Alec Baldwin has accidentally shot and killed the female cinematography director of his upcoming western movie Rust and wounded the director while firing a prop gun on set.
The 68-year-old was filming a scene for the movie in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Thursday when the gun went off, fatally wounding 42-year-old photography director Halyna Hutchins and injuring writer-director Joel Souza, 48.
Hutchins was rushed to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Santa Fein an air ambulance but was later pronounced dead, while Souza was taken by ambulance to the Christus St Vincent Regional Medical Center where he remains in critical condition.
Meanwhile Baldwin was taken to a Santa Fe detectives' office to be questioned about the shooting. He was not arrested and was later released without charge - though investigations are ongoing.
I see more than enough pictures of Alec Baldwin, while y’all should honor and post more pictures of the cinematographic Halyna Hutchins who lost her life today in such a tragic accident.— Wirjil (@Wirjil) October 22, 2021
Rest in peace, Halyna! My deepest condolences to her family and loved ones. pic.twitter.com/obNvFWrxfF
He was then pictured outside the office by the New Mexican: Bent over double on the curb with grief, and tearfully speaking to someone on the phone.
Police have released few details about the shooting, saying only that the prop weapon discharged some kind of 'projectile' which hit Hutchins and Souza - though it is unclear exactly what kind of projectile or how it came to be loaded into the weapon.
It is also unclear whether the gun was fired during the filming of a scene or while a scene was being set up, with police saying only that it was fired 'on set'. It is also unclear exactly how the gun was fired - whether by accident or on purpose. Detectives said the gun was 'discharged' and gave no further details.
A spokesman for the Rust Movies Productions LLC described the death as an 'accident' and said it involved 'the misfire of a prop gun with blanks'.
Filming will be halted 'for an undetermined period of time', a statement from the company added, saying 'the entire cast and crew has been absolutely devastated by today’s tragedy.'
Baldwin is a co-producer on the film, in which he plays infamous outlaw Harland Rust, whose 13-year-old grandson is convicted of an accidental murder.
It was not immediately clear whether the prop gun that killed Hutchins was somehow loaded with real bullets, or if the gunpowder used in theatrical blank cartridges may have launched debris of some kind from the barrel. No further information has been offered on how Baldwin managed to strike two people, with the sheriff's office continuing to investigate.
Hi @AlecBaldwin! Did the prop handler hand you that gun or were you messing around on set again?— Jack Posobiec 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) October 22, 2021
Representatives for Baldwin, Souza, and Rust's executive producer did not immediately respond to inquiries from DailyMail.com late on Thursday.
Earlier on Thursday, Baldwin's spokesperson issued a statement to People on the shooting, saying: 'There was an accident today on the New Mexico set of involving the misfire of a prop gun with blanks.'
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Rust Pictures LLC, which is producing the film, said: '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. We will be providing counseling services to everyone connected to the film as we work to process this awful event'
Hutchins' devastated friends were too distraught to talk, but Ariel Vida, a production designer who worked with the director of photography on 2020 film Archenemy confirmed her death to DailyMail.com, tearfully adding: 'I'm sorry, I can't talk about this right now.'
No criminal charges have been filed, but police said that a criminal investigation into the incident is currently active to determine the circumstances of Hutchins' death.
'According to investigators, it appears that the scene being filmed involved the use of a prop firearm when it was discharged,' sheriff's spokesman Juan Rios said in a statement. 'Detectives are investigating how and what type of projectile was discharged.'
'The incident remains an active investigation. As more information becomes available, updates will be provided,' he added.
Filming for Rust was set to continue through early November, according to a news release from the New Mexico Film Office, but production has now been halted on the film.
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 a synopsis.
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.
Baldwin stars in the film alongside Travis Fimmel, Jensen Ackles and Frances Fisher.
Earlier on Thursday, Baldwin posted an Instagram photo from the Bonanza Creek Ranch, showing him in full costume, with fake blood on his abdomen. The photo was captioned: 'Back to in person at the office. Blimey…it's exhausting.'
BREAKING: A distraught Alec Baldwin, after he accidentally shot & killed the cinematographer on the set of his new movie, & wounded the writer-director. How on earth could this have happened?— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) October 22, 2021
Pics: Jim Weber @thenewmexican pic.twitter.com/xrvcheLaCK
His wife Hilaria also shared a screen grab from a FaceTime conversation with Baldwin earlier in the day, where he appears to be riding in a car on his way to the ranch.
The ranch has been used in dozens of films, including the recent Tom Hanks Western News of the World.
After the fatal shooting at the movie ranch, a 2017 tweet of Baldwin's resurfaced, in which he responded to video of a police shooting in California by writing: 'I wonder how it must feel to wrongfully kill someone...'
That police shooting was later ruled justified.
Following Thursday's tragedy, friends took to Hutchins' Instagram page to leave tributes underneath a video filmed two days ago that showed her riding a horse on her day off.
James Cullen wrote: 'I will miss you my friend. This is devastating.'
Another friend Jack Caswell added: 'I feel like I've had the wind knocked out of me. You will be so missed' while Tina Presley Borek said: 'Heartbroken.'
'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.'
The International Cinematographers Guild also lamented Hutchins' untimely death in a statement.
'The details are unclear at this moment, but we are working to learn more, and we support a full investigation into this tragic event,' guild president John Lindley and executive director Rebecca Rhine said.
The tragic shooting death is reminiscent of the 1993 death of Bruce Lee's son Brandon Lee on the set of The Crow, where a bullet that was lodged in the barrel of a prop gun was propelled out by a blank round, killing him.
'Our hearts go out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and to Joel Souza and all involved in the incident on Rust,' tweeted Brandon Lee's sister Shannon from a tribute account dedicated to her brother. 'No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set. Period.'
Hutchins, who lived in Venice Beach, California, was considered one of Hollywood's rising stars - named in a list of cinematographers to watch in 2019 by American Cinematographer.
The daughter of a soldier, Hutchins grew up on a Soviet military base in the Arctic Circle before going to college in Ukrainian capital Kiev.
She later moved first to the U.K. to work on documentary filmmaking before traveling to LA to study for a master's degree in cinematography and switching to movies.
Her credits include horror film Darlin and, shortly before starting work on Rust, she had completed filming on Blindfire - a crime drama starring Brian Geraghty and Sharon Leal.
The Santa Fe Sheriff's Office says it responded to the movie set at around 1.50pm after a 911 caller indicated someone had been shot in the arm.
Here’s another weird layer to the Alec Baldwin story:— WantonPigg (@ApexPigg) October 22, 2021
Some Anon on 4chan works in the business and leaked it before any official news site pic.twitter.com/qhdrooGy3D
'According to investigators, it appears that the scene being filmed involved the use of a prop firearm when it was discharged,' the sheriff's office said in a statement.
'Detectives are investigating how and what type of projectile was discharged,' the statement added.
Police said that a 42-year-old female, later identified as Hutchins, was airlifted to University of New Mexico Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
The director, Souza, was rushed by ambulance to Cristus St. Vincent's Hospital where he is being treated for injuries, and is expected to survive.
'There was an accident today on the New Mexico set of Rust involving the misfire of a prop gun with blanks,' read a statement from Rust Movie Productions LLC.
'Two crew members have been taken to the hospital and are receiving care. Production has been halted for the time being. The safety of our cast and crew remains our top priority,' the statement concluded.
Albuquerque's KOB 4 news anchor Tessa Mentus tweeted a photo from her network's chopper, showing a church set blocked off.
'@santafesheriff investigating incident at #Rust movie set on Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe. Pic from #Chopper4 shows an old church set blocked off, and set security confirms its lockdown,' Mentus tweeted.
Another KOB 4 reporter, Giuli Frendak, shared a photo of a security gate, adding, 'Security guard at the entrance to the set of Rust', a western movie in production in #SantaFe, told us the set is on lockdown right now. Couldn't share anything else. Waiting for more details from Santa Fe Sheriff on today's incident near Bonanza Creek.'
The fate of Rust is now up in the air following the tragic shooting. Baldwin is a co-producer on the film and plays infamous outlaw named Rust, who goes on the run with his grandson.
Ackles plays a U.S. Marshal, and Fimmel plays a bounty hunter who are on the pair's tail as Rust tries to break his grandson out of prison.
An unexpected bond forms between the outlaw and his estranged grandson as they go on the run.
CAA Media Finance and Highland Film Group were launching sales on the film at last year's Cannes virtual film market, with Baldwin producing through his El Dorado Pictures banner alongside Anjul Nigam and executive producer Matthew Helderman.
Baldwin and Nigam produced Souza's previous feature, 2019's Crown Vic.
Anna Granucci is also producing with Elizabeth L. Barbatelli as an executive producer.
New Mexico is a busy film location, and the Bonanza Creek Ranch has previously hosted star-studded productions including Hostiles, Cowboys & Aliens, 3:10 to Yuma, Appaloosa and Longmire.
It is not the first time that a prop gun has killed someone during the filming of a movie.
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.
In that case, an investigation determined that a bullet became lodged in the barrel of the gun when the crew failed to properly deactivate the primer in a dummy cartridge, which is supposed to look like a real bullet but be inert.
Later, the gunpower in a blank cartridge, which creates the sound and muzzle flash of gunfire for film, propelled the stuck bullet out of the gun's barrel, striking Lee.
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.
In that case, the paper wadding used to secure the gunpowder in the blank cartridge was expelled with enough force to shatter his skull near the temple, sending fragments into Hexum's brain and causing massive hemorrhaging.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.