Long before Alec Baldwin's Rust shooting incident, Bonanza Creek Ranch had already established New Mexico as a picturesque and authentic locale for Western films. The ranch served as the setting for iconic movies like 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,' where seasoned Hollywood stars were welcomed by the enduring manager Imogene Hughes with a refreshing glass of homemade lemonade and banana bread.

Now, as Baldwin faces trial for manslaughter following a fatal on-set incident at Bonanza Creek that garnered international attention, Hughes's daughter, Denise Spaccamonti, is relieved that her mother did not live to see the ranch's newfound infamy. 'I think that would have really upset her,' Spaccamonti remarked. The ranch, located in the foothills near Santa Fe, was primarily known for its cattle operations until the 1950s when Hollywood began to take notice. It was chosen by location scouts for 'The Man from Laramie' starring James Stewart, and subsequent films followed intermittently.

Film activities significantly ramped up when Hughes took charge of the daily operations after her husband Glenn's death, frequently collaborating with local officials to attract California-based movie producers with financial incentives. The crew of 'Silverado,' a 1985 Western featuring Kevin Kline and Kevin Costner, constructed a white-painted homestead that remained post-filming. More structures were added over time for movies such as 'Young Guns' and 'Lucky Luke,' eventually creating entire Western townscapes.

'Lucky Luke comes to mind. It wasn't a great movie. It was terrible actually!' Spaccamonti commented. 'But it's kind of nice, how each movie had a part in building that... It wasn't one person. It was a bunch of puzzle pieces put together.' However, this legacy has taken a grim turn. One of these makeshift buildings, a chapel, was the site where, on October 21, 2021, a gun held by Baldwin accidentally fired during rehearsal, resulting in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Film productions at Bonanza Creek were briefly suspended following the incident as law enforcement investigated the site. They have since resumed quietly, though the identities of recent and ongoing films remain undisclosed. 'Nobody wants to say they are shooting a movie at the same location where she was killed,' noted David Manzanares, field manager for nearby Ghost Ranch, where 'Oppenheimer' was filmed. Although there is no indication that the ranch is at fault, Manzanares added, 'people say, 'if it gets out, we'll be seen as insensitive, how could you film there?''

Manzanares suggested that recognizable buildings like the chapel could be altered to mask their notorious associations in future films. Bonanza Creek's owners declined an interview when contacted by AFP. When asked if the shooting had posed challenges for Bonanza Creek's future, Shannon Hughes, who manages the movie operations, stated that it was 'an assumption.' She emphasized that Imogene Hughes's legacy 'should not be involved in the Rust accident... she's deceased, she doesn't get to speak for herself.'

However, Imogene Hughes's legacy was fondly remembered by other family members and prominent New Mexican filmmakers. 'She was somebody who touched deeply everybody that she met,' said Jacques Paisner, artistic director of the Santa Fe International Film Festival, which runs a scholarship for local film students named after Hughes. 'My mom had a heart for students. She would let them come [to film at the ranch], no charge. Who does that nowadays?' Spaccamonti recalled.

For Manzanares, Bonanza Creek and Hughes were pivotal in attracting significant Hollywood investment to New Mexico, one of the poorest states in the US. 'The owner could easily have said 'I'll get on with raising cattle,'' Manzanares observed. Instead, 'she allowed everyone else to prosper,' channeling 'millions of dollars for multiple decades' into various industries, from film crews and technicians to drivers and catering companies. 'It's just very unfortunate,' he concluded.