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George Clooney weighs in on 'Rust' tragedy, friendship with 'Crow' actor Brandon Lee

"Every single time I’m handed a gun on the set...I look at it, I open it, I show it to the person I’m pointing it to, I show it to the crew," Clooney said.
/ Source: TODAY

George Clooney shared his thoughts about on-set gun safety in the wake of the deadly shooting on "Rust" movie set that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza last month.

The actor and director, 60, joined Marc Maron on Monday's episode of the podcast "WTF With Marc Maron" and opened up about the tragedy. Maron disclosed the episode was recorded just one week after the fatal shooting, so it was fresh on Clooney's mind.

George Clooney openly discussed his thoughts and experiences regarding gun safety on movie sets, Brandon Lee's tragic death and the recent "Rust" shooting tragedy.Nathan Congleton / TODAY

"Every single time I’m handed a gun on the set...I look at it, I open it, I show it to the person I’m pointing it to, I show it to the crew," Clooney said. "Every single take, you hand it back to the armorer when you’re done and you do it again. And part it is because of what happened to Brandon."

Clooney was referencing friend Brandon Lee, who died in 1993 on the set of “The Crow” at the age of 28 when another actor shot him with a prop gun that mistakenly had a bullet lodged in its barrel.

Brandon Lee's death on the set of "The Crow" in 1993 shocked Hollywood. Lee died when another actor shot him with a gun that was supposed to have been loaded with blanks. Everett Collection

“That was a series of stupid things,” Clooney said of Lee's death. “Brandon and I played (basketball) and hung out at the Hollywood Y three days a week. We were buddies. You know, this was his big break.”

The two-time Oscar winner broke down the series of mistakes that led to the death of his friend.

“The first unit, low-budget probably… I don’t even remember if the guy was even a union prop guy, sent it down to a second unit, a different group of shooting, and they wanted to use the same gun so they sent the gun down there," he explained. "It was the guy’s girlfriend that was the prop assistant. They didn’t have dummy bullets so they made them by taking the gunpowder out and putting the bullet back in… She takes the bullets out of the cylinder and one of the shells, one of the bullets, had lodged in the barrel of the gun.”

Clooney continued, "No one checks the barrel. No one notices of the six shells, one of them is missing the bullet and hands it to the first unit. They put a full load in it. The actor, which you never do with a full load, points it directly at Brandon and pulls the trigger and it’s like getting shot with a normal bullet. And it killed him.”

Clooney told Maron he does not know Alec Baldwin, who fired the prop gun, "that well," but in his experience the responsibility for firearms on film sets falls on one of two people.

“I’ve been on sets for forty years and the person that hands you the gun, the person that is responsible for the gun, is either the prop person or the armorer, period," Clooney said.

The Santa Fe district attorney last week said additional live rounds were found on the "Rust" set, but investigators don't know how they got there. No one has been charged in the Oct. 21 shooting, and the investigation was ongoing.

In a statement from her lawyer, "Rust" armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, 24, said she’s been misrepresented amid the ongoing investigation and she does not know how the live bullet that killed Hutchins got on set.

“After Brandon died, it really became a very clear thing — open the gun, look down the barrel, look in the cylinder, make sure,” Clooney said. “It’s a series of tragedies. But also, a lot of stupid mistakes.”