(NEXSTAR) – Several members of the film crew walked off the set of “Rust” in New Mexico during hours of protest before actor and lead producer Alec Baldwin fatally shot the cinematographer and injured the director of the film with a prop gun, reports the Los Angeles Times.
The half-dozen cameramen and their assistants left the Western set due to a dispute over working conditions, including long hours and low wages, three people not authorized to speak told the newspaper. publicly.
An anonymous “knowledgeable person” said there had been three incidents of firearms before the fatal shooting – two on Saturday and one last week, the Times said, “there was a serious lack of meetings of safety on this plateau “.
The tension on the Bonanza Creek Ranch plateau outside of Santa Fe had been simmering for days before team members arrived at work around 6:30 a.m. before they gathered their things and left, a source told The Times .
One of the points of contention reported was accommodation – crew members said they were told their hotel rooms in Santa Fe would be paid for, only to find they were told to instead stay in Albuquerque, about 60 miles away.
Members of the team, who are part of the International Alliance of Theater Workers, reported seeing non-union workers arrive to replace them on Thursday as they prepared to leave the set, reports The Times.
About six hours after the crew members packed their bags and left the set, Alec Baldwin fired the propeller pistol that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza.
Alec Baldwin said on Friday that the shooting was a “tragic accident” as authorities investigate the shooting.
A spokesperson for Baldwin said a propeller pistol with blanks had misfires. A spokesperson for the Santa Fe County Sheriff said detectives were investigating what type of projectile was fired and how. No immediate charges were laid.
It was not clear whether Baldwin was playing at the time of the shooting or how many shots were fired, and little was known about the weapon.
“There are no words to express my shock and sadness at the tragic accident which claimed the life of Halyna Hutchins, a deeply admired wife, mother and colleague. I fully cooperate with the police investigation Baldwin wrote on Twitter. “My heart is broken for her husband, their son and everyone who knew and loved Halyna.”
Sheriff’s spokesman Juan Rios said detectives were on set Friday morning to gather evidence and information. Baldwin is allowed to travel, he said.
âHe’s a free man,â Rios said.
Images of the 63-year-old actor – known for his roles in “30 Rock” and “The Hunt for Red October” and his impression of former President Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live” – ââshowed him distraught in front of the sheriff’s office on Thursday.
Weapons used in making movies are sometimes real guns that can fire bullets or blanks, which are charges of gunpowder that produce a flash and detonation but not a deadly projectile. However, even whites can eject hot gases and paper or plastic batting from the barrel, which can be fatal at close range. This turned out to be the case in the death of an actor in 1984.
In another accident on set in 1993, actor Brandon Lee was killed after a bullet was left in a propeller pistol, and similar shootings took place involving stage weapons loaded with live ammunition.
The gun safety protocol on set in the United States has improved since then, said Steven Hall, a veteran of photography in Britain. But he said one of the riskiest positions was behind the camera, as that person is in the crosshairs in scenes where an actor appears to be pointing a gun at the audience.
Hutchins, 42, was airlifted to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Souza, 48, who suffered a collarbone injury, was taken by ambulance to a medical center.
Sheriff’s deputies responded around 2 p.m. to the filming of the film at Bonanza Creek Ranch after 911 calls described a person shot there, Rios said. The ranch has been used in dozens of films, including the recent Tom Hanks western “News of the World”.
“This investigation remains open and active,” Rios said in a statement.
One of Hutchins’ last social media posts was a photo of the cast of âRustâ standing in solidarity with the team members. She belonged to the IATSE union which represents the crew members. The union is due to vote on a new contract with the producers soon after threatening a strike in recent weeks over issues such as long working hours and safety on set.
Hutchins, a 2015 graduate of the American Film Institute, worked as director of photography on the 2020 action film “Archenemy” with Joe Manganiello. She was named “Rising Star” by the American filmmaker in 2019.
âI am so sad that I lost Halyna. And so furious that it could happen on a set, ââ Archenemy âdirector Adam Egypt Mortimer said on Twitter. “She was a brilliant talent who was absolutely devoted to art and film.”
Manganiello called Hutchins “incredible talent” and “great person” on his Instagram account. He said he was lucky to have worked with her.
Hutchins had Ukrainian nationality, according to Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko. The country’s consulate in San Francisco worked with US law enforcement.
Baldwin teamed up as a producer with Souza on the 2019 film “Crown Vic,” which starred Thomas Jane as a veteran Los Angeles Police Force in a manhunt for two robbers. Bank. Souza’s first credited film, âHanna’s Goldâ of 2010, was a scavenger hunt adventure starring Luke Perry.
After filming, production was halted on “Rust”. The film is about a 13-year-old boy who is left to fend for himself and his younger brother after their parents died in the 1880s in Kansas, according to the Internet Movie Database. The teenager runs away with his longtime grandfather (played by Baldwin) after the boy was sentenced to hang for the accidental murder of a local rancher.
Lee, son of martial arts star Bruce Lee, died in 1993 after being hit by a .44 caliber bullet while filming a death scene for the movie “The Crow”. The gun was believed to have fired blank, but an autopsy revealed a bullet lodged near his spine.
A Twitter account maintained by Lee’s sister, Shannon, said: âOur hearts go out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and Joel Souza and everyone involved in the incident on ‘Rust.’ No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set. Period. “
In 1984, actor Jon-Erik Hexum died after shooting himself in the head with a propeller pistol while pretending to play Russian roulette with a .44 Magnum on the set of the series. “Cover Up” television.
Such shootings have also occurred during historical reenactments. In 2015, an actor portraying a historic shooting in Tombstone, Ariz., Was shot and injured during a show that purported to use white people.
In Hill City, South Dakota, a tourist town that recreates a Wild West experience, three spectators were injured in 2011 when an actor fired real bullets instead of blank bullets.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.