In a recent interview, Guillermo del Toro revealed that he’s long avoided using real firearms in the making of his films. The subject came up during a panel discussion hosted by The Hollywood Reporter, in a conversation about safety on sets following the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of Alec Baldwin’s upcoming movie Rust.
“I haven’t shot a real gun on a movie set since 2007 or 2008,” the Oscar-winning director said emphatically. “I don’t think it’s necessary anymore. I really don’t.”
Del Toro–the director behind such critically acclaimed films as Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape of Water, and this year’s Nightmare Alley–elaborated when the panel’s moderator asked him if it’s difficult to make movies without real guns.
“It started with The Devil’s Backbone, because we were forbidden to shoot in Segovia [Spain]. We were forbidden to shoot in a forest because the ignition could start a forest fire. After that, I thought, that is the safest thing you can do, and you can do it almost with a phone app,” he explained, referring to adding the effects in post-production.
Del Toro went on to detail the extensive measures that must be taken when using an actual weapon on set, concluding that, to him, it’s not worth the risk. “All the paraphernalia that comes with [real guns], you have to put Mylar glass in front of the camera, everybody has to leave the camera crew, everybody has to be protected, you do a whole number. And from the practical safety point of view, there’s no reason to do it.”
Last October, Baldwin, who is also a producer on Rust, was holding a prop gun on the film’s set when it discharged, fatally shooting Hutchins. In December, the actor told ABC News that he did not pull the trigger. “I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them, ever,” he said without further explanation.
The tragedy rattled Hollywood, sparking a messy back-and-forth blame game and a broader discussion about negligence in the film industry.
During the THR panel, del Toro acknowledged that accidents are bound to happen, but asserted that filmmakers bear a tremendous responsibility in making their sets safe. “I’ve had accidents in my sets,” he said. “If an accident happens by the confluence of three, four factors that are unpredictable, that’s one thing. But if they happen and there’s one or two factors that are preventable, that weighs heavily on the director or producer. But if you try to prevent them, and the rest is tragedy, it really is a tragedy. And no one can be above to judge.”