Two days before her death, cinematographer Halyna Hutchins wrote about the joys of working on the movie Rust in the New Mexico desert. “One of the perks of shooting a western is you get to ride horses on your day off,” she wrote on Instagram. In the selfie video, the 42-year-old smiles while her horse moseys down a path behind some fellow riders. The wind flips tendrils of her hair beneath a black cowboy hat.
That post has become a mournful gathering place for friends, loved ones, and strangers alike after Hutchins died Thursday following an apparent accident on set. “Santa Fe County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the Bonanza Creek Ranch movie set of the western Rust, October 21, 2021, when an 911 caller reported a shooting on the set,” read a statement from investigators sent to Vanity Fair.
In addition to Hutchins, the director of the film, Joel Souza, 48, was also wounded. Investigators said he was being treated, but did not disclose his condition. The Sheriff’s statement said the two “were shot when a prop firearm was discharged by Alec Baldwin, 68, producer and actor.”
“Mr. Baldwin met with investigators and provided a statement and answered their questions. He then left our agency. No charges have been filed and no arrests have been made,” sheriff’s department spokesman Juan R. Rios tells Vanity Fair.
Baldwin’s agent and manager did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Thursday. The Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reported that Baldwin was “in tears” when he met with investigators, and published photos of the actor looking “distraught” while talking on his phone outside the department.
Investigators say the shooting happened while a scene was being filmed.
The incident calls to mind another tragic on-set death when a projectile from a prop gun struck and killed star Brandon Lee on the set of the 1994 movie The Crow. Investigators later determined that a fragment of a prop bullet used for a sequence in which the gun was “loaded” had gotten stuck in the weapon, and that a blank later used to simulate gunfire launched the loose object into Lee’s abdomen and spine. Lee’s death was ruled as “negligent homicide,” but the district attorney chose not to prosecute because the investigation led him to believe it was truly an accident, and not “willful and wanton.”
In the case of Hutchins’ death, the Santa Fe sheriff’s department said, “Detectives are
investigating how and what type of projectile was discharged.”
“This investigation remains open and active,” the department added in a later statement. “Witnesses continue to be interviewed by detectives.”
Investigators say Hutchins was flown by helicopter to the University of New Mexico Hospital, and
was pronounced dead there. Souza went via ambulance to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical center.
Her recent public Instagram posts were full of uplifting comments about working on Rust, which now have the indelible mark of tragedy. Some are even haunting. In one image that she shared, the cast and crew express solidarity with union workers in their recent contract negotiations with producers. She tagged herself standing just over Baldwin’s left shoulder, as both give a thumbs-up.
Others give some indication of the work she was creating, capturing the molten blue and pink sunsets of New Mexico over the ramshackle structures of the Rust set.
A bio posted to her professional website indicated Hutchins was based in Los Angeles but was originally from Ukraine. “Halyna grew up on a Soviet military base in the Arctic Circle surrounded by reindeer and nuclear submarines,” it reads. “She holds a graduate degree in International Journalism from Kyiv National University in Ukraine and previously worked as an investigative journalist with British documentary productions in Europe.”