Entertainment ‘Macabre’: Why tourists are heading to the Western-style ranch where Rust was filmed

‘Macabre’: Why tourists are heading to the Western-style ranch where Rust was filmed

rust Alec Baldwin
A cinematographer's death at Bonanza Creek Ranch has only added to the ranch's appeal as a popular tourist sight for cinephiles. Photo: Getty
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The old Western-style ranch where cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed on the Alec Baldwin Rust set has become a tourist beacon for all the wrong reasons.

Built near the ruins of abandoned gold-mining town Bonanza City (about 20 kilometres south of Santa Fe in New Mexico), Bonanza Creek Ranch has been a popular host to dozens of films since the 1950s.

Hutchins was killed and director Joel Souza was wounded after a gun Baldwin was holding went off on October 21 on the film set.

In the weeks since, “carloads” of tourists – typically keen to go on a two-hour tour of the ranch – have pulled up at its gates to catch a glimpse of where the real-life tragedy unfolded.

On December 8, The Hollywood Reporter claimed Hutchins’ death has sparked a “macabre trend”, with tourists arriving for “photo ops and to peer over the gates”.

Despite the ranch’s Facebook page saying “set tours are temporarily unavailable to the general public until further notice”, tourists are turning up, forcing the owners to put security guards at the closed gates to prevent entry.

THR says when it “surveyed the scene in mid-November, three carloads of tourists stopped at the gate in a 20-minute period”.

Another source said there was “an uptick in visitors following the tragedy at Bonanza Creek Ranch, which has long been a magnet for tourists and cinephiles due to the long history of Hollywood productions filmed there”.

The rundown Western town of Absolution was built at Bonanza Creek Ranch for Cowboys and Aliens, starring Daniel Craig. Photo: AAP

Bonanza Creek Ranch a long-time home to filmmaking

With a cinematic roster of more than 130 films to its credit, the ranch has hosted movies since the 1950s including The Man From Laramie (1955), The Legend of the Lone Ranger, Lonesome Dove, Silverado (1985), and A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014).

The LA Times says the working cattle ranch also hosted Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Easy Rider, Walker, Texas Ranger and Young Guns.

More recently, one of the town sets for Daniel Craig’s Cowboys and Aliens was built there as well as location scenes for 3:10 to Yuma and the Coen brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.

The Hughes family bought the ranch in the 1940s and soon turned it into a working movie set, with more than 400 hectares of land to play on.

The so-called First Lady of New Mexico Film Imogene Hughes (who was inducted into the New Mexico Film Hall of Fame along with Shirley MacLaine and George RR Martin in 2018), developed the ranch after her husband Glenn died.

She pioneered movie making in the state, rubbing shoulders with the biggest names in the film industry, and passed away at age 89 just 11 days before the tragedy on the Rust set.

For decades, tourists have pencilled in Bonanza as a must-see for $50 guided tours.

Now, it looks like onlookers can’t wait to get back on set.

A security guard patrols the locked gates of the ranch where Baldwin allegedly fatally shot Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza when he discharged a prop gun. Photo: Getty

Investigations continue after Hutchins’ death, no arrests

On December 2, Baldwin, who was also producer on the movie, told ABC television journalist George Stephanopoulos he did not pull the trigger of the gun that killed Hutchins, as investigators in New Mexico continue their probe into how live ammunition may have found its way to the set.

Baldwin, who was holding a gun he was told was safe when it went off, spoke in his first full interview about the October 21 shooting.

He said that as an actor he was not responsible for checking the gun, or what it was loaded with.

He also said he did not pull the trigger but the revolver fired as he cocked the gun while practising a shot.

“Well, the trigger wasn’t pulled. I didn’t pull the trigger,” he said.

“I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them. Never.

“I let go of the hammer of the gun and it goes off.

“I feel someone is responsible for what happened, but I know it isn’t me. I might have killed myself if I thought I was responsible, and I don’t say that lightly.

“I’ve been told by people in the know … that it is highly unlikely I would be charged with anything criminally,” he said.

On December 4, New Mexico district attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said some of the people who handled guns on the set may face criminal charges.

In a statement, she said she had not made any decision yet on charges but that everyone involved “in the handling and use of firearms on the set had a duty to behave in a manner such that the safety of others was protected”.

Once the investigation was complete “certain individuals may be criminally culpable for his/her actions and/or inactions on the set of Rust,” she added.

Ms Carmack-Altwies gave no indication when the investigation might conclude.

-with AAP