A woman has died and a man has been injured after actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun on the set for of the 19th Century western Rust, which was being filmed in New Mexico.
Director of photography Halyna Hutchins, 42, was shot while working on the set. She was airlifted to hospital by helicopter where she died of her injuries.
The man, 48-year-old director Joel Souza, was taken from the scene at Bonanza Creek Ranch by ambulance and remains in emergency care.
Police said they were investigating and that no charges had been filed.
A spokesman for Mr Baldwin, best known for his role as Jack Donaghy on the NBC sitcom 30 Rock, in movies such as Beetlejuice, The Hunt for Red October, and The Aviator; and for his portrayal of Donald Trump on sketch show Saturday Night Live, said the incident involved the misfiring of a prop gun with blanks.
Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the popular filming location, Bonanza Creek Ranch, after receiving an emergency call about a shooting on the set of Rust.
In a statement to AFP news agency, a Santa Fe sheriff spokesman said Mr Baldwin had spoken to detectives.
“He came in voluntarily and he left the building after he finished his interviews,” the spokesman said.
A distraught Baldwin was seen outside the sheriffs office, in tears after questioning.
Mr Baldwin, 63, is a co-producer of the film and plays its namesake, an outlaw whose 13-year-old grandson is convicted of manslaughter.
Alec is the eldest of four brothers, Alec, Daniel and William, all actors, collectively known as the “Baldwin brothers“. He has starred in numerous TV and film roles since the 1980s.
Halyna Hutchins was the mother of one child, from Ukraine and grew up on a Soviet military base in the Arctic Circle, according to her personal website. 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, who tweeted, “I’m so sad about losing Halyna. And so infuriated that this could happen on a set”
I’m so sad about losing Halyna. And so infuriated that this could happen on a set. She was a brilliant talent who was absolutely committed to art and to film. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/vcdFqHsGA0
— Adam Egypt Mortimer (@adamegypt) October 22, 2021
The International Cinematographer’s Guild have issued a statement saying that Ms Hutchins’ death was “devastating news” and “a terrible loss”.
“The details are unclear at this moment, but we are working to learn more, and we support a full investigation into this tragic event,” said guild president John Lindley and executive director Rebecca Rhine.
Incidents such as Thursday’s fatal shooting on the Rust film set are extremely rare, but not unheard of.
Real firearms are often used in filming, and are loaded with blanks – a cartridge containing gunpowder but no bullet, that create a flash and a bang.
In a similar incident in 1993, Brandon Lee – the 28-year-old son of the late martial arts legend Bruce Lee – died on set after being accidentally shot with a prop gun while filming a death scene for the film The Crow.
It was later determined that the gun used had earlier fired a round that caused a cartridge to become lodged in the barrel. When blank rounds were later fired, the cartridge was dislodged and released.
Shannon Lee, the brother of late film star Brandon and daughter of Bruce Lee, paid her condolences to Hutchins’ family following the tragedy, tweeting: “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.”
Prior to the scene, the gun was loaded with the cartridges with the powder charges removed, but the primers had not been, and after one of the rounds was fired, a bullet was pushed into the gun barrel and had become stuck.
When the gun, which was loaded with blank rounds for the actual scene, was fired by actor Michael Massee, who played Funboy, during filming, a blank round was fired and dislodged the bullet with almost the same force as if the round was live.
Michael Massee, who died in 2016 aged 64, took a year off from acting and never saw The Crow, which was released posthumously, having been traumatised by the tragedy.
In an interview with Extra 15 years later, he said: ‘I just took a year off and I went back to New York and didn’t do anything. I didn’t work. What happened to Brandon was a tragic accident… I don’t think you ever get over something like that.’
A spokesperson for Rust said: ‘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. 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 counselling services to everyone connected to the film as we work to process this awful event.’
Baldwin has yet to comment on the incident.