34 Comments
Jan 23·edited Jan 23

"[T]he producer is the ultimate authority on a set. He’s in charge of everything, even above the director."

This is not correct, including for the reasons that (1) there are multiple producers on most films, and (2) the relative authority of the director(s) and the various producers will vary from film to film. One might as well write, "Sonny Bunch is an editor at the Bulwark, and therefore has ultimate authority over everything in the publication."

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The point about Alec Baldwin’s dual role as actor and producer is key. I think you’re right that the charge should contemplate his responsibility as the producer for the clear lack of control that existed on and in the vicinity of the set.

Certainly there is negligence. Whether that rises to criminal behavior will be for the trier of fact to determine.

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Such a tragic situation. I agree with you - the Producer was ultimately responsible, and I am surprised by the criminal charge decision being directed only at Baldwin.

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Apologies for the second comment here; but the Vanity Fair article wasn't complete. It omitted the FBI finding that the gun could not have fired without the trigger being pulled.

Baldwin has steadfastly denied pulling the trigger.

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Baldwin: “I feel that someone is responsible for what happened, and I can’t say who that is … [b]ut I know it’s not me. I mean, honest to God, if I felt that I was responsible, I might have killed myself if I thought I was responsible. And I don’t say that lightly.”

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The David Lynch clip is priceless. I hope his next post LA Trilogy project project is coming soon.

Thanks for the book recommendation! Psyched to read the Jon Lewis book now.

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Kind of beside the point re the legal side, but if one was the actor in that situation the charge would seem so secondary to how dreadful you’d feel. Even if you weren’t also the producer and/or sincerely believed you yourself weren’t culpable, you’d still feel dreadful forever.

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The manslaughter charge seems harsh even for a producer, even if it is he who holds the highest level of responsibility on the job. If Baldwin had been only the producer and not the actor who fired the shot, should he have been so charged? I simply cannot answer this question, but I suspect a non-producer actor would be absolved. Regardless, there's absolutely no question someone was killed due to gross negligence. It's a horrible accident.

I still cannot figure how any professional could mistake a blank cartridge for one with a bullet. Surely there are rote safety checks that take place.

But what seems especially off-balance with this charge is what the district attorney said: “You should not point a gun at someone that you’re not willing to shoot."

That comment is simply not germane when it's a movie.

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When I heard that Baldwin was being charged, my first thought was this has to be because Baldwin was the producer and the set was an undisciplined zoo. Even though he may or may not have actually pulled the trigger, it was Baldwin the producer who allowed the unprofessionalism that put the loaded gun in his hand.

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100% where I've been at since hearing about this at first - Alec Baldwin, the actor, is blameless, and Alec Baldwin, the director, has a lot of questions to answer.

John Rogers, my favorite showrunner, says he always points every prop gun at his hand immediately before filming and pulls the trigger. Come on, you gonna let a self-proclaimed socialist act more responsibly than you, Sonny?

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Seeing Jeff Back, Jimmy Page and the Yardbirds in all their glory is another highlight of Blow-Up - RIP Jeff Beck

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Alec Baldwin was not "the producer."

There were 10 producers on the movie. Which producers were strictly financial backers, which were figureheads? Did Baldwin's duties include overseeing the armorer?

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This was my take as well when it first happened. If an actor is told by everyone around them that a prop gun is safe to use in a scene that's been rehearsed over and over again, and then the gun turns out to be loaded, that's either someone else's liability or a massive systems failure.

But if you're the producer, you're the one responsible for both the system and hiring an inexperienced armorer (to shoot a Western), as well as a general culture of neglect or apathy or something. The idea of mixing live ammo and blanks is chilling in it's stupidity.

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Jan 20Liked by Sonny Bunch

This throwaway citation: Road Trip to Nowhere: Hollywood Encounters the Counterculture, by Jon Lewis made for a delightful topping to your thoughtful, ironic essay on the tragic events on "Rust."

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I am not a fan of Baldwin, but the charge of involuntary manslaughter is ludicrous. I am sure all the lawyers who've basically said this is prosecutoral over reach are correct. When Beandon Lee died on the set of the Crow after being shot, the district attorney did not file charges. Negligence sure. But this is more a civil case. This is nothing more than a prosecutor going after someone famous. Lawyers will make money. The press will feed off the tragedy. And the prosecutor who filed charges will ultimately look like an idiot wasting tax payer money.

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This is why we have trials. I'm sure it will be exhaustive. This is a factual matter. May I remind all, and it bears repeating, that we do not do good by having an opinion on everything.

Except, of course, the Packers.

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