Alec Baldwin’s shot wounds the western legend in the United States | Culture

Minutes before his life changed forever, Alec Baldwin was rehearsing for the camera how to draw a revolver. After the actor’s move, “a whiplash” and “a loud blow” were heard on set, according to an affidavit. Following the outbreak, Halyna Hutchins, the director of photography for the indie film RustHe put his hands on his stomach and took a couple of steps back. The technicians helped her sit on the floor, where she explained to a camera that she did not feel her legs. He died a few hours later. The accident has shocked the movie world and sparked a debate about safety in the entertainment industry, but also about America’s entrenched gun culture.

Two days after the event, dozens of members of the Industry Technicians Union, a powerful organization with 150,000 members, gathered in Albuquerque to fire the filmmaker. It was a vigil filled with anger and pain, but participants were divided on how the incident will change cinema in one of the most armed countries in the world. The youngest claimed that the death of Hutchins will force to gradually banish the real weapons of the filming so that they are replaced by special effects. The more experienced, on the other hand, highlighted the violations of the security protocol of Rust, which has become an exception in an industry that has very few examples of deadly shootings despite the omnipresence of guns in its films. On Monday, Dave Halls, the assistant director who gave Baldwin the loaded pistol, said in a statement that he hopes the tragedy will prompt the industry to “reassess values ​​and practices to make sure no one is harmed during the creative process.” .

Baldwin, 63, played in the film an old outlaw chased by a police officer and a bounty hunter who comes to the aid of his 13-year-old grandson, sentenced to death for a reckless homicide. The veteran star, who also produced the film, embodied the classic figure of the western antihero: an old man who wants to correct an injustice and has nothing to lose. At the fatal moment he was wielding a Colt long-barreled revolver in a scene similar to the one that hundreds of actors have played throughout film history, from John Wayne to Clint Eastwood to James Stewart to Gary Cooper.

An image from ‘Alone in Danger’, by Fred Zinnemann with Gary Cooper.

No one has explained the legacy of the western to American culture quite like the critic Robert Warshow. In a famous 1954 essay, The Westerner, tells why this genre captured the attention of viewers. “It offers serious guidance to the problem of violence that cannot be found anywhere else,” he wrote. “The values ​​are contained in the image of a single man who carries a pistol on his belt. It tells us that she lives in a world of violence and that she believes in it. Violence must come in due time and with special rules, otherwise it has no value ”, he elaborated. This hero of the Wild West defends above all things, according to Warshow, “the purity of his image” and does not fight for the right, but to express who he is. “He’s the last knight and the movies that tell this story over and over again are probably the last art form where honor retains its strength.”

The pistols have absorbed the values ​​that the western has projected for a century. A few weeks ago the Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti published The Ameriguns, a project that has taken him to visit the homes of gun fanatics for 18 months. Throughout that time, he toured various regions of a country that has more weapons than inhabitants. Of the world’s private arsenal, half are in this nation: 393 million guns for 330 million people. Galimberti’s portraits are very effective in illustrating this statistic. “I knew a family from Texas who owned 216 guns. I remember that the arsenal was worth more than the house that contained it. How is it possible that you spend more on weapons than on the house where you live? ”, He asks himself by phone from Italy.

The movie 'Unforgiven', with Clint Eastwood.
The movie ‘Unforgiven’, with Clint Eastwood.

In Galimberti’s interviews with his characters, the words family and freedom came to the fore. They were spoken regardless of whether it was a rural Kansas couple or a gay San Francisco tech executive. “They tend to say that the weapons are to defend their freedom and are almost always linked to the family,” says the photographer. Many described to him a similar initiation rite that began at the age of six or seven, when they first shot in the company of their father or an uncle. It was an outdoor activity and domination of nature. “This was so exciting that it convinced them to buy their first weapon.”

Western golden age

Hollywood has reinforced this culture. The golden age of the western, with its system of values, saw its decline in the 1970s and antiheroes conquered the public at the hands of New Hollywood. The cultural critic Peter Biskind stated in 2018 in his book The Sky is Falling that Clint Eastwood helped erode the Western man’s code of honor. The actor, a militant Republican, recounts an anecdote in which director Don Siegel asked John Wayne to shoot a man in the back in a 1976 film. Wayne, who embodied the moral compass of the genre, refused. “I do not kill people from behind,” replied the star of The diligence. “Clint Eastwood would do it,” said the director. The studios became more and more conservative and the growth of cable television, and much later the streaming, took advantage of the void to bet on stories full of violence: Tony Sopranos, Dexter and Walter White arrived.

A moment from 'The Stagecoach', by John Ford.
A moment from ‘The Stagecoach’, by John Ford.

Siegel knew what he was talking about. He had led Eastwood in Dirty Harry, which became a hit in 1971. The character, a badass detective chasing a serial killer in San Francisco, caused a stir with viewers with a Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum. The creator of the detective is the filmmaker John Milius, who was commissioned to write the script for the first two installments of the violent policeman. Milius, also a co-author of Apocalipsis Now, served on the board of directors of the controversial National Rifle Association (NRA), the powerful lobby in favor of arms that today is experiencing its lowest hours.

Milius is described as “a Zen anarchist of libertarian and republican leanings” by journalist Frank Smyth, author of The NRA, The Unauthorized story. One of his movies, Red Dawn, was among the favorites of Timothy McVeigh, a supremacist terrorist who blew up a public building in Oklahoma in 1995 and killed 168 people, 19 of them minors. The film is about one of the right-wing’s repeated nightmares: an invasion by a communist army made up of Soviets, Cubans and Nicaraguans that disarmed the inhabitants of a small Colorado town house by house. In 2012, Milius updated the film with a remake starring Chris Hemsworth in which the invaders were North Koreans. The director was key in the struggle for power at the top of the NRA. Wayne LaPierre, the president of the organization, had him as an ally. When it realized the power of Hollywood, this organization promoted the rise of Charlton Heston, the protagonist of classics like Ben-Hur, who came to the head of the lobby in 1998.

Will Hollywood change after the tragedy of Rust? Months before photographer Hutchins’ death, Gabby Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who converted to activism after surviving a 2011 bombing, asked creators to give gun regulation a voice in their stories. “Few industries play as big a role in shaping our culture as the entertainment industry,” he said in January.