Alec Baldwin discharged prop gun that killed woman on movie set, sheriff says
Actor Alex Baldwin discharged the prop firearm that killed a cinematographer Thursday on a movie set outside Santa Fe, N.M., authorities said.
Actor and producer Alec Baldwin fired the prop gun on a New Mexico movie set that killed the director of photography and injured the director, an accident that is renewing questions about safety hazards on film sets.
During production of a movie, Baldwin shot two people Thursday afternoon on the set: cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42; and the film’s director, Joel Souza, 48, according to a statement by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office.
Hutchins was airlifted to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, where she was pronounced dead, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Souza is being treated at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe.
The shot fired on the ‘Rust’ set that killed Halyna Hutchins was ‘a live single round,’ according to union, but it still could have been a blank.
The Sheriff’s Office said deputies were dispatched to the Bonanza Creek Ranch movie set, where filming was underway for the western “Rust,” after calls to 911 at 1:50 p.m. Baldwin was starring in the movie in addition to serving as one of the producers.
No charges have been filed, but the Sheriff’s Office said that “witnesses continue to be interviewed by detectives.”
Baldwin said Friday he’s “fully cooperating with the police investigation” into the incident.
“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,” Baldwin wrote Friday in a series of tweets.
Production has been halted on the low-budget movie, which began filming this month.
“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,” the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 600 said in a statement Thursday night.
“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,” said the IATSE local, which represents nearly 8,000 camera workers, including cinematographers.
A spokesperson for Baldwin said there was an accident on the set involving the misfire of a prop gun with blanks.
It was unclear late Thursday how that might have happened even though protocols for the use of weapons and prop guns on movie sets are typically strict.
Halyna Hutchins, the cinematographer killed on set of an Alec Baldwin movie, was going to be ‘very famous,’ a director who worked with her said.
Usually, a prop master or a licensed armorer is responsible for handling weapons on set, including loading blanks. That person would monitor the gun’s use and show it to the assistant director or actors who might use it. Productions also often require shields to be used during filming, although not during rehearsals. Live ammunition is not allowed on a set.
In an email to its members, Local 44 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, a union that represents prop makers, said the shot that killed Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza on Thursday was “a live single round,”
“As many of us have already heard, there was an accidental weapons discharge on a production titled Rust being filmed in New Mexico,” said the North Hollywood-based local. “A live single round was accidentally fired on set by the principal actor, hitting both the Director of Photography, Local 600 member Halyna Hutchins, and Director Joel Souza. Both were rushed to the hospital,” the email said.
A source close to The Times said the union does not know what projectile was in the gun and clarified that “live” is an industry term that refers to a gun being loaded with some material such as a blank ready for filming.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that Baldwin was seen Thursday outside the Sheriff’s Office in tears.
“According to investigators, it appears that the scene being filmed involved the use of a prop firearm when it was discharged,” said Sheriff’s Office spokesman Juan Rios. “Detectives are investigating how and what type of projectile was discharged.”
Bonanza Creek Ranch has been a popular filming location for more than 60 years, according to KOAT-TV, in Albuquerque.
The first movie to film there was “The Man From Laramie,” starring Jimmy Stewart. It also was the set for the classic “Blazing Saddles,” “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” and the popular TV show “Longmire.”
The ranch has six sets, including an entire town with 24 buildings.
“Rust” is about a 13-year-old boy who is left to fend for himself and his younger brother after the death of their parents in 1880s Kansas, according to the Internet Movie Database website. The teen goes on the run with his long-estranged grandfather (played by Baldwin) after the boy is sentenced to hang for the accidental killing of a local rancher.
Filming for “Rust” was set to continue into early November, according to a news release from the New Mexico Film Office.
In addition to Baldwin, the producers on “Rust” included Ryan Smith (“Supercell”), Anjul Nigam (“Crown Vic”), Ryan Winterstern (“Titanic,” “Watchmen”), Nathan Klingher (“One Way”) and Matt DelPiano (“All Night Long”).
Other actors in the film include Travis Fimmel (“Raised by Wolves”) Frances Fisher (“Titanic,” “Unforgiven”) and Brady Noon (“Good Boys”).
“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 spokesperson for Rust Movies Productions said in a statement.
There have been other high-profile fatalities on film sets involving prop guns.
In 1993, Brandon Lee, 28, son of the late martial arts star Bruce Lee, died after being hit by a .44-caliber slug while filming a death scene for the movie “The Crow.” The gun was supposed to have fired a blank, but an autopsy turned up a bullet lodged near his spine.
The shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins reminds many of what happened to actor Brandon Lee on the set of “The Crow.” Here’s a timeline of that case.
Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee, tweeted: “Our hearts go out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and to Joel Souza and all involved in the incident on ‘Rust.’ No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set. Period.”
In 1984, actor Jon-Erik Hexum died after shooting himself in the head with a prop gun blank while pretending to play Russian roulette with a .44 magnum on the set of the television series “Cover Up.”
Serious film set accidents are rare but have increased in recent years.
A 38-year-old crew member last month sustained critical injuries after a major fall at Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood during construction for the Netflix film “Me Time,” which stars Kevin Hart and Mark Wahlberg.
“The Walking Dead” stuntman John Bernecker died in 2017 from injuries sustained while filming a scene in Georgia for the AMC series’ eighth season.
A year earlier, a helicopter pilot, camera operator and crew member were killed in a copter crash in Acton during the filming of a reality series for Discovery Channel, the worst film-set accident in California in three decades.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Inside the business of entertainment
The Wide Shot brings you news, analysis and insights on everything from streaming wars to production — and what it all means for the future.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.