Actor Alec Baldwin said he is fully co-operating with authorities after the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department confirmed he was responsible for discharging a prop gun that killed a cinematographer and wounded the director on the set of his latest film, Rust.
Officials said that Halyna Hutchins, the movie’s director of photography, was shot and killed on the set in New Mexico, while the film’s director, Joel Souza, was also injured in the incident.
The Associated Press reported that court documents released later on Friday revealed that Baldwin was handed a loaded gun by an assistant director who said it was safe to use.
The documents also stated that the assistant director did not know the prop weapon was loaded with live rounds.
“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 said on Twitter.
“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.”
Hutchins, 42, was flown to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where she was pronounced dead by medical personnel, while Mr Souza, 48, was taken by ambulance to Christus St Vincent Regional Medical Centre, where he is undergoing treatment for his injuries.
A representative for Baldwin said only that there was an accident on the set involving the misfire of a prop gun with blanks. No immediate charges were filed.
Production has been halted.
“According to investigators, it appears that the scene being filmed involved the use of a prop firearm when it was discharged,” sheriff spokesman Juan Rios told The Albuquerque Journal. “Detectives are investigating how and what type of projectile was discharged.”
The documents released on Friday notes that Baldwin’s blood-stained costume for the film was taken as evidence, as was the weapon that was fired.
Investigators also seized other prop guns and ammunition that were being used during shooting of the film starring Baldwin.
Hutchins was director of photography on the 2020 action film Archenemy, starring Joe Manganiello, and was a 2015 graduate of the American Film Institute.
“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.
Baldwin posted a photograph from the set on Instagram on Thursday, dressed in period costume.
“Back to in-person at the office. Blimey … it's exhausting,” he captioned the picture, which went online several hours before the incident but has since been removed.
Industry insiders have taken to social media to comment on the incident. The League star Paul Scheer summed up the sentiments of many in a tweet that questioned how such a tragedy could have occurred, given the layers of security present on film sets.
“This is beyond a tragedy and there are so many rules in place to make sure this can’t happen. I can’t even fathom how this is possible. So many people had to be negligent. This is a crime. Halyna was a tremendous talent. I’m sick to my stomach.”
Hutchins, who lived in Los Angeles but was originally from Ukraine and grew up on a Soviet military base in the Arctic Circle, was selected as one of American Cinematographer's “Rising Stars of 2019", her website said.
The Ukrainian foreign ministry said its consulate general in San Francisco was working with US authorities.
Hutchins's union IATSE — which represents film industry technicians including cinematographers — said it was “heartbroken and devastated” by her death.
“Creating a culture of safety requires relentless vigilance from every one of us, day in and day out,” it added.
Movie sets usually have stringent rules over the use of prop weapons.
The Los Angeles Times reported that about a half-dozen camera crew workers left the set hours before the fatal incident to protest working conditions.
The newspaper also said one camera operator complained to production managers this month about gun safety issues they observed, following two accidental prop gun discharges.
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.
Director James Gunn admitted that his “greatest fear is that someone will be fatally hurt on one of my sets”, while actor Elijah Wood tweeted that Hutchins' death is “absolutely horrifying and devastating".
Debra Messing, one of Baldwin's former co-stars, came to his defence, reiterating that a “catastrophic” accident had occurred.
“A prop gun was handed to him. He used it in the scene. Then — a catastrophic event happened where Halyna Hutchins lost her life and Joel Souza was injured. I am praying for all their families.'
Associated Press contributed to this report