A new Western was underway on Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe County when actor Alec Baldwin’s character, an outlaw, needed a gun. An assistant director grabbed him one, yelled “Cold Gun!” to let Baldwin and others on the set know that the prop gun did not have any live rounds in it, that it was safe to use. But when Baldwin fired the gun, it struck and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42, and injured director Joel Souza, 48, according to The New York Times.
In an affidavit signed by Detective Joel Cano of the Santa Fe County sheriff’s office, the assistant director stated that he did not know the prop gun was loaded with live rounds. It has yet to be specified whether the prop gun contained live ammunition or, like the assistant director thought, only blank rounds.
“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,” Baldwin stated on Twitter. “I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred and I am in touch with her husband, offering my support to him and his family. My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna.”
Sadly, the tragedy on the set of “Rust” is far from the first firearms accident to occur on a film/TV set. The Times pointed to the 1984 accident in which actor Jon-Erik Hexum accidentally shot himself in the head while filming a scene involving Russian roulette. Notably, it was not a bullet that killed him; it was the force of a blank round. Then, on a 1993 film set, actor Brandon Lee was shot and killed when a bullet was accidentally discharged along with a blank.
So how has tragedy managed to strike set after set, especially with such strict safety protocols in place? Either the safety protocols have been violated or new, stronger protocols are desperately needed.
According to the Times, film safety experts believe a breach of protocol led to the fatal “Rust” shooting.
“Protocol had to have been broken,” said Daniel Leonard, an associate dean of Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University. “We will have to see what the details are, but the industry has a very specific set of guidelines to follow to prevent something like this from happening.”
Still, the cause of the tragedy remains under investigation. Charges have yet to be filed in connection with the shooting.
“The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company,” said Rust Movie Productions LLC in a statement. “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. We will continue to cooperate with the Santa Fe authorities in their investigation and offer mental health services to the cast and crew during this tragic time.”
McGinn, Montoya, Love & Curry represents those injured by unsafe conditions on film and TV sets in New Mexico. Call (505) 405-4441 or send us a message online to find out how our trial attorneys can help you.