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Alec Baldwin reaches a settlement in the 'Rust' wrongful death lawsuit

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

It has been nearly a year since cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was shot and killed on the set of the Western film "Rust" in New Mexico. Actor Alec Baldwin was rehearsing a scene when a gun he was holding went off. The Santa Fe County sheriff has been investigating ever since. But now, there has been a settlement in the case with the Hutchins family.

NPR's Mandalit del Barco has been covering this case from the beginning. Hi there.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Hi, Juana.

SUMMERS: So Mandalit, can you start by just telling us what this settlement's about?

DEL BARCO: Yes, well, it's - this all happened about a year ago. And first of all, the settlement is still subject to court approval. But today, Matthew Hutchins, the husband of Halyna Hutchins, says he has dropped the wrongful death lawsuit he had filed against Alec Baldwin and the other producers with Rust Productions. He filed on behalf of himself and his young son. And in that suit, Hutchins accused them of reckless conduct and failing to follow basic industry safety standard - safety checks and gun safety rules.

But in a statement today, Hutchins said that all of us believe Halyna's death was a terrible accident. He didn't give many other details of the settlement, but the real kicker here, Juana, is that as part of the agreement, the filming of "Rust" will resume in January, and now Hutchins' widow will serve as executive producer.

SUMMERS: Wow. OK, that is a big development. I'm hoping you can also remind us of some of the backstory.

DEL BARCO: You might remember that Alec Baldwin, the star and one of the producers of the cowboy movie - he denies responsibility for the shooting on the set at a ranch outside of Santa Fe. Now, during a rehearsal of a scene in a church, he was handed what was supposed to be a prop gun that was not loaded with - that was not supposed to be loaded with live ammunition. And he later recounted to ABC News how he was practicing with Hutchins behind the camera.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ALEC BALDWIN: Now, in this scene, I'm going to cock the gun. I said, do you want to see that, and she said, yes. So I take the gun, and I start to cock the gun. I'm not going to pull the trigger. I said, do you see that? She goes, well, just cheat it down and tilt it down a little bit like that. And I cock the gun and go, can you see that? Can you see that? Can you see that? And she says - and then I let go of the hammer of the gun, and the gun goes off.

DEL BARCO: That bullet from that Colt .45 hit and eventually killed Hutchins, and it wounded director Joel Souza. And in the aftermath, there was a lot of back and forth as to who was responsible for making sure the gun wasn't loaded. Was it Dave Halls, the assistant director who handed Baldwin the gun? Was it the armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, or was it somebody else? Reed has gone to court arguing that the production's ammunition supplier is to blame.

SUMMERS: OK. And in the time we have left, I'm hoping you can just tell us - what happens now with the investigation and the production of "Rust"?

DEL BARCO: Well, the investigation is, as you noted, still not finished, and the sheriff reportedly was getting ready to file charges with the Santa Fe district attorney's office. So it seems there still could be criminal charges against Alec Baldwin or three others related to "Rust." In a statement, the Santa Fe DA said no one is above the law. And it seems the production of the film is starting back up in January. Director Joel Souza says it will be bittersweet, but that the production will honor Halyna Hutchins' legacy and make her proud.

SUMMERS: NPR's Mandalit del Barco, thank you.

DEL BARCO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.