American actor Alec Baldwin said on Friday that he is “heartbroken” after firing a prop gun that he was told was unloaded on a film set that killed a person.
“I have no words to express my shock and sadness over the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins,” Baldwin tweeted.
“My heart is broken for her husband, her son, and everyone who knew and loved Halyna,” the actor said.
Police said Halyna Hutchins, 42, died Thursday at the University of New Mexico Hospital after being airlifted from the Bonanza Cree Ranch, where the movie “Rust” was filmed and the shooting occurred.
Baldwin received a gun from an assistant director who told him it was a “cold pistol,” an expression in the cinema to say that it is unloaded, according to a court document accessed by the Santa Fe Reporter newspaper.
During a rehearsal, Baldwin fired the pistol, hitting Hutchins in the chest and director Joel Souza in the shoulder. Souza was released Thursday after being treated at another hospital.
Baldwin, 63, was questioned by Santa Fe County detectives after the incident. He said he was collaborating with the police.
“He offered his statements and answered the questions. He came voluntarily, and left the building after the interrogation,” Juan Rios, the sheriff’s spokesman, told AFP.
No one has been arrested in the case and no charges have been filed, the sheriff’s office reported. Investigators are questioning witnesses.
Authorities are executing search warrants at the scene of the shooting.
“Investigations are continuing and search warrants are part of this,” Rios said.
According to local media, a judge signed the requests to collect images, materials and documents of the weapons and the filming at the location.
According to the Los Angeles Times, several members of the film crew left the set Thursday hours before the incident to protest working conditions, which included long hours. Citing anonymous sources, the newspaper claimed that there were three more erroneous props shots days earlier.
Hutchins had asked to guarantee working conditions for the team, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“The entire cast and crew is absolutely devastated by today’s tragedy,” the production stated in a statement.
“We have discontinued production of the film for an indeterminate period and are fully cooperating with the Santa Fe Police Investigation Department,” he added.
The American Cinematographer magazine selected Hutchins, who was born in Ukraine and lives in Los Angeles, as one of the guild’s rising stars in 2019, according to its website.
The IATSE union, to which Hutchins belonged and which represents film industry technicians, found it “devastating to learn that one of its members, Sister Halyna Hutchins, passed away yesterday.”
“Creating a culture of safety requires constant vigilance from each one of us, every day,” he added.
The union’s props section stated in an email to its associates that “a bullet was fired by accident” and that none of its members were on set at the time, according to press reports.
Deaths on set
“My biggest fear is that someone will be fatally injured on one of my sets,” tweeted Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn. “My heart goes out to everyone affected by today’s tragedy in Rust, especially Halyna Hutchins and her family.”
The use of weapons on the set must follow a series of rules. One of the most famous accidents was that of Brandon Lee, son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, who died during the filming of “The Raven” after being shot with a weapon that was supposed to fire fake bullets.
Her sister, Shannon Lee, said on Twitter: “Our hearts go out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and Joel Souza and everyone involved in the ‘Rust’ incident.”
Other celebrities and personalities in the film industry disapproved of continuing to use weapons on set, instead of resorting to technology.
But, according to Hollywood gun expert Guillaume Delouche, many actors and directors prefer to use prop guns because it “adds something else to the performance.”
“Rust” is a western set in the 19th century starring Baldwin and directed by Souza.
Baldwin has acted in movies and on television shows since the 1980s.
Married with six children, he recently gained much fame for his portrayal of former President Donald Trump on the comedy show “Saturday Night Live,” for which he won his third Emmy.