Alec Baldwin shooting: Everything we know about the devastating on-set accident

Misfiring prop pistol kills cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injures director Joel Souza

Joe Sommerlad
Monday 25 October 2021 19:19
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Alec Baldwin 'discharged' prop gun that killed Rust cinematographer

Actor Alec Baldwin shot and killed the cinematographer of his new movie on Thursday 21 October when a prop gun misfired during an indoor rehearsal in what appears to have been a tragic accident.

Halyna Hutchins, 42, the director of photography on Mr Baldwin’s forthcoming Western adventure Rust, was fatally shot in the abdomen while director Joel Souza, 48, required hospital treatment for a shoulder injury sustained in the shooting.

The incident took place during filming at the Bonanza Creek Ranch south of Santa Fe, New Mexico, last week, with a distraught Mr Baldwin later pictured outside of the sheriff’s office in tears after being interviewed by investigators, evidently struggling to come to terms with his shock at what had unfolded.

The 63-year-old Hollywood veteran was also a co-producer on the project, written by Mr Souza, which takes place in 1880s Kansas and stars Mr Baldwin as ageing rancher Harland Rust, who goes on the run with his teenage grandson after the boy is sentenced to death over an accidental killing, the plot carrying an eerie echo of last Thursday’s events.

Production on Rust, which was also slated to star Travis Fimmel, Marty Lindsey, Brady Noon, Frances Fisher and Jensen Ackles, had been due to continue until the end of November but has now been shut down, with production company Rust Movies Productions LLC leading the tributes to Ms Hutchins.

“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,” a spokesperson for the company said.

Here’s everything we know about the tragic occurrence, with more information on precisely what happened continuing to come to light as the investigation unfolds in New Mexico.

Safety concerns

After the initial story of the accidental shooting broke, Hollywood luminaries like director James Gunn and actor Elijah Wood took to Twitter to express their sympathy for everyone involved.

Also expressing their horror on social media was the family of Brandon Lee, the actor who was killed in similar circumstances on the set of the 1993 Gothic comic book movie The Crow.

“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,” wrote Shannon Lee, the deceased’s sister, on behalf of her family.

Members of Rust’s crew began to speak to the media about what had occurred over the weekend, with one anonymous camera operator telling The Los Angeles Times that safety protocols had not been followed: “There were no safety meetings. There was no assurance that it wouldn’t happen again. All they wanted to do was rush, rush, rush.”

Another source told the newspaper that Mr Baldwin’s stunt double had also accidentally fired two rounds from a prop pistol the previous Saturday after being told the pistol he was handed was “cold”, meaning not loaded with live ammunition.

Another crew member, who preferred not to be identified, revealed in an interview with ABC News that six technicians had walked off set the day before the accidental shooting in protest of what they perceived to be lacklustre safety standards.

The cast and crew on the set of Rust

Court documents filed in Santa Fe subsequently suggested that Mr Baldwin had been handed the gun in question by assistant director David Halls, who had assured him it was safe to use.

Maggie Goll, a prop maker on Rust, meanwhile told CNN that Mr Halls had previously faced complaints on the set of another project in 2019 for allegedly being negligent towards firearms.

“The only reason the crew was made aware of a weapon’s presence was because the assistant prop master demanded Dave acknowledge and announce the situation each day,” Ms Goll said of her time working with Mr Halls on Hulu’s Into the Dark.

“The prop master frequently admonished Dave for dismissing the talent without returning props, weapon included, or failing to make safety announcements.”

Also under scrutiny was Rust’s armourer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who, aged just 24, raised eyebrows over her relative inexperience.

“She was a bit careless with the guns, waving it around every now and again,” another set source told The Daily Beast. “There were a couple times she was loading the blanks and doing it in a fashion that we thought was unsafe.”

Her only equivalent credit was on the forthcoming Nicolas Cage Western The Old Way, on which she was reportedly accused of handing an unchecked gun to an 11-year-old child actor.

A final cause for alarm was an allegation reported by TMZ that the misfiring prop weapon at the centre of the case had previously been used on set for target practice with live rounds.

Halyna Hutchins

The woman accidentally shot in the incident was flown to the University of New Mexico Hospital by helicopter for treatment before being pronounced dead when she arrived there by medical professionals.

She had been born in Ukraine and previously worked as an investigative journalist on documentaries before relocating to Los Angeles, California, to work on Hollywood movies.

She was gradually attracting notice in her new profession and had been named a “rising star” by American Cinematographer magazine in 2019.

Halyna Hutchins

Responding on Thursday, Local 600, the international cinematographers’ guild said in a statement: “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. This is a terrible loss, and we mourn the passing of a member of our guild’s family.”

It subsequently emerged that Ms Hutchins, who, like Mr Baldwin, had posted behind-the-scenes photographs and videos on Instagram during the production, had expressed the same concern about firearm safety on set as the aforementioned camera operators and had planned to join in their protest calling for stricter standards.

In the wake of her death, 200 people attended a candlelit vigil in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Saturday night and more attended a second event in Burbank, California, on Sunday.

“Her death shouldn’t have happened, union sets should be safe sets,” said Liz Pecos, president of the local branch of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, as she paid her respects.

A GoFundMe page has also been set up for Ms Hutchins’ husband and nine-year-old son and an American Film Institute scholarship founded in her name.

“I cannot comprehend it,” her sister, Svetlana Androsovyc told The Kyiv Post in an interview: “I loved her very much; I was very proud of her, and she was my role model. We were always close and remained in touch, despite the distance.”

Joel Souza

The film’s director, also hurt in the accident, issued a statement on Saturday saying: “I am gutted by the loss of my friend and colleague, Halyna. She was kind, vibrant, incredibly talented, fought for every inch, and always pushed me to be better.

“My thoughts are with her family at this most difficult time. I am humbled and grateful by the outpouring of affection we have received from our filmmaking community, the people of Santa Fe, and the hundreds of strangers who have reached out… It will surely aid in my recovery.”

Subsequently interviewed by investigators, Mr Souza told them he could not be certain whether the gun given to his star had been checked for safety after work resumed following a break at 12.30pm, according to an affidavit seen by The Wall Street Journal.

Joel Souza

Interviewed by The New York Times on Sunday 24 October, Mr Souza gave more details and explained that Mr Baldwin had been rehearsing a scene sat on a wooden church pew that involved him “cross drawing” and pointing a gun “towards the camera lens” when the firearm was discharged with what “sounded like a whip and then loud pop”.

The director said that he saw Ms Hutchins grabbing her midsection and starting to stumble backwards, before noticing he was bleeding from his shoulder. It turned out she had sustained a gunshot wound to the chest area. The incident was not filmed.

Mr Souza insisted that “everyone was getting along” on set and that there had been “no altercations” to his knowledge, despite claims elsewhere his crew had voiced discontent over safety conditions and late pay.

Cameraman Reid Russell, who was standing nearby, told the New York Times that he “remembered Joel having blood on his person, and Ms Hutchins speaking and saying she couldn’t feel her legs”.

Alec Baldwin

As for the film’s star, he is said to be understandably traumatised by what took place on the Rust set and has cancelled his involvement in all other projects, taking “some time to himself and re-centre himself”.

A source told People magazine that Mr Baldwin was “absolutely devastated” by what had happened and reached out to Ms Hutchins’ grieving husband to console the widower.

Alec Baldwin

On Twitter, the actor wrote: “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.

“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.”

Mr Russell, the cameraman and eyewitness, has supported the actor, saying he had always been “very careful” in handling guns on set.

Also refusing to blame the veteran was Ms Hutchins’ father, Anatoly Androsovych, who told The Sun on Sunday: “We still can’t believe Halyna is dead and her mother is going out of her mind with grief, but I don’t hold Alec Baldwin responsible – it is the responsibility of the props people who handle the guns.”

He added of his young grandson: “The little boy has been very badly affected – he is lost without his mother.”

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