques. But here, there was absolutely no time to prepare, and that gave me a bad feeling.”

All of this combined to convince Zoromski that taking the role on Rust was a bad idea. He told the Times he sent an email to producers to officially decline the position four days after receiving the offer. 

“After I pressed ‘send’ on that last email, I felt, in the pit of my stomach: ‘That is an accident waiting to happen,’” he said.

Now, Zoromski said he believes the tragic accident that killed Halyna Hutchins may have never taken place had he accepted the role. 

After Zoromski turned down the offer, producers hired 24-year-old Hannah Gutierrez Reed for the armorer position. It was the second-ever production she had worked on as a gun wrangler. 

Assistant Director Previously Fired for Gun Mishap

On the same day Zoromski called Rust “an accident waiting to happen,” CNN reported that Assistant Director Dave Halls had previously been fired from a 2019 film production after a prop gun discharged on set and injured a crew member. 

On the set of Freedom’s Path, which wrapped production but has not yet been released, a firearm “unexpectedly discharged” which caused “a sound crew member to recoil from the blast,” according to CNN.

“Halls was removed from set immediately after the prop gun discharged,” production company Rocket Soul Studios told CNN. “Production did not resume filming until Dave was off site. An incident report was taken and filed at that time.” 

Halls’ specific role in the incident was not immediately clear. 

'Rust' assistant director Dave Halls was fired from a movie set in 2019 after a prop gun misfire injured crew. Neal Zoromski said the Alec Baldwin production had 'massive red flags.'
‘Rust’ assistant director Dave Halls was fired from a movie set in 2019 after a prop gun misfire injured crew. Neal Zoromski said the Alec Baldwin production had ‘massive red flags.’ Photo credit: IMDb

“Upon wrapping production for the day, Dave Halls was officially terminated and given the specific reasons for his termination,” Rocket Soul Studios added. “Dave was very remorseful for the events, and understood the reasons he was being terminated. A new assistant director as well as a new armorer were hired for the duration of principal photography. Production of the film finished successfully.”

The injured crew member was reportedly advised to seek treatment by the on-set medic, and returned to work on the film “a few days later,” according to CNN

According to court documents, Dave Halls handed Alec Baldwin the prop firearm that discharged Thursday and killed Halyna Hutchins. Halls also reportedly told Baldwin the gun was “cold,” meaning it did not contain live ammunition.