Alec Baldwin fatally shot a cinematographer and injured a director with a prop gun on the set of the film “Rust” and the distraught actor repeatedly asked afterwards why he was handed a “hot gun,” a firearm with real ammunition, according to authorities and an eyewitness.
The filming location at Bonanza Creek Ranch in Sante Fe, New Mexico was sent into lockdown and production was halted following the accidental double shooting around 2 p.m.
“There was an accident today on the New Mexico set of ‘Rust’ involving the misfire of a prop gun with blanks,” a production spokesperson commented.
The Western drama’s director of photography, Halyna Hutchins, 42, and its director, Joel Souza, 48, were struck in the incident, according to the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office.
Hutchins was airlifted to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque and died of her injuries. Souza was treated at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe and released.
Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun while filming a scene in New Mexico on Thursday, causing the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.
“We received the devastating news this evening, that one of our members, Halyna Hutchins, the Director of Photography on a production called ‘Rust’ in New Mexico died from injuries sustained on the set,” said John Lindley, the president of the guild, and Rebecca Rhine, the executive director, in a statement. “The details are unclear at this moment, but we are working to learn more, and we support a full investigation into this tragic event. This is a terrible loss, and we mourn the passing of a member of our Guild’s family.”
No one was arrested in the incident, and no charges have been filed, the office said. Detectives were interviewing witnesses, and the incident remains under an “open and active” investigation, according to the Sheriff’s office.
Baldwin’s reps did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The incident occurred on the set of “Rust,” an independent feature that was filming at the Bonanza Creek Ranch, a popular production location south of Santa Fe.
Hutchins, 42, was transported by helicopter to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, where she died. Souza, 48, was taken by ambulance to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe, where he received emergency treatment for his injuries, according to the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s office.
The Sheriff’s office said in a statement that Hutchins and Souza “were shot when a prop firearm was discharged by Alec Baldwin, 68, producer and actor.” The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that Baldwin was questioned by investigators, and was in tears. Hutchins’ death was confirmed by the Sheriff’s office and by the International Cinematographers Guild,Local 600.
Rust Movie Productions LLC, the production entity behind the film, issued a statement on Thursday night, saying that the cast and crew are “devastated” and that the company is cooperating fully with the investigation.
“The entire cast and crew has been absolutely devastated by today’s tragedy, and we send our deepest condolences to Halyna’s family and loved ones,” the company said. “We have halted production on the film for an undetermined period of time and are fully cooperating with the Santa Fe Police Department’s investigation. We will be providing counseling services to everyone connected to the film as we work to process this awful event.”
The Sheriff’s office received a 911 call reporting the incident at 1:50 p.m. Mountain Time. ABC News broadcast scanner audio, in which someone could be heard reporting that, “We have a person who was shot accidentally.”
The production company issued its initial statement on Thursday afternoon, saying, “There was an accident today on the New Mexico set of ‘Rust’ involving the misfire of a prop gun with blanks.”
“The Sheriff’s office is referring to this incident as a shooting investigation,” Sheriff’s spokesman Juan Rios said. “That detail will be addressed by detectives as they work their case.”
The Sheriff’s office did say that the shooting occurred “during filming of a scene.”
“According to investigators it appears that the scene being filmed involved the use of a prop firearm when it was discharged,” the office said. “Detectives are investigating how and what type of projectile was discharged.”
Hutchins graduated from the American Film Institute in 2015, and had worked on several short films before shooting “Archenemy,” a 2020 feature starring Joe Manganiello. She was named a “rising star” by American Cinematographer in 2019.
“She’s a wonderful, positive, creative person that was so excited to be breaking through and making movies,” said Michael Pessah, a cinematographer who was a friend of Hutchins’. “She was really on the upswing.”
Lesli Linka Glatter, the president of the Directors Guild of America, expressed condolences on behalf of the guild.
“The DGA is incredibly saddened to hear of the tragic passing of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, and the serious injuries sustained by DGA director Joel Souza in an on-set incident in New Mexico today,” she said. “We await further details and a full investigation. Our hearts go out to Halyna’s family, to Joel, and to everyone impacted.”
Souza is writing and directing the Western, which also stars Jensen Ackles, Brady Noon and Travis Fimmel. Albuquerque station KOB4’s news helicopter photographed the incident, showing an old church set blocked off, and reported that set security confirmed it is on lockdown.
Baldwin is a co-producer on the film and plays infamous outlaw Rust, whose 13-year-old grandson is convicted of an accidental murder. Ackles plays a U.S. Marshal and Fimmel plays a bounty hunter who are on the pair’s tail as Rust tries to break his grandson out of prison. An unexpected bond forms between the outlaw and his estranged grandson as they go on the run.
CAA Media Finance and Highland Film Group were launching sales on the film at last year’s Cannes virtual film market, with Baldwin producing through his El Dorado Pictures banner alongside Anjul Nigam and executive producer Matthew Helderman. Baldwin and Nigam produced Souza’s previous feature, 2019’s “Crown Vic.” Anna Granucci is also producing with Elizabeth L. Barbatelli as an executive producer.
New Mexico is a busy film location, and the Bonanza Creek Ranch has hosted productions including “Hostiles,” “Cowboys & Aliens,” “3:10 to Yuma,” “Appaloosa” and “Longmire.”
The gun that actor Alec Baldwin fired on set, killing a woman, was handed to him by a director who told him it was safe, court records show.
Assistant director Dave Halls did not know the prop contained live ammunition and indicated it was unloaded by shouting “cold gun!”, the records say.
Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot in the chest in Thursday’s incident on the set of the film Rust.
Director Joel Souza, who was standing behind her, was wounded.
The 48-year-old received emergency treatment for a shoulder injury and was later released from hospital.
Further details of the police investigation were released on Friday when a search warrant was filed at a court in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
It noted that Baldwin’s blood-stained outfit was taken as evidence along with the gun. Ammunition and other prop weapons were also taken from the set by police.
The 63-year-old actor was questioned by law enforcement, but no-one has been charged over the incident.
Earlier on Friday, Baldwin – who was the star and producer of the film – said he was “fully co-operating” with the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office.
“My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna,There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours.”
Alec Baldwin /Twitter
Ms Hutchins, 42, was from Ukraine and grew up on a Soviet military base in the Arctic Circle. She studied journalism in Kyiv, and film in Los Angeles, and was named a “rising star” by the American Cinematographer magazine in 2019.
She was the director of photography for the 2020 action film Archenemy, directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer.
Halyna Hutchins: Rising star of film industry was ‘incredible artist’
How prop guns work in films
According to the Los Angeles Times, about half a dozen members of the camera crew on Rust walked out hours before the tragedy after protesting over working conditions on the set at the Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe.
The union members had reportedly complained that they were promised hotel rooms in Santa Fe, but once filming of the Western began they were required to drive 50 miles (80km) from Albuquerque every morning.
Meanwhile, the BBC has obtained a document showing which crew members were listed as scheduled to be on set that day.
It names a head armourer, the crew member responsible for checking firearms. Hannah Gutierrez Reed is in her twenties and, according to the LA Times, had recently worked in this role for the first time.
The prop gun that Baldwin fired contained a “live single round”, according to an email sent by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees to its membership, reports Variety.
In Rust, Baldwin was starring as an outlaw whose grandson is sentenced to hang for an accidental murder.
The actor is best known for his role as Jack Donaghy on the NBC sitcom 30 Rock and for his portrayal of Donald Trump on the sketch show Saturday Night Live.
Such incidents on film sets are extremely rare.
Real firearms are often used in filming and are loaded with blanks – cartridges that create a flash and a bang without discharging a projectile.
In 1993, Brandon Lee – the 28-year-old son of the late martial arts star Bruce Lee – died on set after being accidentally shot with a prop gun while filming a death scene for the film The Crow. The gun mistakenly had a dummy round loaded in it.