Alec Baldwin Fired the Prop Gun that Killed Cinematographer: What to Know

Officials are investigating the on-set tragedy

EAST HAMPTON, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 07: Hamptons International Film Festival Chairman, Alec Baldwin att...
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Update: Crew members reportedly walked off the set in protest of poor working conditions and safety standards the morning of the shooting. Read more here.

Alec Baldwin discharged a prop firearm that killed director of photography Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza on the set of a Western film they were filming on location in New Mexico on Thursday.

The incident occurred during a rehearsal or filming of a scene of the movie Rust at Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe County, according to a spokesperson for the county sheriff’s office. It’s unclear how exactly the discharge happened. No charges have been filed yet, as an investigation into the circumstances is still ongoing.

IndieWire reports that IATSE Local 44, the union shop that represents craftspeople including propmasters, sent an email to its members on Friday morning stating that the gun used in the scene contained “a live round,” and that the film’s propmaster is not a member of Local 44. “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,” the email reportedly said.

Hutchins, 42, was flown to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, where she died shortly thereafter. According to her website, she was from Ukraine and started her career as a journalist. The magazine American Cinematographer named her a rising star in 2019.

Souza, who together with Baldwin created the story on which Rust is based, was taken to the Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center for treatment; he was later released, his representatives told Deadline.

Baldwin, an actor and producer on the film, was photographed by the Santa Fe New Mexican looking distraught in the parking lot of the sheriff’s office after being questioned on Thursday. Either he or someone with access to his Instagram account reportedly deleted a photo he had posted earlier of himself on set in blood-stained costume and what appeared to be a prosthetic wound.

“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 tweeted on 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.”

Typically, only blanks — cartridges loaded with gunpowder, but no bullets, to create a convincing bang, recoil, and muzzle flash — are used in guns on film sets. The use of any firearm is supposed to be subject to strict safety standards, including extensive training and checking what’s inside the weapon before and after any handling. Nevertheless, misfires do happen: Brandon Lee, the son of Bruce Lee, was famously shot in 1993 while filming The Crow. Another actor fired a prop gun, which mistakenly had a dummy bullet loaded along with a blank inside, at Lee, who died from the injury hours later. The actor who had fired the gun, Michael Massee, said more than a decade later that he had been traumatized by the incident.

According to IMDb, Rust is supposed to be about a 13-year-old boy who “goes on the run with his long estranged grandfather after he’s sentenced to hang for the accidental killing of a local rancher.” The film is financed by Bondit Media Capital, an indie film financier. According to a Deadline article from May 2021, “As pandemic insurance and bank financing dried up after Covid-19 hit last year, Bondit significantly raised its profile and has financed and completed production on over 40 film and TV projects in the $8 million-$10 million range since last June.”

In a statement to the New York Times, the movie’s production company said that it has halted production on Rust for an “undetermined period of time” while it cooperates with the ongoing investigation.