Tragedy struck on the set of Alec Baldwin’s upcoming Western Rust on Thursday, Oct. 21. Baldwin was rehearsing for a scene at the Bonanza Creek Ranch located outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico, when he fired a shot, hitting the film’s director of photography Halyna Hutchins and director Joel Souza. Hutchins died while being airlifted to a hospital. She was 42. Souza was wounded but was released from a Santa Fe hospital shortly after.
A spokesperson for the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office said a search warrant had been conducted on the set and that no one had yet been arrested or charged but that the investigation is ongoing. The search warrant affidavit identified Hannah Gutierrez-Reed as the armorer on set who was responsible for ensuring the proper use of prop guns on the set. The tragedy caused a wide range of reactions from Hollywood stars and fans alike, with many expressing sadness over the tragic loss of the cinematographer, while others expressed frustration over the lack of safety and dangerous conditions on Hollywood’s movie sets.
Baldwin shared a statement expressing his grief, while tributes began to pour in for Hutchins. Her death has inspired petitions and people demanding stricter protocols when it comes to weapons and props on set. The tragic event has raised various questions and concerns from people in the entertainment industry and it has only intensified the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) demands for safer and more suitable work conditions for film crew members. This fatal accident could inspire a change in Hollywood going forward, but it depends on how the investigation unravels. Here’s a breakdown of what happened on the Rust movie set on Oct. 21 and all that has happened since. This story will continue to be updated as it develops.
Who was Halyna Hutchins?
Halyna Hutchins was born in Horodets, Ukraine in 1979, and after graduating from Kyiv National University, she began working as a journalist before becoming a filmmaker. She met her husband Matthew Hutchins in Kyiv, and the couple share a 9-year-old son named Andros. She moved to Los Angeles to pursue her filmmaking career, and has since been credited with work on more than 30 films, short films and TV miniseries, including Darlin’ (2019), Blindfire (2020) and The Mad Hatter (2021) and was serving as director of photography for Rust. Hutchins also worked as director of photography on the 2020 film Archenemy starring Joe Manganiello. “She was a great collaborator and an ally to anyone in front of her camera,” Manganiello wrote on Instagram. “Everyone who knew her was rooting for her. I can’t believe that this could happen in this day and age.”
Hutchins graduated from the American Film Institute after completing UCLA’s Professional Producing program and was selected as one of American Cinematographer’s Rising Stars of 2019. The American Film Institute created a scholarship for the AFI Conservatory in Los Angeles to honor Hutchins in the wake of her death. “As is profoundly true in the art of cinematography, words alone cannot capture the loss of one so dear to the AFI community,” the AFI said in a statement. “At AFI, we pledge to see that Halyna Hutchins will live on in the spirit of all who strive to see their dreams realized in stories well told.” A GoFundMe fundraiser has also received more than $210,000 in donations for the cinematographer’s family.
According to IMDB, the independent Western is set in 1880s Kansas and tells the story of a 13-year-old boy who has to care for himself and his little brother following their parents’ death. After the boy is sentenced to be hanged for the accidental killing of a local rancher, he goes on the run with his estranged grandfather, an infamous outlaw named Harland Rust, played by Baldwin. The actor is also a producer on the film and helped create the idea with writer-director Joel Souza. The Hollywood Reporter spoke to the Emmy winner ahead of the film’s production and asked him about his gun-slinging and horse-riding skills, to which he said: “They’re always at the ready. I’m an actor of the old school. So if you read my résumé—my motorcycle riding, my French, juggling, my horseback riding, my gunplay—is all right at my fingertips at all times.”
What happened on the ‘Rust’ set?
Date: Oct. 21
Court records revealed that Baldwin was told that the gun had no ammunition prior to the fatal shooting, according to the Associated Press. Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the film’s armorer, was in charge of gun props. The court records say that she set three guns on a cart outside of the area where the scene was being filmed. The search warrant revealed that assistant director Dave Halls then gave the actor one of the guns, without knowing that it was loaded with live rounds. A union source told the Los Angeles Times that the union’s use of the term “live” is used to describe a gun loaded with any material. A search warrant filed in a Santa Fe court noted that an assistant director told the actor that the weapon was a “cold gun,” meaning it is safe to use, but that the assistant director “did not know live rounds were in the prop-gun.”
Baldwin breaks his silence
Date: Oct. 22
The day following the fatal incident, Baldwin took to Twitter to release a statement saying he was heartbroken over Hutchins’ death and the events. “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,” he wrote via 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.” The actor also shared an article on Oct. 23 that reported that he was told the prop gun was safe before the fatal shooting.
The 911 call was released
Baldwin has been in contact with Hutchins’ family
Date: Oct. 23
Dave Halls, Rust’s assistant director, was reportedly fired from Freedom’s Path after a gun “unexpectedly discharged” in 2019. Propmaker Maggie Goll worked with him on Hulu’s Into the Dark anthology series in February 2019 and said he allowed an unsafe working environment. “He did not maintain a safe working environment,” Goll said to NBC News. “Sets were almost always allowed to become increasingly claustrophobic, no established fire lanes, exits blocked. Safety meetings were nonexistent.”
Rust production sources told The Daily Beast that Halls should have checked the guns prior to handing them to Baldwin. The affidavit states that Halls yelled out “cold gun!” before handing it to the actor, meaning there are no cartridges or blanks inside the firearm. A “hot gun” means it’s loaded with cartridges, either live ammunition or blank rounds. “He’s supposed to be our last line of defense and he failed us,” the first source said. “He’s the last person that’s supposed to look at that firearm.”
Date: Oct. 24
The Daily Beast reported that there were also previous issues on sets with the 24-year-old armorer Gutierrez-Reed. Sources told the publication that filming on the set of the last movie the armorer worked on was halted after she allegedly gave an 11-year-old actress Ryan Kiera Armstrong a gun without checking it properly. “She was a bit careless with the guns, waving it around every now and again,” said a source, who worked with the armorer on Nicolas Cage’s upcoming movie The Old Way. “There were a couple times she was loading the blanks and doing it in a fashion that we thought was unsafe.” That film was her first as head armorer, and others from production could tell she was inexperienced. “There were several concerns I brought to production’s attention,” one source said. “I have been around firearms my entire life and noticed some things that were not OK even with loaded blank firearms.” A source from the Rust production team agreed with that sentiment, referring to the armorer as “inexperienced and green.”
It all happened amid an impending IATSE strike
‘Rust’ producers suspend production
There were protests on the ‘Rust’ set
Date: Oct. 22
While celebrities mourned the cinematographer’s death, Baldwin’s family released their own statements about the tragedy. Stephen Baldwin, Alec’s brother, took to Instagram, writing: “Asking for your prayers tonight. Friends, not much can be said other than please pray for all involved in the wake of this tragic accident. Thank you.” The 30 Rock star’s daughter Ireland Baldwin took to her Instagram Story, to say, “My love and support go to Halyna Hutchins’ family and friends. Sending healing thoughts to Joel Souza. And wishing I could hug my dad extra tight today.” The actor’s niece, Hailey Bieber, also shared a tribute on social media writing, “Sending all my love to the family of Halyna Hutchins. This is a truly unimaginable and devastating tragedy. My thoughts are also with Joel Souza as he recovers. I am absolutely heartbroken for everyone involved.”
Brandon Lee’s family speaks out
Date: Oct. 22
Brandon Lee, son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, was fatally wounded by a prop gun while filming The Crow in March 1993. He was 28. News of Hutchins’ tragic passing stirred up a lot of “emotions and frustration” for the Lee family. The actor’s sister Shannon Lee spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the Rust situation. “There are rules that are supposed to be followed,” she said. “I am certainly not pointing fingers at anyone because that would be the wrong thing to do. But, there is no reason for something like this to happen. My heart goes out to Alec Baldwin. I feel for the work he is going to have to do to process this and try to find some measure of peace around it. And even more so for the family of Halyna Hutchins. It’s having your whole world flip upside down. There should be compassion for all the pain everyone is going through.” She says she and her family agree with the discourse on social media that real guns need to be banned from Hollywood sets. “I think that in this day and age with all the special effects that are possible and all of the technology, there is no reason to have a prop gun or a gun on a set that can fire a projectile of any sort,” she said. “It is not necessary, and I would love to see some changes made industry-wide. My brother’s fiancée and I have been talking about it. I think we wish we had thought to do more 28 years ago, and we would love to do that now.”
“Twenty-eight years ago, I was shattered by the shock and grief of losing the love of my life, Brandon Lee, so senselessly,” Eliza Hutton, the late actor’s fiancée, said to People. “My heart aches again now for Halyna Hutchins’ husband and son, and for all those left in the wake of this avoidable tragedy.” She added, “I urge those in positions to make change[s] to consider alternatives to real guns on sets.”
Date: Oct. 22
Baldwin has acquired a fair amount of critics over the years, mostly due to his portrayal of President Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live and his overall political views. People jumped on this opportunity to bash the actor and make fun of the situation. Twitter users were sharing memes and tweets regarding the incident on the site, and the hashtag #AlecForPrison began trending on Oct. 23. Donald Trump Jr. wasted no time before sharing memes mocking Baldwin following the fatal shooting and also starting promoting merchandise inspired by the fatal shooting. He was selling a T-Shirt on social media with the insensitive words: “Guns don’t kill people, Alec Baldwin kills people.” He shared an Instagram Story with a link to Trump Jr.’s website on Oct. 24, where the shirt was being sold for $27.99. The link appears to have since been taken down. On Oct. 22, Ohio Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance asked Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to allow former President Trump to return to the website so he can share his take on the incident: “Dear @jack let Trump back on. We need Alec Baldwin tweets.”
Could Alec Baldwin face jail time?
Could Hutchins’ death change Hollywood?
The authorities held a press conference
Baldwin gives his first public interview since Hutchins' tragic death
Date: Oct. 27
Halls has admitted to investigators that he failed to properly check a gun before giving it to Baldwin. “I check the barrel for obstructions, most of the time there’s no live fire, she (Hannah) opens the hatch and spins the drum, and I say ‘cold gun on set,’” he reportedly told investigators about the usual process when dealing with guns. This time, though, he said he didn’t check all the round before handing the gun to the actor. “David advised when Hannah showed him the firearm before continuing rehearsal, he could only remember seeing three rounds,” the affidavit says according to Variety. “He advised he should have checked all of them, but didn’t, and couldn’t recall if she spun the drum.”
A crew member said that he warned the Rust producers Halls did not take set safety seriously during a previous production of the movie One Way. The insider told Variety that he specifically warned the producers that Halls was putting the Rust crew at risk. “That man is a liability,” the crew member, who didn’t want to be identified, said he told producers. “He’s going to fucking kill someone someday, and you’re going to be responsible.”
The actor took to Instagram on Nov. 3 to share seven screengrabs of a Facebook message from costume designer Terese Magpale Davis defending the making of the Western. He captioned the first post, “Read this.” Davis wrote a lengthy message speaking out against earlier claims from camera crew members about what they say were unsafe working conditions on the Rust set. “The story being spun of us being overworked and surrounded by unsafe, chaotic conditions is bullshit,” Davis wrote, adding that after camera crew members demanded better treatment, “concerns were heard and addressed” by the producers. The costume designer also defended Gutierrez-Reed and Dave Halls, saying that the armorer had a strong résumé and great references when she was hired. She also addressed the rumors that Halls had been careless about safety on set, and said, “Our AD never seemed flippant about safety. He may have in other shows but he wasn’t like that on ours.” She added that she is still angry at the assistant director for “making the most horrible call he could make,” which ended in the death of her friend.
Baldwin has his first sit-down interview since the shooting
Baldwin says he never pulled the trigger
Baldwin says he doesn't feel guilty
The actor and his wife delete Twitter after his tell-all interview
Date: Oct. 5, 2022
Baldwin and other producers of the film reached a settlement with the estate of Hutchins in October, 2022. Rust Movie Productions LLC and Baldwin settled the suit with Matthew Hutchins—Halyna’s husband—who will serve as an executive producer when the film resumes production. “I have no interest in engaging in recriminations or attribution of blame (to the producers or Mr. Baldwin). All of us believe Halyna’s death was a terrible accident,” Matthew said in a statement. “I am grateful that the producers and the entertainment community have come together to pay tribute to Halyna’s final work.”
The settlement had no bearing on the criminal investigation into the onset death, but it did result in the dismissal of the wrongful death case.
Date: Nov. 13, 2022
Baldwin filed a lawsuit against armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, assistant director David Halls, prop master Sarah Zachry, and gun supplier Seth Kenney alongside his business PDQ Arm and Prop. “More than anyone else on that set, Baldwin has been wrongfully viewed as the perpetrator of this tragedy,” the lawsuit reads. “This tragedy happened because live bullets were delivered to the set and loaded into the gun, Gutierrez-Reed failed to check the bullets or the gun carefully, Halls failed to check the gun carefully and yet announced the gun was safe before handing it to Baldwin, and Zachry failed to disclose that Gutierrez-Reed had been acting recklessly off set and was a safety risk to those around her."
The actor and producer has maintained that he was not responsible for Hutchins’ death, as the weapons handlers told him the gun was only loaded with blanks. He is seeking unspecified damages for the “immense grief” the incident has caused him.
Date: Jan. 20, 2023
Following the news of the criminal charges brought forth against Baldwin (which you can read about below), People reported that sources familiar with the production of Rust indicated the film is still planned to go ahead. Baldwin is still attached to produce and star in the film, and director Joel Souza is still on board, too. Updated safety measures will be in place for the project, including a ban on live ammunition and any “working weapons.”
Production was set to resume this month in California, rather than at the original filming locations in New Mexico. It’s unclear if the rest of the cast for the film, which includes Travis Fimmel, Frances Fisher, Jensen Ackles, Devon Werkheiser, and child actor Brady Noon, will also be returning to finish the project.
Date: Jan. 31, 2023
Baldwin and Rust weapons handler Hannah Gutierrez Reed were formally charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Hutchins, District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies announced on social media. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison each, as well as a fine of up to a $5,000.
“If any one of these three people — Alec Baldwin, Hannah Gutierrez Reed or David Halls — had done their job, Halyna Hutchins would be alive today,” said prosecutor Andrea Reeb. “It’s that simple. The evidence clearly shows a pattern of criminal disregard for safety on the ‘Rust’ film set. In New Mexico, there is no room for film sets that don’t take our state’s commitment to gun safety and public safety seriously.”
At the same time the charges were announced, first assistant director Halls agreed to plead guilty to a charge of “negligent use of a deadly weapon” and will avoid jail time.
“We want to thank the Santa Fe Sheriff and the District Attorney for concluding their thorough investigation and determining that charges for involuntary manslaughter are warranted for the killing of Halyna Hutchins with conscious disregard for human life,” Brain Panish, the attorney for Hutchins’ widower and son, said earlier in the month, prior to the charges being formally filed. “Our independent investigation also supports charges are warranted. It is a comfort to the family that, in New Mexico, no one is above the law. We support the charges, will fully cooperate with this prosecution, and fervently hope the justice system works to protect the public and hold accountable those who break the law.”