“Rust” movie tragedy shows Hollywood hazards are nothing new

The main cast of the 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz” who were shown carelessness by producers in terms of their health.

Courtesy of Creative Commons

The main cast of the 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz” who were shown carelessness by producers in terms of their health.

In Hollywood, whether behind the scenes or on the silver screen, accidents and casualties are not out of the ordinary. While some of the lesser injuries are rarely highlighted by the tabloids, they still happen. This has been going on for years, and as time goes on, the reasons for why these mistakes happen are becoming more and more inexcusable.

While filming his upcoming Western movie “Rust,” actor and producer Alex Baldwin was practicing a scene with a gun, and it fired unexpectedly, killing director of photography Halyna Hutchins and badly injured director Joel Souza. The actor did not know there were live rounds in the gun, according to published reports.

While still in the heart of the mourning process, speculations are beginning to arise as to how this mistake could have happened. Hollywood is thought to be at the top of its game in regards to how advanced props, technology and filming in general have become. So how could an accident to this degree happen?

Michael Corrie, film and prop historian, told NPR that “before the actor is even given the weapon, it’s supposed to go through several stages of safety before its handed to the actor. The actor has to entrust that the armorer and everyone else involved have done their job correctly before handing the weapon to the actor.” In this case Baldwin was given the prop gun, and directors and actors were unaware of the presence of the live-rounds, that unfortunately wound up killing someone.

The question of who is really to blame for this incident is presenting itself, and time after time it is falling on the negligence of the prop and armory staff. Even Hutchins’ father refuses to blame the accident on Baldwin, and is furious at the prop team for his daughter’s fatal shooting.

This incident is coming to a halt in the eyes of the media, and people are beginning to move on and leave those involved to mourn.

While this is a horrific event, it is much more common than people think. Most of the time, on set injuries and deaths are inflicted on stunt workers and not main cast members, yet they are still relevant considering they did not sign up for the job to be killed in the process.

One example of this was the death of Joi Harris. She was driving a motorcycle while working on the movie “Deadpool 2” when she was unexpectedly ejected from the vehicle and crashed into a window frame, killing her.

Vanity Fair magazine spoke with experienced stunt workers to reveal insight on Harris’ accident. They said Harris was not qualified to perform the stunt and the accident “absolutely” could have been prevented. They also said the vehicle Harris was asked to operate was much larger and advanced then the skill set she possessed. The producers on “Deadpool 2” were fined $289,562 for their negligence. The film still continued shooting and was released in May 2018.

These accidents are extremely normalized, which should not be the case. As a result of the lack of procedures taking place, casualties like this all result in people turning a blind eye because of their line of work. Nobody signs up for a job to be shown neglect. They are working, just like the actors, and they should be shown the same if not more respect because of how dangerous movie stunts have to be at times.

Carelessness when it comes to safety is an ongoing issue. One of the most well-known cases was during the filming of the 1939 classic film “The Wizard of Oz.” The main characters are Dorothy Gale, the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, the Wicked Witch of the West, and of course the beloved Munchkins that inhabited the land around the Yellow Brick Road. On the surface, this movie is a wonderful piece about a band of unlikely friends, but through deep-diving into the filming process, an accumulation of horrible events presents itself.

Almost everything that could’ve gone wrong during filming did. According to Vanity Fair, “the Cowardly Lion costume was constructed from actual lion hair.” This was damaging to the health of actor Bert Lahr. He was repeatedly overheated and needed to be carried off set because of fainting due to the hot lighting used on the set.

Additionally, the Tin Man was hospitalized because of aluminum poisoning from the makeup used for his appearance, and they had to bring in a new actor for the part. Then the Wicked Witch was caught on fire, and after she was cleared to resume filming, the producers made her do another fire scene. Probably the most controversial part of the filming was the use of dangerous asbestos in the scene where Dorothy wakes up in a poppy field.

Judy Garland, who played Dorothy Gale, was overworked tremendously, for only being 17 when the movie premiered. Not only was she overworked, but she was put through “excruciatingly long work hours and a studio system that turned a blind eye to, and in fact often encouraged, the use of substances such as stimulants to keep performers working, and sleeping pills to ensure they’d be able to rest,” said according to the website Biography.com.

Garland also was encouraged to stay extremely thin and she became addicted to barbiturates and amphetamines, which are depressant and stimulant drugs. Garland unexpectedly passed away at the age of 47 from an overdose. Experts have not been able to tie Garland’s substance abuse while filming “The Wizard of Oz” to her untimely demise, but there is no denying the grueling work that no minor should ever have to go through.

Behind all the bright lights of Hollywood lies a huge demographic of producers and directors with no regard for their actors and stunt people. Many are just after the money and the legacy of creating a movie as influential as “The Wizard of Oz,” but the lives of these famous faces must be taken into account. For the carelessness of the crews working on these movies are becoming more and more irresponsible.