Alec Baldwin Kills Cinematographer in Freak Prop-Gun Tragedy

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Instagram/Halyna Hutchins/Alec Baldwin
Instagram/Halyna Hutchins/Alec Baldwin

Actor Alec Baldwin said his “heart is broken” after he cocked and fired a prop gun on the set of a Western movie Thursday, killing the film’s cinematographer and injuring its director.

Halyna Hutchins, 42, was airlifted from the set of Rust—which began filming at Bonanza Creek Ranch south of Santa Fe this month—to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, where she died. Joel Souza, 48, was also hit, according to the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, but was released from hospital early Friday.

“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 in an Instagram post Friday morning.

“I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred and I am in touch with her husband, offering my support to him and his family. My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna.”

Halyna’s husband, Los Angeles lawyer Matt Hutchins, told The Daily Beast on Friday that he has spoken with Baldwin, who is “being very supportive.” Hutchins, who declined to comment further, said he is preparing a statement to be released later Friday.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Halyna Hutchins.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Fred Hayes/Getty</div>

Halyna Hutchins.

Fred Hayes/Getty

The sheriff said in a statement that the two “were shot when a prop firearm was discharged by Alec Baldwin... producer and actor.” Baldwin, 63, was pictured in tears by the Santa Fe New Mexican after being questioned and released by authorities late Thursday. The sheriff’s statement said the investigation remains “open and active.”

A spokesperson for Rust Movie Productions said that the accident involve “the misfire of a prop gun with blanks” and production has been halted indefinitely.

However, an email from IATSE Local 44 secretary-treasurer Anthony Pawluc to members described the event as an “an accidental weapons discharge” in which a “live single round was accidentally fired.”

Tobey Bays, a prop and set artist by training and the business agent for IATSE Local 44, told The Daily Beast that saying on-set that a gun is “live” doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a live round in it, and can mean there’s a blank in the chamber.

He further explained that Hollywood propmasters will “only put the amount of blanks into the gun that are meant to be shot in the scene... They’re pretty strict, they’ll always yell out, ‘Gun is hot!’ before they hand it over to the actor.”

Hutchins graduated from the American Film Institute in 2015. American Cinematographer magazine dubbed her a “Rising Star” in 2019.

She had posted a happy video from New Mexico just two days prior to her death, writing, “One of the perks of shooting a western is you get to ride horses on your day off:)” It was one of several snaps she took on set.

The International Cinematographers Guild confirmed Hutchins’ death in a statement, writing: “We received the devastating news this evening, that one of our members, Halyna Hutchins, died from injuries sustained on the set... This is a terrible loss, and we mourn the passing of a member of our Guild’s family.”

Director James Cullen Bressack commented, “I will miss you my friend.” He elaborated to The Daily Beast: “I will never have blanks on my sets ever again. She was a wonderful human and an unbelievably talented person and this should never have happened.”

Deadline reports that the Ukrainian-born Hutchins, who was based in Los Angeles, was hit in the stomach, and Souza in the shoulder. The set of the movie reportedly went into lockdown after the gunfire.

Rust Movie Productions LLC said in a statement late Thursday that it was cooperating with the police 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. 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.”

Cast and crew members who were working on set posted tributes to Hutchins.

“I loved watching you work: Your intense focus and your vibrant command of the room,” veteran actress Francis Fisher wrote.

Baldwin, also credited as a producer, stars in the film as Harland Rust, an outlaw who breaks his 13-year-old grandson, convicted of murder, out of prison. The two go on the run together.

Baldwin shared a photo from the set earlier Thursday in costume, writing: “Back to in person at the office... Blimey…it’s exhausting.”

Though deaths from blank fire on set are uncommon, they are not unheard of. Bruce Lee’s son Brandon died of an accidental shot to the abdomen from a gun firing blanks on the set of the film The Crow in 1993.

In a post on Lee’s official Twitter page, his family expressed their condolences to Hutchins’ family, writing: “Our hearts go out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and to Joel Souza and all involved in the incident... No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set. Period.”

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