By Adria Malcolm and Alexandra Ulmer
October 23, 2021 — 3.07am
Santa Fe: Hollywood star Alec Baldwin said “my heart is broken” after a cinematographer died when he fired a prop gun on a New Mexico movie set, adding that he was co-operating with a police investigation to determine how the incident occurred.
“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 a statement on Twitter.
“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.”
The incident occurred on Thursday (Friday AEDT) on the set of Rust at the Bonanza Creek Ranch, a production location south of Santa Fe, according to the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department.
Hutchins was flown to the University of Mexico Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Baldwin, 63, is a co-producer of Rust, a Western movie set in 1880s Kansas, and also plays the eponymous character who is an outlaw grandfather of a 13-year-old boy convicted of an accidental killing.
The sheriff’s office said on Friday that no charges had been filed and the investigation remains open. Baldwin voluntarily gave a statement about the shooting at the sheriff’s office, the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reported.
The film’s director, Joel Souza, was wounded and taken by ambulance to a local hospital. Actress Frances Fisher, who is co-starring in the movie, said on Twitter: “Souza texted me that he’s out of hospital.”
Baldwin was seen “distraught and in tears” outside the sheriff’s department on Thursday, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
First responders at Santa Fe County Fire Department on Thursday night helped organise helicopter flights out, radio traffic reviewed by Reuters showed.
“We have a – two people have been shot accidentally,” one responder said. The fire department did not immediately respond to a request for further information.
Known for his impersonations of former US president Donald Trump on NBC’s comedy sketch show Saturday Night Live, Baldwin is a versatile actor who has starred in both comedies and dramas over a long career in film and television. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in 1993’s The Cooler and has won multiple Emmy and Golden Globe awards.
Production of Rust has been halted for an “undetermined period,” several news outlets quoted the film’s production company, Rust Movie Productions LLC, as saying.
An email to an address for the film production went unanswered.
The road leading to the set location was closed on Friday morning, with security guards turning people away.
Another on-set shooting
The shooting evoked memories of an on-set accident in 1993 when US actor Brandon Lee, son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, died at age 28 after being fatally wounded by a prop gun while filming 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,” said a tweet from Lee’s account, which is handled by his sister.
The accident renewed debate about whether certain types of prop guns should be banned.
“This suggestion doesn’t help any of them, but it’s time to stop being macho about blanks and end the practice,” Ben Rockula, a director, said on Twitter.
Earlier on Thursday, Baldwin had posted a picture of himself on Instagram from the set dressed in cowboy-style attire, with what appeared to be a fake blood stain on his shirt and jacket. The post was deleted on Thursday night.
Hutchins, 42, who was originally from Ukraine and grew up on a Soviet military base in the Arctic Circle, once worked as an investigative reporter in Europe, her website said.
She graduated from the American Film Institute in 2015 and was selected as one of American Cinematographer’s Rising Stars of 2019, her website said.
She described herself as a “Restless Dreamer” and an “Adrenaline junkie” on her Instagram page.
Her last post, two days ago, shows her grinning under a wide-brimmed hat as she rides a horse. “One of the perks of shooting a western is you get to ride horses on your day off:)” she captioned the video.
April Wright, a writer, director and producer, paid tribute to her on Facebook.
“I’m in disbelief,” wrote Wright. “So young, vibrant, and talented. Such a wonderful soul. My heart goes out to her son and family.”
Representatives for Hutchins did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“I’m so sad about losing Halyna. And so infuriated that this could happen on a set,” director Adam Egypt Mortimer, who worked with Hutchins on the 2020 movie Archenemy, wrote on Twitter.
“She was a brilliant talent who was absolutely committed to art and to film.”
Souza, 48, directed, wrote and produced Crown Vic, a 2019 action film also co-produced by Baldwin.
The New Mexico Film Office, which promotes the state as a location for movies and television, declined to comment.
The Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which represents 160,000 actors and other media professionals, said it would investigate the incident “to understand how to prevent such a thing from happening again”.
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