On Thursday, under unclear circumstances, Alec Baldwin discharged a firearm on the set of his latest film, killing the film’s director of photography, Halyna Hutchins, and injuring director Joel Souza, the New York Times reports. The incident is still under investigation by authorities in New Mexico. Baldwin has not been arrested or charged with a crime.
The shooting reportedly occurred while the cast and crew were either filming or rehearsing a scene for the film which is a Western about a young boy on the run after he accidentally kills someone. The firearm, which is being referred to as a “prop gun” in the media without any definitive proof that it was not a real firearm, was loaded with an unknown projectile before it was fired.
Hutchins and Souza, who were shot on the scene, were taken to local hospitals for treatment. Hutchins later died at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque. She was only 42 years old. Production on the film has been halted while the investigation is underway.
On film and television sets, it is common practice to have safety specialists on set whenever weapons, fire, or large amounts of water are involved in a scene. The specialists who are usually sent by film studios to protect their investments are responsible for ensuring that no one is injured, seriously or otherwise, and would likely have been present on Thursday in New Mexico. However, according to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the armorer who provided the firearm for this particular film was not a union member, and therefore not beholden to standard union safety practices. IATSE also told its members in an email that the firearm used on set contained a live round, however, this has not been confirmed by investigators.
The current assumption is that if Baldwin was firing a prop gun loaded with a blank, he may have been too close to Hutchins and Souza when the gun was discharged. An armorer who spoke to the Times explained that typically the safest distance from which to fire a prop gun is 20 feet. However, authorities have not confirmed what kind of firearm and what kind of projectile were involved in this particular shooting.
Sadly, this isn’t the first time a killing like this has happened. Actor Brandon Lee was killed in 1993 on the set of The Crow when a prop gun was used that still contained the tip of a live bullet. This is a developing story that will be updated as more information becomes available.
Update 12:11 PM Alec Baldwin has tweeted about the incident saying, “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.” Baldwin also added that he is in contact with Hutchins’ family and is “offering support.”