Hollywood star Alec Baldwin was the focus Friday of investigations into a shocking and deadly on-set tragedy after the actor fired a prop gun that killed a cinematographer and wounded the director of a Western he was shooting in New Mexico.
The cast and crew of “Rust” — where Baldwin is playing the lead in a 19th-century film about an accidental killing — were “devastated” by the incident, they said in a statement to US media, and production has been suspended.
Halyna Hutchins and Joel Souza “were shot when a prop firearm was discharged by Alec Baldwin,” the sheriff in Santa Fe said in a statement.
Hutchins, 42, was transported to hospital by helicopter but died of her wounds, while Souza, 48, was taken by ambulance and was receiving treatment.
Souza was later released from the hospital, “Rust” actress Frances Fisher tweeted, citing a text from him.
“Mr. Baldwin was interviewed by detectives,” Santa Fe sheriff spokesman Juan Rios told AFP.
“He provided statements and answered their questions. He came in voluntarily and he left the building after he finished his interviews. No charges have been filed and no arrests have been made.”
Rios told the New York Times that the shooting happened in the middle of a scene that was being rehearsed or filmed.
The Santa Fe New Mexican published pictures of a distraught-looking Baldwin which it said were taken in the parking lot of the sheriff’s office after the tragedy.
The paper said its reporter had seen the 63-year-old actor in tears after he had been questioned by investigators.
One photograph shows a man, presumed to be Baldwin, doubled over.
A spokesperson for Baldwin told PEOPLE magazine Thursday that “there was an accident today on the New Mexico set of Rust involving the misfire of a prop gun with blanks.”
In a statement to US media, the film’s production company said the cast and crew had been “absolutely devastated by today’s tragedy, and we send our deepest condolences to Halyna’s family and loved ones.”
“We have halted production on the film for an undetermined period of time and are fully cooperating with the Santa Fe Police Department’s investigation,” the statement said.
Shot on set
Los Angeles-based Hutchins was selected as one of American Cinematographers’ Rising Stars of 2019, according to her website.
Originally from Ukraine, she grew up on a Soviet military base in the Arctic Circle, the website said.
The Ukraine foreign ministry said its consulate general in San Francisco was working with US authorities and speaking to Hutchins’ relatives “to provide the necessary consular and legal assistance.”
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.
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 the filming of “The Crow” after being shot by a gun that was supposed to fire blanks.
Brandon’s sister Shannon Lee commented on the shooting on.
“Our hearts go out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and to Joel Souza and all involved in the incident on ‘Rust’,” she posted.
“No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set.”
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.
The star posted a photograph earlier Thursday on Instagram showing him apparently on set, dressed in a period costume and with fake blood on his shirt.
“Back to in-person at the office. Blimey… it’s exhausting,” he captioned the picture, which went online several hours before the incident.
A joint statement by John Lindley and Rebecca Rhine of the International Cinematographers Guild said news of Hutchins’ death was “devastating.”
“The details are unclear at this moment, but we are working to learn more, and we support a full investigation into this tragic event,” the statement, reported by Variety, said.
Fran Drescher, president of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and the union’s national executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, also said they were “devastated” by the news.
The guild would work “to understand how to prevent such a thing from happening again,” they said in a statement posted on Twitter.
Baldwin, the oldest and most famous of four actor brothers, has been a leading man on television and in films since the 1980s.
He has starred in a number of high-profile movies, including “The Hunt for Red October” and two iterations of the “Mission: Impossible” franchise, and has also voiced animated characters in hits like “The Boss Baby.”
He garnered new fans with his long-running portrayal of Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live,” a character that irritated the former president, but won Baldwin a Primetime Emmy.
by Andrew MARSZAL