We let celebrities get away with murder.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the “Rust” incident. Was it a tragic accident? Yes. But was it also negligent homicide? I mean, prolly.
I keep trying to think what it was like for the husband and son of Halyna Hutchinson, as they received calls of condolence from Alec Baldwin. It must be a very conflicting feeling. On one hand, you are grieving and want to accept the sympathy. On the other hand, this man pulled the trigger that ended your world.
It’s not for me to decide whether Alec Baldwin is guilty of murder. I’ve often liked him. I enjoy his work, and I’m sure that he is devastated over these events.
But what I do think is worth mentioning, is the “free pass” that we give celebrities. If you’ve ever worked on a film set, you know that they are untouchable.
In my youth, I was trying to get my “Screen Actors Guild” card by doing extra work. Sometimes, when you are an extra, you get upgraded and get your card. Or, you’ll get points towards your card. If you live in LA and want to work as an actor, that card is gold. You can’t work without it.
Being an extra means that you are at the bottom of the totem pole on a film set. To be fair, transients might be extras, wannabee actors can be awful, or just people who want to be close to celebrities might be extras. So, there are LOTS of rules. Things like: don’t talk to the actors. Or: don’t look the actors in the eyes. Sure. Ok. We don’t want weirdos interrupting actors while they are working.
As a person who has worked as an actor, it mostly makes sense. I remember being cast as a woman whose husband had just died on a ferry. I had to cry all day long, as part of my character. It’s hard. Random crew members kept asking me what was wrong. Yes, that’s distracting.
But, back to the point. I remember being on a show as a regular extra. It was a show ABOUT a show with a big producer. They’d brought in a famous actress to guest-star for a week. As the featured extras, we were all “cast” as the fake crew. My part was the camera girl. One of my friends was cast as the fake makeup artist. She would gently put powder on top of the already-made-up actors as part of the scenes. They chose her because she was a makeup artist in real life. She was a darling person, by the way. Well, when the famous actress showed up, she didn’t want to be touched by my sweet friend. She literally said: “Eww. I don’t want an EXTRA touching me!” So, production forced one of the actual makeup artists from the crew to both DO HER OWN JOB and DO THE JOB OF THE EXTRA. As you can imagine, my sweet extra friend was mortified by a celebrity not wanting to be touched by her makeup brush.
At NO time, during this event, did anyone tell bitchy famous actress that she was being an asshole. No one said: “Wow, that is really rude of you.” Or: “She can’t stand near you and touch you with a makeup brush?? Seriously??! What the fuck is wrong with you?!?” Why? Because she’s a celebrity.
A family member of mine works as crew. A few years ago he worked with Tom Cruise. Apparently, in-between takes, Tom would “stunt drive” his car back to its starting point. Lots of celebrities take stunt-driving classes, and know how to stunt-drive. (I’ve done these classes, myself. They are VERY fun.) But, stunt-driving is dangerous. He apparently had taken the opportunity to play around in the car, between every take, with crew standing closely around and with his co-star IN THE CAR with him. I don’t know if she consented, but my family member was very upset about it because the actress was a single mother. He was concerned that Tom would kill her by goofing around. Did anyone SAY anything to Mr. Cruise? According to my family member, the answer is “No.” He’s Tom Cruise, after all. He’s untouchable. No one wants to be fired. In fact, Tom Cruise recently went off on some crew for not following safely protocol properly. Whether he was right or wrong is not the question. The point is that he was almost hysterical in his anger, and no one stopped him. In any other situation, if you screamed at someone like that, they’d tell you to go fuck yourself. I have never worked in any other industry where such blind deference is given because of status.
I can list example after example where celebrities where allowed to do whatever they wanted, because they were famous. Where their weirdo actions where not questioned. (Like, why the HELL didn’t anyone tell Drew Barrymore that she wasn’t actually doing the moonwalk in “Charlie’s Angels” and, instead, was doing the Roger rabbit?? Why?)
I am haunted by the re-examining of the “Last Tango in Paris” and the fact that an actress was raped on-camera, by an actor. No one said a word. No one stepped in to protect her. That must have been awful for her. It’s criminal. She went to her grave knowing that no one gave enough of a shit about her to stop a famous actor from raping her.
It’s time to create safer and more equitable sets where crew are not afraid to stand up for each other. My understanding of what should have happened on the “Rust” set, (and I have tactical training;) is that the armorer should have checked the gun, the AD should have checked the gun, AND Alec Balwin should have checked the gun. Why didn’t anyone stop him? Why didn’t someone say: “Hey, Mr. Baldwin, I noticed you didn’t check your gun. Should we take a moment for you to do that?” Why? I’ll tell you my guess as to why. He’s a big star. He’s a big celebrity and people are intimidated by him. His status is so high that no one dares question him. Now a woman is dead because of that stupid status. A child is motherless. That sucks.
Celebrities are just people. Sometimes they are cool and sometimes they are assholes. But the fact that we don’t question THEM is wrong.
I have sympathy for Alec Baldwin, because I’m SURE that he feels terrible. He should. He took a mother away from her child, while he goes home to his own. That’s a terrible burden to bear. Alec Baldwin isn’t a monster. He’s just a guy who screwed up. But the screw-up was BAD, negligent, and unnecessary.
If nothing else changes from this experience, I pray that we start treating celebrities like human beings. They are not demi-gods. They are just people. They make mistakes. In the case where that mistake can kill someone, there is no excuse for not speaking up.
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