Veteran Prop Master Describes ‘Massive Red Flags’ That Forced Him To Turn Down Rust Job
A prop master who has worked on Hollywood films for three decades has described noticing ‘massive red flags’ while considering a job on the set of Rust.
Neal W. Zoromski ultimately decided to turn down the September job offer as a result of his concerns over the film, which ended up being the project cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was working on when she was fatally injured by a prop gun fired by Alec Baldwin.
Zoromski initially said he was ‘very interested’ about the idea of working on a Western film and being in charge of props such as pistols, rifles, wagons, saddles and flour sacks that would help create the illusion of Kansas in the 1880s, however his feelings changed during four days of informal discussions with film managers.
Speaking to The Los Angeles Times, Zoromski said he got a ‘bad feeling’, saying, ‘There were massive red flags.’
When meeting with the managers, the prop master got the feeling that Rush was prioritising saving money over the safety of the cast and crew. He claimed production managers did not seem to value experience, and that they were evasive when it came to discussing the budget he would have for props.
Zoromski was also alarmed at the lateness of the discussions, noting the job offer was coming just two weeks before Rust was set to begin filming.
He said, ‘In the movies, the prep is everything. …You also need time to clean, inspect and repair guns. 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.’
The prop master also requested he have at least two experienced crew members to work with; one to serve as an assistant prop master, and the other as an armorer, who would work to make sure the weapons were safe, oiled and functioning properly.
Having already turned down an earlier request for Zoromski to have five crew members, Rust producers reportedly insisted only one person was needed to handle both jobs.
He commented, ‘You never have a prop assistant double as the armorer. Those are two really big jobs.’
Zoromski decided to turn down the job, saying, ‘After I pressed ‘send’ on that last email, I felt, in the pit of my stomach: ‘That is an accident waiting to happen.”
In the wake of Hutchins’ death, Rust producers released a statement to say the safety of its cast and crew is ‘the top priority’.
They continued, ‘Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down. 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.’
Zoromski believes things may have turned out differently if he had decided to take the job on Rust, explaining, ‘I take my job incredibly seriously. As the prop master, you have to be concerned about safety. I’m the guy who hands the guns to the people on set.’
Three days after Zoromski turned down the job, 24-year-old Hannah Gutierrez-Reed announced on Facebook she had been hired as ‘property key assistant/armorer’ on Rust. She is believed to have left three weapons on a cart on set, one of which was the gun which killed Hutchins.
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CreditsThe Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Times