Alec Baldwin is at the centre of a police investigation after shooting and killing his director of photography with a prop gun on the set of a movie in New Mexico in what appeared to be an accidental misfire.
A statement from the Santa Fe sheriff’s office said Baldwin, who is acting in and producing the film Rust, had fired the prop gun in an incident on Thursday, which also wounded the movie’s director.
Deputies were dispatched to the set of the Western at about 2pm in Bonanza Creek Ranch when a 911 caller reported a shooting, the statement added.
“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,” it said.
“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.”
Juan Rios, from the sheriff’s office, said: “Mr Baldwin came in voluntarily to speak with investigators and after speaking with them he left.”
A spokesperson for Baldwin said there was an accident on the set involving the misfire of a prop gun with blanks.
The Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reported Baldwin was seen on Thursday outside the sheriff’s office in tears, but attempts to get comment from him were unsuccessful.
“According to investigators, it appears that the scene being filmed involved the use of a prop firearm when it was discharged,” Rios told the Albuquerque Journal. “Detectives are investigating how and what type of projectile was discharged.”
Production has been halted on the film, which was being directed by Souza with Baldwin producing and starring in it.
Hutchins, 42, was director of photography on the 2020 action film Archenemy, starring Joe Manganiello. Born in Ukraine, and a 2015 graduate of the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, she was named a “rising star” by American Cinematographer in 2019.
This week, she posted several pictures from the film’s set, including a short video clip shot two days ago. It shows her riding a horse together with other crew members. “One of the perks of shooting a western is you get to ride horses on your day off,” she wrote.
There is also an image taken on Wednesday of her standing immediately next to Baldwin, who is dressed in a cowboy outfit. The actors and crew had broken off from filming to express solidarity with the entertainment union IATSE, which has demanded better pay and conditions, she posted.
According to her website, Hutchins grew up on a Soviet military base in the Arctic Circle surrounded “by reindeer and nuclear submarines”. She took a graduate degree in international journalism from Kyiv National University in Ukraine and worked as an investigative journalist with British documentary productions shot in eastern Europe.
She decided to dedicate herself to film-making and moved to the US. Hutchins began with production assistant jobs and “dabbled” in fashion photography, before working on major features. Last summer, she was in Dublin for two months filming a period drama set in a country house.
“I’m so sad about losing Halyna. And so infuriated that this could happen on a set,” said the Archenemy director, Adam Egypt Mortimer, on Twitter. “She was a brilliant talent who was absolutely committed to art and to film.”
“The details are unclear at this moment, but we are working to learn more, and we support a full investigation into this tragic event,” the International Cinematographers Guild’s president, John Lindley, and executive director Rebecca Rhine said in a statement.
Tributes to Hutchins have poured in over social media.
“I will miss you my friend … this is devastating,” the director James Cullen Bressack wrote under a video that Hutchins had posted.
The model Katya Zharkova also said she would miss Hutchins “terribly” while the actor Jeff Daniel Phillips described her death as “an absolute tragedy”.
Filming for Rust was set to continue into early November, according to a news release from the New Mexico Film Office.
The movie is about a 13-year-old boy who is left to fend for himself and his younger brother after the death of their parents in 1880s Kansas, according to the Internet Movie Database website. The teenager goes on the run with his long-estranged grandfather, played by Baldwin, after the boy is sentenced to hang for the accidental killing of a local rancher.
In 1993, Brandon Lee, 28, son of the late martial arts star Bruce Lee, died after being hit by a .44-calibre slug while filming a death scene for the movie The Crow. The gun was supposed to have fired a blank, but an autopsy turned up a bullet lodged near his spine.
Earlier on Thursday, Baldwin posted a picture of himself on Instagram sporting a grey beard and dressed in Western cowboy-style attire in front of trailers. He appeared to have a fake bloodstain on his shirt and jacket.
“Back to in person at the office. Blimey … it’s exhausting,” he wrote. The post was deleted late on Thursday night.
Known for his impersonations of Donald Trump on NBC’s comedy sketch show Saturday Night Live, Baldwin has a long history in film and television, including roles in Glengarry Glen Ross and 30 Rock.
Baldwin was charged in 2018 after a fight over a New York parking spot. He pleaded guilty to second-degree harassment and agreed to participate in an anger management program.
In 2014, he was given a summons for disorderly conduct after an argument with police who stopped him from riding his bike down a one-way street in New York. And in 2011, he was thrown off a plane for refusing to stop playing the game Words With Friends before take-off.
Souza, 48, lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children, according to the IMDB website. His LinkedIn page credits him as the writer/director of action film Crown Vic and comedy Christmas Trade.
“This is still an active investigation and we do not yet have all the facts,” said Sag-Aftra, which describes itself as the world’s biggest union representing performers and broadcasters.
“We will continue to work with production, the other unions, and the authorities to investigate this incident and to understand how to prevent such a thing from happening again.”
With Associated Press