The film world, folks on social media and especially the actors, directors and staff on the film set of Rust, a movie being filmed in Santa Fe, New Mexico, are currently grappling with an on-set tragedy after one of the movie’s stars, veteran actor and producer Alec Baldwin, fired a prop gun that killed one crew member and injured another on Thursday.
NBC News reported that 42-year-old Halyna Hutchins, the film’s director of photography, was killed in the incident, while 48-year-old director Joel Souza was taken to the hospital and is expected to recover from his wounds.
“There was an accident today on the New Mexico set of ‘Rust’ involving the misfire of a prop gun with blanks,” a spokesperson for Baldwin said in a statement. “Production has been halted for the time being. The safety of our cast and crew remains our top priority.”
According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, Baldwin was seen outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office after the shooting distraught and in tears. According to the New York Post, witnesses heard him frantically asking repeatedly how he could have been given a “hot gun” to use.
No arrests have been made, but the local sheriff’s office said the investigation is still ongoing.
So, how the hell did this happen exactly?
Well, Hollywood weapons expert Larry Zanoff told NBC that a number of things may have gone wrong. He said that even though firearms used as props on TV and film sets are only filled with blank cartridges, smoke and burning embers can get propelled out of the gun, which is why people should maintain a minimum safety distance of 20 feet in front of the muzzle.
“There should be nothing in front of it when filming is occurring with firearms,” Zanoff said.
“We have a series of guidelines in the industry that govern the use of blank firearms and ammunition on set,” he continued in explaining that prop guns should be inspected before and after each scene and that protocol should always include a safety briefing. “So my question is, of course, firstly, was that protocol followed?”
As we know, the incident with Baldwin isn’t the first time this has happened.
In 1993, during the filming of The Crow, actor Brandon Lee, son of iconic martial artist Bruce Lee, was also killed after he was shot with a prop gun.
That also wasn’t the first time it happened.
In 1984, actor Jon-Erik Hexum died in what was supposed to be a fake game of Russian roulette with a fake pistol loaded with blank and empty cartridges on the set of the TV show Cover Up.
The incident with Baldwin has prompted a number of interesting takes on Twitter, with some believing the media coverage of the shooting would read differently if the shooter were Black.
Others argued the other side of that coin in saying that media outlets are actually being more direct in tying Baldwin to the shootings than they are when police officers are involved in a shooting.
At the end of the day, this was a horrendous tragedy and one where there isn’t yet enough information available to determine exactly how it happened, let alone how everyone should feel about it.
Our hearts go out to the victims and their families.