Shocking Details: ‘Rust’ Director Joel Souza Reveals Alec Baldwin Shooting Chaos – ‘Nothing Made Sense’

Joel Souza, the director of the film “Rust,” who was injured after Alec Baldwin discharged a prop gun, shared his struggle to comprehend the events that unfolded on the New Mexico movie set, even after being rushed to the hospital.

In his testimony on Friday in a Santa Fe, N.M. courtroom, during the seventh day of the involuntary manslaughter trial of Hannah Gutierrez, Souza stated, “I knew something got me.” The 26-year-old Arizona woman could face a maximum of three years in prison if found guilty of the felony charges related to the on-set death of Halyna Hutchins that took place on Oct. 21, 2021.

Friday was the first time Souza publicly recounted the details of the fatal accident that took the life of Hutchins, a promising cinematographer. She had an impressive resume and had taken the job on “Rust” as she was excited to work on a western film.

In the aftermath of the incident, Souza remembered arguing with the medical staff at the Santa Fe hospital he was taken to by ambulance. He was adamant that his injury could not have been inflicted by a real bullet.

It is against Hollywood safety protocols to have real ammunition on a movie set.

“I just kept saying: ‘You don’t understand,’” Souza stated in court before the 12-member jury and four alternate jurors. “This was a movie, and that’s not possible. They kept insisting: ‘No, it’s a real bullet.’ They finally managed to convince me when they showed me my back X-ray, and there was a large bullet lodged in it.”

Prior to the shooting, Souza had entered the set’s wooden church at Bonanza Creek Ranch and positioned himself behind Hutchins, who was discussing Baldwin’s upcoming scene. Baldwin was seated in a pew, fully costumed, facing the door. Souza testified that he was not aware of who brought the gun into the church or who handed it to Baldwin.

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“I went in to inspect the camera angle,” Souza explained. “I wanted to peek over Halyna’s shoulder to see what the camera view was like, but I never got the chance.”

That’s when the gun was fired.

“There was a deafeningly loud bang,” Souza recalled. “It felt as if someone had hit my shoulder with a baseball bat. I remember staggering back and shouting, but I can’t recall my exact words.”

Souza recounted how he watched crew members assist Hutchins to the ground. “Nothing made sense. At first, I thought she had just been startled by the noise… Then I saw the blood on her back.”

Baldwin, who was indicted on involuntary manslaughter charges by a grand jury in January, has claimed he didn’t pull the trigger, and that the gun discharged during rehearsal. Baldwin pleaded not guilty and could face up to 18 months in prison if convicted.

The bullet entered Hutchins on the right side of her chest, went through her, and lodged in Souza’s shoulder. Hutchins, a 42-year-old mother, died later that afternoon after being airlifted to a trauma hospital in Albuquerque.

Souza described interviewing about eight cinematographers for the role on “Rust.” He was particularly impressed by Hutchins’ background — she was born in Ukraine and grew up on a naval base in the Arctic Circle — and her film credentials, including her education at the American Film Institute.

“As a female cinematographer, that’s doubly impressive,” Souza said. “Looking at the number of female cinematographers in our industry, the stats are quite dismal. She was very excited to work on a western.”

During the pandemic, they formed a bond over Zoom calls, he said.

“There was something about Halyna,” Souza said. “We shared a common vision for what the movie should be.”

After choosing Hutchins, Souza said he told the film’s producers and production managers to hire her: “Please don’t mess this up because she’s really great.”

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The trial of Gutierrez, which is expected to continue through the following week, is being televised by Court TV.

Souza testified that he didn’t have much experience with guns and ammunition, and “Rust” was only the second film he worked on that involved guns and required an armorer. He clarified that he wasn’t involved in hiring Gutierrez, who was working on her second movie as chief armorer.

Trial testimony has questioned whether Gutierrez was adequately qualified. Special prosecutors have said witnesses described her work as “sloppy” and “unprofessional.”

However, Souza, who also wrote the screenplay for “Rust,” mentioned that the third day of production was a complex one, with scenes involving gun shootouts and a western town filled with horses, a donkey, and extras playing townspeople. After the day was successfully executed, Souza admitted that he sent a message to Gutierrez praising her work that day.

Souza wasn’t sure about Gutierrez’s actions on the day of the shooting. However, he distinctly remembered seeing the young armorer in the church doorway when he was on the ground after being shot.

“She looked distraught. I remember her saying, ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Joel,’” Souza testified. “And I remember someone shouting at her, and she was quickly ushered out.”

Souza testified that it was Baldwin who initially hired him to write the screenplay for “Rust,” and both men were keen to work together on a western film. New Mexico was chosen for its generous tax incentives and its picturesque high-desert landscapes, which evoke the Old West.

During Friday afternoon’s session in the trial, the tension rose during testimony by on-set medic Cherlyn Schaefer. Struggling to treat Hutchins’ severe wounds as she lay dying on the wooden planks of the church floor, Schaefer has sued Baldwin and other crew members, claiming she has suffered trauma due to lack of adequate medical personnel and equipment while they waited for paramedics from Santa Fe County.

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A defense attorney suggested that her appearance at the trial was to strengthen her case for monetary damages. Schaefer retorted, saying her legal efforts were initially aimed at improving safety in New Mexico’s film community.

Schaefer expressed a desire to elaborate further, and New Mexico 1st Judicial District Court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer consented.

“I went home that night and looked at my little boy who is the same age as Halyna’s son,” Schaefer said. “All I could think about was how I couldn’t save his mother’s life, and how he was going to grow up without a mother, and how her spouse lost the love of his life…”

Sommer abruptly interrupted Schaefer mid-sentence.

“I mean no harm to you,” the judge told Schaefer. “But we’re going to strike that testimony.”

Sommer instructed the jury to disregard Schaefer’s personal narrative.

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