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An assistant director unwittingly handed Alec Baldwin a loaded weapon and told him it was safe to use in the moments before the actor fatally shot a cinematographer and injured the director on the set of Rust, court records released Friday show.
“Cold gun,” the assistant director announced, according to a search warrant filed in a Santa Fe court.
Instead, the gun was loaded with live rounds, and when Baldwin pulled the trigger Thursday on the set of the Western, cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was struck and killed, law officials said. Director Joel Souza, who was standing behind her, was wounded.
The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office obtained the warrant Friday so investigators could document the scene at the Bonanza Creek Ranch outside Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the shooting took place. They sought Baldwin’s blood-stained costume as evidence, as well as the weapon that was fired, other prop guns and ammunition, and any footage that might exist.
According to the records, the gun was one of three that the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, had set on a cart outside the wooden structure where a scene was being acted. Assistant director Dave Halls grabbed the gun from the cart and brought it inside to Baldwin, unaware that it was loaded with live rounds, a detective wrote in the search warrant application.
The film’s script supervisor, Mamie Mitchell, said she was standing next to Hutchins when the shooting occurred.
“I ran out and called 911 and said ‘Bring everybody, send everybody,” Mitchell told The Associated Press. “This woman is gone at the beginning of her career. She was an extraordinary, rare, very rare woman.”
Mitchell said she and other crewmembers were attending a private memorial service Friday night in Santa Fe.
Earlier in the day, Baldwin described the killing as a “tragic accident.” The actor was performing at the time of the shooting, the sheriff’s office said. It was unclear how many rounds were fired, and there was little information released about the weapon.
“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,” Baldwin wrote on Twitter. “My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna.”
Sheriff’s spokesman Juan Rios told The Hollywood Reporter that Baldwin was interviewed by investigators on Thursday. No immediate charges were filed, and Baldwin was permitted to travel.
In the days leading up to the prop gun shooting, the film’s crewmembers had complained about work conditions, and some were replaced with nonunion workers, a source close to the production told THR. Due to these complaints, a number of crewmembers walked off the set on Thursday morning, before the incident took place during an interior scene at a church, the source said.
In a statement, Rust Movie Productions, LLC said, “The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority … Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down.”
The New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau said Friday that it is investigating the incident. A spokesperson for the production said work on the film was paused “for an undetermined period of time” and that they were providing counseling to workers.
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 — showed him distraught outside the sheriff’s office on Thursday.
Guns used in making movies are sometimes real weapons that can fire either bullets or blanks, which are gunpowder charges that produce a flash and a bang but no deadly projectile. However, even blanks can eject hot gases and paper or plastic wadding from the barrel that can be lethal at close range.
Firearm accidents on Hollywood sets are extremely rare, but do occur. In 1993, Brandon Lee, the son of famed martial arts star Bruce Lee, was accidentally shot and killed on the set of The Crow by another actor who fired a revolver that had been improperly prepared.
A Twitter account run by Lee’s sister Shannon said: “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.”
In 1984, actor Jon-Erik Hexum was involved in a prop gun incident on the set of CBS’ Cover Up. During a break in filming, Hexum accidentally shot himself while playing with the firearm, not realizing a blank was still in the prop gun. He died from his injuries six days later at the age of 26.
After the shooting on the set of Rust, Hutchins, 42, was airlifted to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Souza, 48, who was wounded in the collarbone area, was taken by ambulance to a medical center. Rust actor Frances Fisher tweeted Friday that Souza had been discharged from the hospital, but Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center did not comment, citing patient privacy, and Fisher’s representatives did not return a request for comment.
Sheriff’s deputies responded about 2 p.m. to the movie set at the Bonanza Creek Ranch after 911 calls described a person being shot there, Rios said. The ranch has been used in dozens of films, including the recent Tom Hanks Western News of the World.
One of Hutchins’ final social media posts was a photo of the Rust actors standing together in solidarity with crewmembers. She belonged to the IATSE union that represents crewmembers. The union is to vote soon on a new contract with producers after threatening to strike in recent weeks over issues including long hours and on-set safety. In a statement following the Rust incident, IATSE said it “mourned” her death and would be “activating our partnerships across the industry to provide support and resources to our sisters, brothers, and kin.”
Hutchins, a 2015 graduate of the American Film Institute, worked as director of photography on the 2020 action film Archenemy starring Joe Manganiello. She was named a “rising star” by American Cinematographer in 2019.
“I’m so sad about losing Halyna. And so infuriated that this could happen on a set,” said Archenemy director Adam Egypt Mortimer on Twitter. “She was a brilliant talent who was absolutely committed to art and to film.”
Baldwin teamed up as a producer with Souza on the 2019 film Crown Vic, which starred Thomas Jane as a veteran Los Angeles police officer on a manhunt for two bank robbers. Souza’s first credited film, 2010’s Hanna’s Gold, was a treasure hunt adventure featuring Luke Perry.
Production began Oct. 6 on Rust, which in addition to Fisher also features Jensen Ackles and Travis Fimmel. The movie tells the story of a 13-year-old boy who is left to fend for himself and his younger brother following the death of their parents in 1880s Kansas, according to IMDb. The teen goes on the run with his long-estranged grandfather (played by Baldwin) after the boy is sentenced to hang for the accidental killing of a local rancher.
8:15 p.m. Updated with additional details from Sheriff’s office.
Rebecca Keegan contributed to this report.
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