A tragic accident on the New Mexico set of Alec Baldwin’s upcoming western Rust caused the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on October 21. Baldwin shot a prop gun that killed Hutchins and also injured director Joel Souza.
In a statement posted to Twitter, Baldwin said, “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.” He further explained that he was cooperating with police and had been in touch with Hutchins’ husband and family.
After the accident, Hutchins was taken by helicopter to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where she ultimately passed away from the wound. Per Variety, there have been no arrests or charges filed. Filming took place at the Bonanza Creek Ranch, a prominent location that has also been used in films like The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, 3:10 to Yuma, and Hostiles.
Tributes have poured in for Hutchins, who became a name to watch in the cinematography world after working as DP on the well-regarded 2020 superhero film Archenemy. That movie’s star, Joe Manganiello, posted a message about Hutchins on Instagram and expressed outrage at the accident.
“She was a fantastic person. There was no amount of pressure she couldn’t handle. She was a great collaborator and an ally to anyone in front of her camera,” he wrote. “Everyone who knew her was rooting for her. I can’t believe that this could happen in this day and age… gunfire killing a crew member? This is a horrible tragedy. My heart goes out to her family and especially to her son.”
Archenemy director Adam Egypt Mortimer expressed similar sentiments in his own post. “I’m so sad about losing Halyna. And so infuriated that this could happen on a set. She was a brilliant talent who was absolutely committed to art and to film,” he wrote.
Reached by Insider, Hutchins’ husband, Matthew, said, “I don’t think there are words to communicate the situation.”
According to an update provided by IATSE Local 44, the cinema and theater crafts union branch, the weapon on set had “a live single round.” They clarified that none of their union members were working in props, set decor, special effects, or construction. Hutchins was a supporter of the recent IATSE protests over dangerous conditions and unfair wages, which nearly culminated in the union’s first strike in more than 120 years of existence before a last-minute deal was struck. Hutchins was a member of the International Cinematographers Guild’s Local 600 branch in L.A.
As The New York Times noted, fatal accidents are not common for film sets, but far from unprecedented. Three actors died during a helicopter crash while shooting Twilight Zone: The Movie in 1982, Brandon Lee was shot in 1993 while filming The Crow, and camera assistant Sarah Jones was killed by a passing train in 2014 while shooting Midnight Rider.
Production on Rust, which also features Baldwin as a co-producer and story writer, has been halted. The film tells the story of an outlaw who must save his teenage grandson after he’s given a death sentence for an accidental murder. Souza has reportedly been discharged from the hospital.