“Rust” actor Swen Temmel can hardly believe it’s been a year since Halyna Hutchins died on the set of Alec Baldwin‘s film. For the 31-year-old actor, the somber milestone serves as a reminder to reflect on the impact she had – and continues to have – on him and the rest of the cast and crew.
Temmel, who is currently in Bozeman, Montana, filming his latest project, “Outlaws”, opened up to ET about how the tragedy has affected him personally, the ways he’s coped with it and the flood of emotions that brought him to a literal screeching halt when he set foot on his first Western set since an unimaginable tragedy took the life of a beloved cinematographer.
“Honestly, I can’t believe it’s been a year already,” Temmel tells ET in Montana. “Doesn’t seem that way. All of our lives have changed forever, all the people that were surrounded by the situation or involved with the production or families, everybody was impacted by this event.”
Temmel, who as Drum counts himself as an enemy of the protagonist, was not filming nor rehearsing on Oct. 21, 2021 at the Bonanza Creek Ranch in the desert outside Santa Fe when the prop gun Baldwin was holding fired, killing Hutchins and injuring the film’s director, Joel Souza. Baldwin has consistently maintained he didn’t pull the trigger. Temmel was outside the chapel where the fatal shooting occurred. Production instantly came to a halt and law enforcement agencies descended on the set. Soon, lawyers for those directly involved entered the picture and a myriad of TV networks attempted to establish the timeline of events riddled with complexities throughout.
And while this was all playing out in court and across TV screens nationwide, Temmel and his colleagues tackled how to cope with the tragedy. He said they leaned on each other when they couldn’t shake the bleakness of it all, but they somehow all managed to come together and support each other through this terrible loss.
“We’re all in close contact,” says Temmel, who most recently appeared in the 2022 crime film “Bandit”, starring Josh Duhamel and Mel Gibson. “It’s one of those things where, at first, it’s every day you’re thinking about it. It’s like, ‘What happened? How did it happen? How could it have happened?’ And then you talk about it so much that it’s almost a little bit therapeutic being able to talk to people, tell the story, tell Hutchins’ story. And then it gets a little more spread out.”
He continues, “I’d be walking down the street, and she always wore like a beanie very far back on her head. So, every time I saw a woman with blonde hair and a beanie I’d be like, ‘Oh, that’s … no.'”
Suffice it to say, Temmel has appreciated life so much more following the onset tragedy.
“You just never know when a tragedy can hit, and it was the most awful experience that we all went through, but it definitely made me become closer to my friends, my family, loved ones, people that were there for me when this all happened,” he says.
Temmel said he met Hutchins for the first time at one of her birthday outings after a mutual friend of theirs invited him. He says they met up several more times after that before finding themselves working on the same film in New Mexico – the period film set in 1880s Kansas where an outlaw named Harland Rust (Baldwin) rescues his 13-year-old grandson who has been sentenced to hang for murder following an accidental shooting. Rust and his grandson become fugitives as they attempt to outrun the U.S. Marshals.
“She talked about this movie that she was going to be a part of, this Western, and just the passion and drive that she had,” Temmel says. “I mean, to be a woman in such a difficult field coming up and being as successful as she was. I’ve never seen anyone more dedicated to their craft and to do what they love to do.”
Temmel recalled Hutchins’ meticulous precision on the set, too.
“I remember standing on set and watching her watch the monitors and it was just this eye darting between the two screens of the camera to make sure that every shot she was getting was perfect,” he says, “and that there wasn’t a footprint in there, that it was truly the most perfect shot that she could possibly get; that the lighting was right. I mean, she commanded that set with so much power and authority, people trusted her. They believed in her and they were all on her side. And we felt that energy and we were all excited to be a part of something that she was so passionate about.”
Following Hutchins’ death, Baldwin became ensnared in multiple lawsuits, including a wrongful death suit brought forward by Hutchins’ estate. But earlier this month, Baldwin announced he reached a settlement with the Hutchins estate. What’s more, Baldwin also announced that “Rust” would resume filming in January 2023 with “all the original principal players on board” and a new executive producer – Hutchins’ widow, Matthew Hutchins.
Variety reported last week that plans to resume production stirred complicated feelings among the film’s crew. The outlet reported that some are for it and others reject the decision and vowed not to return. Before the wrongful death suit was settled, the film was marred by alleged safety failures, and New Mexico’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau slapped “Rust”‘s production company with the maximum fine permitted under state law following a scathing report, in which officials alleged the production company showed “plain indifference to the recognized hazards associated with the use of firearms on set that resulted in a fatality, severe injury, and unsafe working conditions.”
Temmel said when he was asked about returning to finish the film – on a set somewhere besides New Mexico – it wasn’t “just a yes or no question” for him. He said he wanted to know if the team was coming together, and when he heard Matthew was joining the production, he said he felt a relief and felt everything was going to be OK.
“The fact that Matthew is there, it’s gonna be perfect and there won’t be any mistakes,” says Temmel when asked about Hutchins’ husband joining the production. “He’ll be there every step of the way and make sure that it’s done right, because it’s a very thin line that they are walking, with trying to make this movie and finishing this movie. There was a life that was lost, so for him to come on board is the only reason why this movie is going to get finished, and he’ll make sure it’s done right.”
Hutchins’ death spurred action on movie sets across the country. A handful of showrunners banned real guns on their sets, and a petition on change.org to ban real guns in the film industry garnered more than 117,000 votes. A California state senator also introduced legislation to ban actual firearms from movie sets and theater productions just days following Hutchins’ death.
“Our industry’s completely changed,” Temmel says. “There’s not a single movie that I’ve done since where this [the fatal ‘Rust’ shooting] has not come up. No movie or a friend’s movie. This has rattled the industry.”
Temmel’s currently filming a Western in Montana dubbed “Outlaws”. It’s his first Western since the “Rust” shooting. He tells ET that walking down the streets of a Western town in Montana brought back memories of what happened in New Mexico.
“I definitely needed a second to take that and cope with it,” he says. “I don’t want to say it was PTSD but there was a certain angst that came up when I first walked to set. And the producers of that movie were very kind and also helped me with coping with that. They understood the situation and they were there for me if something were to happen.”
For Temmel, the year following Hutchins’ death moved at warp speed, and when he arrived on the set of “Outlaws”, the rush of emotions he felt in Montana overwhelmed him. He said it caught him off guard.
“It did because I’ve never dealt with a situation like this,” he says. “I’ve never walked into a place and all of a sudden had those memories flood back in. It was just the most surreal experience because I haven’t had that experience in my life before. It’s a strange, awful feeling.”
Temmel said he was fortunate in that the director and producers of “Outlaws” comforted him and made him feel safe. He said he was shown every weapon on the set and that at least three people handled the weapons before it was given to the actors. They were not only sensitive to what he had experienced on the set of “Rust” but also professional in every facet.
When production on :Rust” resumes, Temmel said he just hopes to make Hutchins proud.
“I hope that she’s looking down from up above and she’s proud of what we’re doing and that she knows that we’re moving forward for her and that her husband is there for us,” he said. “I just hope that her memory lives on forever and that her life is cherished forever.”
In addition to Temmel, Heather Brewer, spokesperson for the Office of the First Judicial District Attorney, State of New Mexico, released a statement to ET.
“On the anniversary of the tragedy on the ‘Rust’ film set in Santa Fe County, District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altweis remains committed to pursuing justice for the victims, and getting answers for the community. As soon as the District Attorney receives the full report from the Santa Fe County Sheriff, she and her team of professional attorneys and investigators will thoroughly review all the evidence and make a thoughtful decision about whether to bring charges against those involved.” reads the statement. “No one is above the law and every victim deserves justice.”
MORE FROM ET:
Alec Baldwin’s ‘Rust’ Will Resume Filming After Halyna Hutchins’ Death
Alec Baldwin Reaches Settlement in ‘Rust’ Shooting
Alec Baldwin Feared Trump Supporters After ‘Rust’ Shooting