Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin Fires Prop Gun on ‘Rust' Set, Killing Crew Member, Injuring Director

Halyna Hutchins, the director of photography, was killed and Joel Souza, the film's director, was injured, according to police

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Actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun that killed the cinematographer and injured the director on the set of the movie "Rust" in New Mexico on Thursday, authorities said.

Santa Fe County Sheriff’s officials said Halyna Hutchins, cinematographer for the Western being filmed, and director Joel Souza were shot on the set in the desert on the southern outskirts of Sante Fe.

Hutchins, 42, was airlifted to University of New Mexico Hospital, where she was pronounced dead by medical personnel, according to County Sheriff’s officials.

Souza, 48, was taken by ambulance to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center to receive treatment for his injuries and released from the hospital overnight, a spokesperson confirmed to NBC News.

Production has been halted on the 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,” International Cinematographers Guild president John Lindley and executive director Rebecca Rhine said in a statement.

A spokesperson for Baldwin said in a statement that there was an accident involving the misfire of a prop gun with blanks. The representative declined to comment further.

Images obtained by NBC News showed a distraught Baldwin in the parking lot of the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office Thursday after he was questioned about the shooting. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported the 63-year-old actor was in tears outside the sheriff’s office, but attempts to get comment from him were unsuccessful.

Hutchins, 42, was director of photography on the 2020 action film “Archenemy,” starring Joe Manganiello. A 2015 graduate of the American Film Institute, she was named a “rising star” by American Cinematographer in 2019.

Halyna Hutchins
Photo by Fred Hayes/Getty Images for SAGindie
In this Jan. 28, 2019, file photo, Halyna Hutchins attends the SAGindie Sundance Filmmakers Reception at Cafe Terigo in Park City, Utah.

“I’m so sad about losing Halyna. And so infuriated that this could happen on a set,” said “Archenemy” director Adam Egypt Mortimer on Twitter. “She was a brilliant talent who was absolutely committed to art and to film.”

Manganiello called Hutchins “an incredible talent” and “a great person” on his Instagram account. He said he was lucky to have worked with her.

Hutchins had Ukrainian citizenship, according to Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko. The country's consulate in San Francisco is clarifying what happened and is working together with law enforcement officials.

Deputies responded about 2 p.m. to the movie set at the Bonanza Creek Ranch after 911 calls came in of a person being shot on set, sheriff’s spokesman Juan Rios said. Rios said detectives were investigating what type of projectile was discharged and how. No immediate charges were filed.

“This investigation remains open and active,” Rios said in a statement. “No charges have been filed in regard to this incident. Witnesses continue to be interviewed by detectives.”

Prop guns fire blanks, gunpowder charges that produce a flash and a bang but not a hard projectile. But when the trigger is pulled, the paper or plastic wadding is ejected from the barrel with enough force that it can be lethal at close range.

Hollywood weapons expert Larry Zanoff told NBC News that when firearms are used as props in the television and movie industry, only blank cartridges that do not hold bullets are allowed on set. Zanoff said there is a minimum safety distance of 20 feet and "nothing" should be in front of the muzzle when filming is occurring.

“We have a series of guidelines in the industry that govern the use of blank firearms and ammunition on set,” he said. “So my question is of course, firstly, was that protocol followed?”

Filming for “Rust” was set to continue into early November, according to a news release from the New Mexico Film Office. The ranch has been used in dozens of films, including the recent Tom Hanks Western “News of the World.”

New Mexico church crime scene
Courtesy KOB-TV
Aerial footage shows an old church that appeared to be blocked off at the scene of the "Rust" film set in New Mexico.

The movie is about a 13-year-old boy who is left to fend for himself and his younger brother following the death of their parents in 1880s Kansas, according to the Internet Movie Database website. The teen 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-caliber 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.

A verified Twitter account for Brandon — run by his sister, Shannon Lee, according to the account's bio — tweeted early Friday that "No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set. Period."

In 1984, actor Jon-Erik Hexum died after shooting himself in the head with a prop gun blank while pretending to play Russian roulette with a .44 Magnum on the set of the television series "Cover Up."

Berry reported from Phoenix. Associated Press film writer Jake Coyle contributed to this report.

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