SANTA FE, New Mexico: Actor Alec Baldwin said on Friday (Oct 22) he was in shock over his accidental fatal shooting of a cinematographer on a New Mexico movie set, as reports emerged of walk-outs there earlier in the week over unsafe conditions.
The star of 30 Rock and The Hunt for Red October said he was "fully cooperating" with authorities to determine how the incident occurred on Thursday on the set of his Western movie Rust.
Police on Friday gave no details of what happened but the Los Angeles Times and Deadline Hollywood cited several members of the crew and others close to the production as saying six or seven camera operators had walked off the Rust set hours before the tragedy.
Both outlets also reported that there had been at least one previous misfire with the prop gun.
"We cited everything from lack of payment for three weeks, taking our hotels away despite asking for them in our deals, lack of Covid safety, and on top of that, poor gun safety! Poor on-set safety period!" one camera crew member wrote on a private Facebook page, according to Deadline.
After the walkout on Thursday morning, "They brought in four non-union guys to replace us and tried calling the cops on us".
Reuters could not immediately confirm the accounts. Rust Movie Productions did not respond to a request for comment on Friday but said in a statement that the safety of the cast and crew is its top priority and it was investigating.
"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 company said in its statement.
Baldwin, 63, said on Friday that there were "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".
"My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna," added the actor in a posting on his social media accounts.
'ALWAYS SMILING, ALWAYS HOPEFUL'
The Santa Fe Sheriff's Department said the incident involving the prop gun occurred on Thursday at the Bonanza Creek Ranch, south of Santa Fe.
Hutchins, the film's cinematographer, was pronounced dead at a local hospital. The film's director, Joel Souza, was wounded and later released from the hospital, Rust actress Frances Fisher said on Twitter.
Production on the movie was immediately shut down. The sheriff's department said no charges had been filed and the investigation remained open. Baldwin voluntarily gave a statement about the shooting, the sheriff's department said.
The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) said in a statement that it was "heartbroken and devastated" to learn of the death of Hutchins, who was a member of the union.
Hutchins' representatives in a statement called her "a ray of light. Always smiling, always hopeful".
"We hope this tragedy will reveal new lessons for how to better ensure safety for every crew member on set," the statement added.
Baldwin is also a co-producer of Rust, which is set in 1880s Kansas. He plays the outlaw grandfather of a 13-year-old boy convicted of an accidental killing.
A picture posted by Baldwin on Thursday of himself dressed in cowboy-style attire, with what appeared to be a fake blood stain on his shirt and jacket, was deleted after the accident.
Known for his impersonations of former US President Donald Trump on sketch show Saturday Night Live, Baldwin has appeared in more than 100 TV and film comedies and dramas, and won Emmy awards for his role as an egotistical TV network executive in the satire 30 Rock.
ANOTHER ON-SET SHOOTING
The accident renewed debate about whether certain types of prop guns should be banned on TV and movie sets.
Brandon Lee, son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, died at age 28 after being fatally wounded in 1993 by a prop gun in an on-set accident while filming The Crow.
"I don't understand why we would still use blank rounds in a day when you could simulate them," indie film director and producer Ben Rock told Reuters on Friday.
Rock, who was not involved in the Rust film, noted that visual effects now possible in post-production effectively simulate the muzzle flashes from firing blank rounds, making the dangerous practice no longer necessary for the sake of realism.
Hutchins, 42, who was originally from Ukraine, was named one of American Cinematographer's Rising Stars of 2019. Her last social media post, two days ago, shows her grinning under a wide-brimmed hat as she rides a horse. "One of the perks of shooting a western is you get to ride horses on your day off:)" she captioned the video.