There’s been no official confirmation of this yet, but the local union in Santa Fe, New Mexico has said in an email that the prop gun fired by actor Alec Baldwin on Thursday killing a director of photography and wounding a director on the set of an independent film had been loaded with a single, live round of ammunition.
In the email that IATSE Local 44 sent, Secretary-Treasurer Anthony Pawluc said the event was “an accidental weapons discharge.”
“Local 44 has confirmed that the Props, Set Decoration, Special Effects and Construction Departments were staffed by New Mexico crew members,” Pawluc said. “There were no Local 44 members on the call sheet. On behalf of Local 44’s Officers, Executive Board and Staff, our thoughts and prayers go out to Halyna and her family. We also send good thoughts to Joel and his family for a full recovery.”
“Rust” is an independent feature that was filming at the Bonanza Creek Ranch, a popular production location south of Santa Fe. Baldwin was questioned by law enforcement. The Sheriff’s office said in a statement that Hutchins and Souza “were shot when a prop firearm was discharged by Alec Baldwin, 68, producer and actor.”
The production company initially reported on Thursday afternoon that the incident involved “blanks,” but the Sheriff’s office later said that it was too soon to determine what type of round was used.
If Pawluc’s information about a live round being loaded into the prop gun is accurate, then that raises some questions about how exactly it got there.It’s hard to mistake a round of live ammunition for a blank, unless you know absolutely nothing about firearms. Even a clueless crew member shouldn’t have been able to mistakenly load the gun with a live round, however, because there was no reason for live ammo to be on the set.
It’s also possible, however, that Pawluc’s information isn’t entirely accurate. It was widely reported that actor Brandon Lee was accidentally killed when a live round made its way into a prop gun on the set of the movie The Crow, but it turned out that a fragment of a dummy round dislodged and became the fatal projective that was responsible for ending Lee’s life. As the Los Angeles Times reported in 1993:
But Det. Rodney Simmons of the Wilmington Police Department, who was the first officer at the scene, said that Lee’s injury appeared to him to be a gunshot wound. Simmons said the detectives reviewed videotape made of the scene during filming, which also indicated that Lee’s right side was in line with the angle of the pistol that was fired for the scene.
Simmons said that when he arrived at the set shortly after 2 a.m. Wednesday, technicians on the set had unloaded the gun and placed it and the spent shell of a blank round into a plastic bag. Simmons said that in talking to a special-effects man, who he would not identify, he learned that one of the dummy shells in the guncase was missing the slug from its tip.
Simmons said his interview of the special-effects person raised the possibility that the gun was loaded with the dummy bullet for a close-up shot and when the gun was unloaded the slug had become dislodged from the dummy shell casing and the tip had remained in the cylinder or the barrel. When the blank round was then inserted, the pistol could have discharged like a loaded firearm.
“One of the lead slugs could have come off its casing and lodged in the gun,” Simmons said. Simmons said that his initial investigation found that the gun had been loaded by the special-effects person, not by Massee, the actor who fired the weapon. Simons said that Massee told him that when the gun discharged in the scene, the kick felt the same as it had when he had fired blanks in previous scenes in the movie.
It’s possible that something like that could also be the case here, though it may be some time before we learn what actually happened that led to the death of Halyna Hutchins and the wounding of Joel Souza (who, thankfully, is out of the hospital). Some in Hollywood aren’t waiting for details, however. They’re already calling for an end to the use of prop guns in films and movies.
There’s no reason to have guns loaded with blanks or anything on set anymore. Should just be fully outlawed. There’s computers now. The gunshots on Mare of Easttown are all digital. You can probably tell, but who cares? It’s an unnecessary risk. https://t.co/pVWJp766EY
— craig zobel (@craigzobel) October 22, 2021
The gun control lobby’s looking for an easy win after suffering the embarrassing defeat of David Chipman’s nomination as ATF director. Hollywood is already vociferously anti-gun (as long as we’re not talking about disarming private security). How long before Everytown launches their campaign to make Hollywood go (prop) gun-free?