Jim Weber / Santa Fe New Mexican via AP
SANTA FE, NM – As a film crew and actors in western costume prepare to rehearse a scene inside a chapel-shaped wooden building at a desert movie ranch outside Santa Fe Assistant Director Dave Halls came out and grabbed a prop pistol from a cart.
He came home and handed it to the movie star, Alec Baldwin, assuring him that it was safe to use as he had no live ammunition.
“Cold gun,” Halls shouted.
This was not the case, according to court records released on Friday. Instead, when Baldwin pulled the trigger on Thursday, he killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza, who was standing behind her.
Authorities were alerted to the shooting with a 911 call that hinted at panic on set, as detailed in a recording obtained by the Albuquerque Journal.
âWe accidentally shot two people during a movement defined by a propeller pistol, we need help immediately,â a script supervisor told an emergency dispatcher. “We were rehearsing and it went off and I ran out, we all ran out.”
The dispatcher asks if the weapon was loaded with a real bullet.
“I can’t tell you. We have two injuries,” said the script director.
The tragedy came nearly three decades after the death of Brandon Lee, the son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, in a similar case, and it sparked horrified questions about how it could have happened again. The executive producer of ABC crime drama “The Rookie” announced Friday that the series will no longer use “real” weapons because “the safety of our cast and crew is too important.”
Details of the Bonanza Creek Road ranch shooting were included in a search warrant application filed by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators were seeking to examine Baldwin’s bloodstained suit for the movie “Rust “, as well as the weapon that was fired, other firearms and ammunition, and any imagery that might exist.
The gun was one of three that the film’s gunsmith, Hannah Gutierrez, had placed on a cart outside the building where a scene took place, according to records. Halls grabbed the gun from the cart and brought it to Baldwin, unaware it was loaded with live ammunition, a detective wrote in the search warrant request.
It is not known how many shots were fired. Gutierrez removed a casing from the gun after the shooting and she turned the gun over to police upon their arrival, court records show.
Halls did not immediately return phone and email messages requesting comment. The Associated Press was unable to contact Gutierrez, and several messages sent to production companies affiliated with the film were not immediately returned on Friday.
The film’s screenwriter, Mamie Mitchell, said she was standing next to Hutchins when she was shot.
âI ran out and called 911 and said, ‘Bring everyone, send everyone,â Mitchell told The Associated Press. “This woman left early in her career. She was an extraordinary, rare, very rare woman.”
Mitchell said she and other crew members were attending a private Friday night memorial service in Santa Fe.
Baldwin described the murder as a “tragic accident”.
“There are no words to express my shock and sadness over the tragic accident which claimed the life of Halyna Hutchins, a deeply admired wife, mother and colleague. I fully cooperate with the police investigation.” , wrote Baldwin on Twitter. “My heart is broken for her husband, their son and all who knew and loved Halyna.”
No immediate charges were filed and sheriff’s spokesman Juan Rios said Baldwin was cleared to travel.
âHe’s a free man,â Rios said.
Images of the 63-year-old actor – known for his roles in “30 Rock” and “The Hunt for Red October” and his impression of former President Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live” – ââshowed him distraught in front of the sheriff’s office on Thursday.
Weapons used in making movies are sometimes real guns that can fire bullets or blanks, which are charges of gunpowder that produce a flash and detonation but not a deadly projectile. Even blanks can eject hot gases and paper or plastic batting from the barrel, which can be fatal at close range. This turned out to be the case with the death of an actor in 1984.
In another accident on set in 1993, Lee was killed after a bullet was left in a propeller pistol, and similar shots took place involving stage weapons loaded with live ammunition during historical reenactments.
The gun safety protocol on set in the United States has improved since then, said Steven Hall, a veteran of photography in Britain. But he said one of the riskiest positions was behind the camera, as that person is in the crosshairs in scenes where an actor appears to be pointing a gun at the audience.
Sheriff’s deputies responded around 2 p.m. to the filming of the film at Bonanza Creek Ranch after 911 calls described a person shot there, Rios said. The ranch has been used in dozens of films, including the recent Tom Hanks western “News of the World”.
Hutchins, 42, worked as a cinematographer on the 2020 action film “Archenemy” with Joe Manganiello. She graduated from the American Film Institute in 2015 and was named “Rising Star” by the American filmmaker in 2019.
“I’m so sad that I lost Halyna. And so furious that it could happen on a set,” “Archenemy” director Adam Egypt Mortimer said on Twitter. “She was a brilliant talent who was absolutely devoted to art and film.”
Manganiello called Hutchins “incredible talent” and “great person” on his Instagram account. He said he was lucky to have worked with her.
After filming, production was halted on “Rust”. The film is about a 13-year-old boy who is left to fend for himself and his younger brother after their parents died in the 1880s in Kansas, according to the Internet Movie Database. The teenager runs away with his longtime grandfather (played by Baldwin) after the boy was sentenced to hang for the accidental murder of a local rancher.