The New Mexico authorities stated that a “lead projectile” was recovered and believed to have been fired by the gun used by Alec Baldwin.
Cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, was establishing herself as a prominent filmmaker
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
Actor Alec Baldwin is used to playing movie roles where art imitates life. Unfortunately, art was overshadowed by a real-life tragedy during the filming of Baldwin’s latest movie, Rust, in Santa Fe, New Mexico (NM). On October 21, 42-year-old cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, died after being shot by a gun handled by Baldwin. Director, Joel Souza, was also wounded, though he survived. The incident appears to have been an accident.
Media speculation has increased since the tragic shooting. However, with the plethora of media coverage surrounding the story it seems one question remains unanswered: why was a loaded gun pointed at Hutchins?
The Los Angeles Times quoted a Santa Fe County, NM, sheriff’s detective’s affidavit on October 24. The document stated Alec Baldwin was told the prop gun was “cold,” meaning that it contained no live rounds, “But the gun discharged, striking Hutchins in her chest and Souza in his right shoulder…” In addition, the document provided more details about the handling of the weapon: “Aside from Baldwin, Souza said, two people were handling the gun for the scene: armourer Hannah Gutierrez Reed and then assistant director Dave Halls, who handed the gun to Baldwin, the affidavit said.” There had also been safety concerns before the shooting and six crew members had walked off the set after complaining to the production company about lodging and payment.
On October 24, BBC News reported a candlelight vigil was held in memory of Halyna Hutchins in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Two days before, Alec Baldwin posted his condolences on Twitter immediately after the shooting: “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…”
Hutchins’ husband, Matthew, remembered his wife via Twitter following her death. “Halyna inspired us all with her passion and vision, and her legacy is too meaningful to encapsulate in words,” he wrote. “Our loss is enormous, and we ask that the media please respect my family’s privacy as we process our grief. We thank everyone for sharing images and stories of her life.”
Hutchins’ father, Anatoly Androsovych, spoke about the shooting and stated he does not blame Baldwin for what transpired. But instead, Androsovych blames the crew members who prepared and handed the weapon to Baldwin. “We still can’t believe Halyna is dead and her mother is going out of her mind with grief,” Androsovych told the Toronto Sun. “But I don’t hold Alec Baldwin responsible—it is the responsibility of the props people who handle the guns.”
On October 27, New Mexico police held a media conference to provide updates regarding their investigation. The NM authorities stated that a “lead projectile” was recovered and believed to have been fired by the gun used by Alec Baldwin. Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said 500 rounds of ammunition were found while searching the set (mix of blanks, dummy rounds and live rounds). “Obviously I think the industry has had a record recently of being safe,” he said. “I think there was some complacency on this set, and I think there are some safety issues that need to be addressed by the industry and possibly by the state of New Mexico.”
People Magazine reported on October 25 that a Change.org petition had started calling for a ban on all real firearms on television and film productions. The petition was created by director Bandar Albuliwi, an alumnus of the American Film Institute Conservatory—the same institution where Hutchins had also attended.
“Halyna was a talented cinematographer and a good friend whose life was taken tragically due to a real firearm being used on set,” Albuliwi said. “We need to make sure this never happens again. There is no excuse for something like this to happen in the 21st century. Real guns are no longer needed on film production sets. Change needs to happen before additional talented lives are lost.” On the evening of October 25, the petition had been signed by approximately 29,000 people out of the 35,000 requested signatures.
Perhaps in the coming weeks, more information will be provided regarding how this tragedy occurred. Current investigations indicate that proper safety procedures regarding firearms use were not being followed. The ongoing police investigation by New Mexico authorities will hopefully uncover why a prop gun on a movie set contained live ammunition. Sadly, the death of Halyna Hutchins leaves more questions than answers and provides no solace to the family of the talented and gifted cinematographer whose life was tragically cut short.
A tragedy revisited: the death of actor Brandon Lee
The shooting on the set of Rust resulting in the death of Halyna Hutchins parallels the tragic shooting of actor Brandon Lee—son of late martial arts icon, Bruce Lee. Brandon was fatally shot during the filming of The Crow, in Wilmington, North Carolina. He was shot by a gun that was supposed to have contained blanks. According to an April 1993 article written by Mark Harris for Entertainment Weekly, Lee was filming his character’s death scene (Eric Draven). The scene entailed Lee being shot as he walked through a door while carrying groceries. As the cameras rolled, the scene went ahead as planned. But when the director yelled, “Cut,” Lee remained on the floor and was motionless. Crew members quickly discovered Lee was bleeding from the right side of his abdomen. He was rushed to New Hanover Regional Medical Center, where he died on March 31, 1993. Lee was 28.
An autopsy later revealed that a .44 calibre bullet had lodged against Lee’s spine. No criminal charges were laid against the production company. In May 1994, Entertainment Weekly reported that in October 1993, Lee’s mother, Linda Lee Cadwell, reached an out-of-court settlement of a negligence suit she filed against Edward R. Pressman Film Corporation and 13 other defendants. On October 21, 2021, the family of Brandon Lee posted on Twitter its condolences after hearing the news of Halyna Hutchins’ death: “Our hearts go out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and to Joel Souza and all involved in the incident on [Rust]. No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set. Period.”
Lastly, Eliza Hutton, spoke publicly for the first time since Lee’s death. Hutton and Lee had planned to get married in Mexico, shortly after production on The Crow was completed. “Twenty-eight years ago, I was shattered by the shock and grief of losing the love of my life, Brandon Lee, so senselessly,” she said to People Magazine. “My heart aches again now for Halyna Hutchins’ husband and son, and for all those left in the wake of this avoidable tragedy. I urge those in positions to make [a] change to consider alternatives to real guns on sets.”