The autopsy brought a shocking, grizzly realization. Lodged near the victim’s spine: a .44-caliber bullet. How in the world of special effects and movie prop guns could a .44-caliber slug find its way into an unsuspecting person, one just trying to do their job and make a living? No, we aren’t talking about the recent Alec Baldwin shooting trajedy. This sobering fact came in the case of Brandon Lee.
Alec Baldwin Shooting Re-Raises Hollywood Gun Safety Questions
On March 30, 1993, while filming a sequel to The Crow, a bullet somehow found its way out of a prop gun. It tore through Lee’s flesh, killing the 28-year-old actor. The actor’s mother and widow to the iconic Bruce Lee, Linda Lee Cadwell, later filed a lawsuit claiming faulty blank ammo was used. An actor fired a blank “which in turn propelled into Mr. Lee’s abdomen a lethal obstruction that had been lodged in the barrel of the gun during the filming of another scene several weeks earlier,” the suit claimed, reported Los Angles Times.
Lee Cadwell further alleged “that crew members ran out of dummy bullets and improperly manufactured their own from live ammunition,” Los Angles Times reported. “During a test firing of the dummy ammunition, a bullet tip wound up in the barrel of the handgun that was later used by actor Michael Massee in the March 30 scene resulting in Lee’s death the following day.”
Now, nearly 30 years later, another fatal Hollywood shooting. Alec Baldwin allegedly pulled the trigger, leaving Halna Hutchins dead and Joel Souza wounded. It sparked immediate reaction, all these years later, from the Lee’s.
“Our hearts go out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and to Joel Souza and all involved in the incident on Rust,” said a Lee family tweet. “No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set. Period.”
A Gun Safety Failure?
Any enthusiast will likely understand how the Lee tragedy happened. For shooting revolvers on set, movie houses employ a dummy round that includes a bullet, since the camera captures the view through the cylinder. After close-ups, actual blanks replace the dummy rounds for action scenes. The prevailing theory for Lee’s case, in making their own dummy rounds, either by leaving the primer or through improper crimp, during earlier scenes a bullet became lodged into the barrel. The squib load remained lodged there, then a blank was loaded and fired behind it. Since a blank contains both primer and powder, the resulting pressures pushed the lodged bullet down and out the barrel. In essence, they inadvertently created a muzzleloader, and Lee paid with his life.
We don’t know what happened in this case with Alec Baldwin. It does no good to attempt to speculate. But Hollywood owns too many high-profile cases of creating a culture of improper gun safety. Actors take whatever gun they’re handed, trust that it’s OK, and blindly point and fire. We know there are good movie prop houses in Hollywood. But were this to occur on gun ranges, by the shooting public, the outcry would prove deafening.
The pro-gun crowd will no-bout make a lot of noise over the anti-gun political nature of Baldwin, and some will cry Karma and the like. But this shooting remains a tragedy, with one dead and another injured. If Hollywood worked with the gun industry, employing certified gun experts on every shoot, Brandon Lee might be alive today. And in time, we’ll find out if that rings true for the Baldwin shooting as well.