A cinematographer was killed and a director injured after star and producer Alec Baldwin discharged a prop gun on the set of his new film, Rust, which is filming in New Mexico.
Friday morning, ITATSE Local 44, the union that covers propmasters, sent an email to members saying that the gun used contained a “live round” and the propmaster was not a member of Local 44.
Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42, was killed and director Joel Souza, 48, was injured.
In new reporting from the Los Angeles Times, in the hours leading up to the fatal shooting, several camera crew workers walked off the Rust set.
The crew had been struggling with labor issues for days—failed promises for money for hotel rooms closer to the set. As union members prepared to walk, a crew member on the set tells the Times, non-union crew members appeared.
Additionally, there’d been two misfires earlier in the week with the prop gun that killed Hutchins. “There was a serious lack of safety meetings on this set,” a crew person told the Times.
The shooting happened six hours after the union crew left the set.
“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,” a statement from the sheriff’s department reads.
Friday morning, Baldwin tweeted saying in part that his “heart was broken for her.”
“First off, blanks can kill people too and I’m sure a lot of heads are rolling, particularly the first assistant director who normally runs a safety meeting every morning. It’s very rare, but horrible,” Liz Goldsmith, a location scout in Chicago, Illinois, tells Daily Kos.
“Whether we’re talking about Sarah Jones, a camera assistant who was killed on a set in Savannah, Georgia; a freak gun accident; or people working 18-hours days and falling asleep at the wheel; union or non-union, safety should be everyone's concern. It underscores that this is not a glamourous field, it’s one that is fraught with danger. I’m sure Alex Baldwin is beside himself,” Goldsmith adds.
The New York Times reports the incident took place while a scene was either rehearsed or filmed.
Local 44 described the event as “an accidental weapons discharge” where “A live single round was accidentally fired on set by the principal actor,” and adds that “no union members from Local 44 were listed on the call sheet.” Local 44 added that the props, set decoration, special effects, and construction departments were all staffed by local nonunion crew members based in New Mexico.
“It’s hard to believe that someone would bring a live round to the show. Normally, a gun is checked and rechecked and usually, at least four people have looked at it before filming or rehearsing. Obviously, that procedure wasn’t followed,” John Simmons, the first Black vice president to serve in The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), told Daily Kos.
“Halyna Hutchins studied under our president, Stephen Lighthill, at AFI in 2015. It’s an incredible loss. She was a rising star in the world of cinematography. When you have a woman achieving what she was able to accomplish, I mean, she’s a role model for so many. She was a promising artist and the loss is so senseless. Her death leaves a real hole in the community of cinematographers, as the industry becomes more inclusive,” Simmons said.
One of the most famous deaths by a gun on a movie set was that of Brandon Lee, son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee. Lee died in 1993 after he was killed by a .44 caliber bullet while filming a scene. The gun was meant to be filled with blanks, but the autopsy found a live round was fired into his spine.
The Lee family commented on Twitter today:
About 10 years before Lee’s death, actor Jon-Erik Hexum died on the set of the TV show Cover Up, during its filming in Los Angeles. The actor, believing he was holding a prop gun with a blank cartridge, began playing around with it. He simulated a game of Russian roulette, placed the gun to his temple, and pulled the trigger.