Veteran prop master turned down ‘Rust’ over ‘massive red flags’



A veteran prop master has revealed he was offered the job to work on Alec Baldwin’s “Rust” — but turned it down after “massive red flags” left him convinced it was “an accident waiting to happen.”

Neal Zoromski told the Los Angeles Times that he was approached on Sept. 20 and initially said he was “very interested” to work on the Baldwin-produced Western.

But during four days of negotiations, he became alarmed that “Rust” appeared to be a slapdash production that put saving money over people’s safety, he told the California paper.

“There were massive red flags,” he said, saying that he emailed to turn down the gig.

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

Zoromski said he now feels haunted over the fatal shooting of 42-year-old cinematographer Halyna Hutchins — believing that had he taken the job, the deadly accident would never have happened.

“I take my job incredibly seriously,” he told the LA Times.

 Halyna Hutchins
Neal Zoromski said that he believes that he could have prevented the death of Halyna Hutchins if he had taken the job.

“As the prop master, you have to be concerned about safety. I’m the guy who hands the guns to the people on set,” he said.

One of his key concerns had been that producers — who only had a budget of $7 million — refused his request to also hire both an assistant prop master and an armorer.

Days after he turned down the job, Hannah Gutierrez Reed — a 24-year-old ex-model who’d only been armorer once before — announced she’d got the job as the “property key assistant/armorer,” the paper said.

"Rust" set
According to him, there were “massive red flags” all over the project including the crew’s choice to not hire an armorer.

Just months ago, she admitted she was scared of taking on such jobs because of her lack of experience.

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

Zoromski was also concerned that the prop master was being hired just two weeks before shooting started, robbing the key crew member of the months of prep time they usually get, he said.

People attend a vigil for late cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who was fatally shot on the film set of "Rust" on October 24, 2021.
People attend a vigil for late cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who was fatally shot on the film set of “Rust” on October 24, 2021.
REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

“In the movies, the prep is everything. … But here, there was absolutely no time to prepare, and that gave me a bad feeling,” he said.

Since the shooting last Thursday, production has been shut down, and it is being investigated both by Santa Fe County Sheriff’s deputies and the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau.

The “Rust” producers late last week insisted in a statement that “the safety of our cast and crew is the top priority.”

“We will continue to cooperate with the Santa Fe authorities in their investigation and offer mental health services to the cast and crew during this tragic time.”


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