SANTA FE (AFP) — Hollywood star Alec Baldwin said Friday his “heart is broken” after he fatally shot a cinematographer with a prop gun on the set of a Western about an accidental killing.
The US actor and producer said he was “fully cooperating” with a police investigation, as law enforcement officials carried out a search warrant, and reports emerged of allegedly unsafe working conditions on the set.
“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 tweeted.
He added: “My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna.”
Hutchins, 42, was transported to hospital by helicopter but died of her wounds. The shooting also injured the film’s director Joel Souza, 48, who was taken by ambulance and later released from hospital, “Rust” actress Frances Fisher tweeted, citing a text from him.
Production of “Rust” — a 19th-century Western in which Baldwin is playing the lead — has been suspended.
Santa Fe sheriff spokesman Juan Rios told AFP that Baldwin came in voluntarily and “provided statements and answered their questions,” but no charges have been filed and no arrests made.
He later confirmed that investigators were executing a search warrant at the site of the shooting, which reportedly occurred as a scene was being rehearsed.
The search warrant allows investigators to gather camera footage, cellphones, weapons and ammunition, and clothing worn by Baldwin and others which may have been splattered with blood, according an affidavit seen by the Santa Fe Reporter.
Around half a dozen crew members had walked off set before the shooting to protest working conditions, including long hours, The Los Angeles Times reported. It said Hutchins was among those who had called for safer working conditions.
There had been at least three prop gun misfires prior to the fatal accident, it reported, citing anonymous crew members who were on set.
The production company did not respond to an AFP request for comment.
Shot on set
Los Angeles-based Hutchins, who was originally from Ukraine and grew up on a Soviet military base in the Artic Circle, was selected as one of American Cinematographer’s Rising Stars of 2019, according to her website.
The Ukraine foreign ministry said its consulate general in San Francisco was working with US authorities and speaking to Hutchins’ relative’s assistance.
Hutchins’ union IATSE — which represents film industry technicians including cinematographers — said it was “heartbroken and devastated to learn that one of our members, sister Halyna Hutchins, died yesterday.”
“Creating a culture of safety requires relentless vigilance from every one of us, day in and day out,” it added.
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. I'm fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred and
— AlecBaldwin(HABF) (@AlecBaldwin) October 22, 2021
2- 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.
— AlecBaldwin(HABF) (@AlecBaldwin) October 22, 2021
The union’s branch representing prop masters sent an email to members stating that “a live single round was accidentally fired,” although law enforcement has yet to confirm details about the firearm involved.
The New Mexico Film Office said in a statement that “the safety and well-being of all cast, crew, and filmmakers in New Mexico is a top priority at all times.”
Movie sets usually have stringent rules over the use of prop weapons, but accidents have happened.
Most famously, Brandon Lee, the son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, died during filming of “The Crow” after being shot by a gun that was supposed to fire blanks.
Brandon’s sister Shannon Lee wrote on Twitter: “No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set.”
“It’s time to stop being macho about blanks and end the practice,” tweeted director Ben Rock, noting that gunshot effects such as the loud bang and muzzle flash can be added in post-production with modern technology.
But “the problem with dummy weapons is that you take away the recoil and the smoke, which adds something to the acting,” said Hollywood armorer Guillaume Delouche.
Meanwhile, tributes to Hutchins poured in on social media.
“My greatest fear is that someone will be fatally hurt on one of my sets,” tweeted Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn.
“My heart goes out to all of those affected by the tragedy today on Rust, especially Halyna Hutchins & her family.”
The shooting took place at the Bonanza Creek Ranch, a production location near Santa Fe which is popular with Hollywood filmmakers.
Baldwin co-produced the film and stars as Harland Rust, an outlaw whose grandson is convicted of murder, and who goes on the run with him.
A leading man on television and in films since the 1980s, Baldwin has starred in high-profile movies including “The Hunt for Red October.”
He garnered new fans for TV comedy “30 Rock” and with his long-running portrayal of Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live,” a character that irritated the former president, but won Baldwin an Emmy.
Baldwin also made headlines for his marriage — and acrimonious divorce — to Kim Basinger, his outspoken political views and hot temper.
He lives near New York with second wife Hilaria. The couple have six children together.