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DoP Halyna Hutchins Killed in Santa Fe Set Accident after Alec Baldwin Discharges Prop Gun (Updated with Baldwin Statement)

October 22, 2021 09:05 | By
Halyna Hutchins

Halyna Hutchins

Below the Line has received the horrible and tragic news that Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42, has died after seemingly a freak accident with a prop gun on the Albuquerque, New Mexico set of the independent film, Rust.  (Updates posted below in reverse chronological order.)

We were informed by the International Cinematographers Guild, IATSE Local 600, and the Santa Fe, New Mexico Sheriff’s Department confirmed that actor Alec Baldwin discharged a prop gun that killed Hutchins and injured Director Joel Souza, while they were shooting at the Bonanza Creek Ranch, just south of Santa Fe.  No one has been arrested and no charges have been filed, although the incident remains an “open and active” investigation.

Hutchins died shortly after being transported to a hospital in Albuquerque on Thursday afternoon, according to the statement from the Santa Fe Sheriff’s department, which you can read below:

Santa Fe County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the Bonanza Creek Ranch movie set of the western “Rust”, October 21, 2021, when an 911 caller reported a shooting on the set.

The sheriff’s office confirms that two individuals were shot on the set of Rust. Halyna Hutchins, 42, director of photography and Joel Souza, 48, director, were shot when a prop firearm was discharged by Alec Baldwin, 68, producer and actor.

Ms. Hutchins was transported, via helicopter, to University of New Mexico Hospital where she was pronounced dead by medical personnel. Mr. Souza was transported by ambulance to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical center where he is undergoing treatment for his injuries.

This investigation remains open and active. No charges have been filed in regard to this incident. Witnesses continue to be interviewed by detectives.

Aerial shot of the Rust set following the shooting

Aerial shot of the Rust set following the shooting

The statement from Lindley and Rhine can be read below:

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 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.

John Lindley, National President
Rebecca Rhine, National Executive Director

Deadline had reported that Criminal Investigators were called to the scene with sources saying that a principal cast member cocked a gun, hitting a 42-year-old man and 42-year-old woman on set.  That cast member, Baldwin, was unaware about the type of ammunition in the gun, and a rep from the production had said that it had been halted as “the safety of our cast and crew remains our top priority.”

UPDATES:

Friday afternoon, Alec Baldwin spoke up after the on-set incident that has left the 63-year-old actor quite shaken for his involvement in the death of Ms. Hutchins.

Baldwin posted two statements on his Instragram which you can view below:

A spokesperson from the production company, Rust Movies Productions LLC, has released the following statement about the shutdown of production:

“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.”

It goes on to say, “We will be providing counseling services to everyone connected to the film as we work to process this awful event.”

Earlier, director Adam Egypt Mortimer, who Below the Line interviewed in 2020, expressed being “sad” and “infuriated” about Ms. Hutchins’ death on his Twitter page.

He also retweeted some earlier thoughts about the cinematographer that he made last November on the release of his movie Archenemy, which Hutchins shot.

Archenemy star Joe Manganiello also tweeted his remorse about the death of that film’s DoP:

Also, there was a loving tribute from the AFI Conservatory, of which Halyna Hutchins was an alum, stating, “As is profoundly true in the art of cinematography, words alone cannot capture the loss of one so dear to the AFI community. At AFI, we pledge to see that Halyna Hutchins will live on in the spirit of all who strive to see their dreams realized in stories well told.”

Another saddened Tweet from Black Panther DoP Rachel Morrison: 

Also, director Joel Souza is out of the hospital according to actor Frances Fisher, also via Twitter:

There’s been a lot of chatter since this incident was reported about the sad death of actor Brandon Lee in 1993 and how he was shot on set in what seems like a similar incident. Although there has long been rumored to be other factors involved, Brandon Lee’s Wikipedia page goes into more technical detail about his death, and it certainly sounds like Ms. Hutchins’ death might be a similar circumstance to that of Lee’s. Obviously, the film’s propmaster or armorer is responsible that all weapons on set are handled safely and that the ammo is safe, as well, so there probably are more questions that need to be asked in that direction.

Here are the details from the Brandon Lee wiki page about the ammo on the set where he was fatally killed:

On March 31, 1993, Lee was filming a scene in The Crow where his character is shot and killed by thugs.[97] In the scene, Lee’s character walks into his apartment and discovers his fiancée being beaten and raped, and a thug played by actor Michael Massee is to fire a Smith & Wesson Model 629 .44 Magnum revolver at Lee’s character as he walks into the room.

In the film shoot preceding the fatal scene, the prop gun, which is a real revolver, was loaded with improperly-made dummy rounds, cartridges from which the special-effects crew had removed the powder charges so in close-ups the revolver would show normal-looking ammunitions. However, the crew neglected to remove the primers from the cartridges. At some point before the fatal event, one of the rounds had been fired; although there was no powder charges, the energy from the ignited primer was enough to separate the bullet from the casing and push it part-way into the gun barrel, where it got stuck (a condition known as a squib load). For the fatal scene, which called for the revolver to be fired at Lee from a distance of 3.6–4.5 meters (12–15 ft), the dummy cartridges were replaced with blank rounds, which contained a powder charge and the primer, but no solid bullet, allowing the gun to be fired with sound and flash effects without the risk of an actual projectile. However, the gun was not properly checked and cleared before the blank round was fired, and the dummy bullet previously lodged in the barrel was then propelled forward by the blank and shot out the muzzle with almost the same force as if the round were live, striking Lee in the abdomen.

After Massee pulled the trigger, Lee was supposed to fall forward instead of backward. When the director said “cut”, Lee did not stand up and the crew thought he was either still acting or kidding around. Jeff Imada, who immediately checked Lee, noticed something wrong when he came close and noted Lee was unconscious and breathing heavily. Medic Clyde Baisey went over and shook Lee to see if he was dazed by hitting his head during the fall, but did not think Lee had been shot since there was no bleeding. Baisey took Lee’s pulse, which was regular, but within two to three minutes it slowed down dramatically, and stopped.

The Wrap has posted a fairly detailed examination on how a “prop gun” firing blanks can still be fatal, citing the death of Brandon Lee and that of Jon-Erik Hexum in 1984. You can read that insightful article here.

Late on Thursday night, IATSE Local 44 sent out an email to its members saying that there were no members of Local 44, which covers Props, Set Decoration, Special Effects and Construction Departments, on the call sheet for Rust, but instead, local New Mexico crew were used.

Dear Members,

As many of us have already heard, there was an accidental weapons discharge on a production titled Rust being filmed in New Mexico. 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. Unfortunately, we lost Sister Hutchins who passed from the wound.

Local 44 has confirmed that the Props, Set Decoration, Special Effects and Construction Departments were staffed by New Mexico crew members. There were no Local 44 members on the call sheet.

On behalf of Local 44’s Officers, Executive Board and Staff, our thoughts and prayers go out to Halyna and her family. We also send good thoughts to Joel and his family for a full recovery.

In Solidarity,

Anthony Pawluc
Secretary-Treasurer
IATSE Local 44

On Friday evening, the Art Directors Guild, Local 800, also offered its condolences in the fatal shooting of Ms. Hutchins. Nelson Coates, President of the Art Directors Guild (IATSE Local 800) and National Executive Director Chuck Parker issued a statement on behalf of members and staff expressing their great sorrow in the tragic death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding of director Joel Souza while filming in New Mexico.

“We offer our deepest condolences to the family of the much-loved Halyna and wish Joel a quick and full recovery. At this time, it remains unclear how this accident happened, but ADG 800 stresses its commitment to safety on the set at all times. No one should risk their lives while making entertainment for the masses. We hope that our industry will take this moment to examine existing safety measures and ensure proper implementation to prevent tragedies such as this in the future.”

This continues to be breaking news that we’ll update and report on it, as more information is released.