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George Clooney Reacts To Rust’s Fatal Shooting, Reflects On Brandon Lee Tragedy

George Clooney in Up in the Air
(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

For weeks now, the entertainment industry has been reeling from the tragic death that occured on the set of Alec Baldwin’s movie Rust. Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins passed a result of an accident on set, with Baldwin’s weapon containing live ammunition. And now George Clooney has reacted to the shooting, and reflected on past set accidents like the Bradon Lee tragedy.

George Clooney has had a long career as an actor-director, and has therefore been privy to a number of tragic accidents that came as a result of guns on set. In fact, the Up in the Air actor has already lost multiple friends as a result of these missteps. Clooney recently appeared on the podcast WTF with Marc Maron, where he reacted to the death of Halyna Hutchins, saying:

I’ve been on sets for 40 years. And the person that hands you the gun, the person responsible for the gun is either the prop person or the armorer. Period. I was friends with an actor named Jon-Erik Hexum who accidentally pulled a gun with a blank in it and put to his head and died from the concussion. And then I was really good friends with Brandon Lee. And that was a series of stupid things. When I say stupid I mean low budget film. My brother Miguel was going to be his best man the next week for his wedding. And Brandon and I played ball and hung out at the Hollywood Y three days a week. We were buddies, and this was his big break. And the first unit, low budget probably, I don’t even remember if the guy has been a union prop guy.

While these accidents happened separately, one thing is clear: sets need to be safer when it comes to the handling of guns and ammunition. The situation surrounding Halyna Hutchins’s death continues to change as those involved in Rust cooperate with the ongoing investigation. And while George Clooney doesn’t have a connection to that particular set, he’s definitely got a personal tie to the subject of safety. After all, he’s personally lost two friends as a result of these types of tragedies.

George Clooney’s comments about Halyma Hutchins’ death came shortly after the horrible accident started making headlines. Given his long career, he feels passionately about the way gun safety should be handled on sets. Add in the tragic deaths of both Jon-Erik Hexum and The Crow star Brandon Lee, and the ER icon’s feelings are definitely understandable. Up until the death of Hutchins, these two make some of the most infamous onset accidents in Hollywood history.

Later in that same podcast, George Clooney went on to address more specifics about the accident that occurred on Rust. There have been a number of reports about the small budget of Alec Baldwin’s ill-fated movie, as well as complains about conditions by members of the crew. The Gravity actor went on,

Every single time I’m handed a gun on a set, every time. They hand me the gun, I look at it, I open it, I show it to the person I’m pointing it to, show it to the crew. Every single take. You hand it back to the armorer when you’re done. You do it again. And part of that is because of what happened with Brandon. Everyone does it. And maybe Alec did that, hopefully he did do that. But the trouble is that dummies are tricky because they look like real bullets. There’s a little hole in the back that somebody's taking all the gunpowder out. And why, for the life of me, this low budget film, with producers who haven’t produced anything, wouldn’t have hired for the armorer someone with experience? With that many guys. And maybe they weren’t even using that gun for target practice, but they had live ammo with dummies in her pack. And that is insane. It’s infuriating.

Well, there you have it. Clearly George Clooney feels strongly about gun safety on sets. And while he wasn’t involved in Rust, he admits feeling furious over the tragic death of Halyma Hutchins. And despite Clooney’s long tenure in front of the camera, even his description of dummie bullets make the situation feel like a very precarious situation. 

So what exactly is the solution that could help prevent these horrible accidents from occurring? For George Clooney, it he seems to think it’s all about hiring the right people. Specifically, heads of departments and armorers who can help to ensure the safety of the cast and crew. In his words,

We need to be better that the heads of our department are experienced and know what they’re doing.

It remains to be seen how the Rust accident has an effect on the film industry as a whole. Dwayne Johnson has vowed to stop using real guns on his movie sets, instead allowing visual effects and post-production to help give weapons a sense of realism.

It remains to be seen how the Rust investigation will all shake out, but all eyes are on the ongoing situation in New Mexico. Be sure to check out the 2021 movie release dates to plan your next movie experience. 

Corey Chichizola

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his famous actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.