AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Details have emerged about how a prop gun shot by actor Alec Baldwin killed a crew member and injured another on a film set in New Mexico yesterday. They were in production for the movie "Rust" just outside Santa Fe. The director of the film, Joel Souza, was wounded. He's now been released from the hospital. In the meantime, cast and crew members are mourning the death of Halyna Hutchins, the film's director of photography. NPR arts correspondent Mandalit del Barco is following this.
And, Mandalit, I want to start with some more of the reaction that we've been hearing today. What do you know?
MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Well, Alec Baldwin tweeted today, saying he's heartbroken for Halyna's husband and their child. He offered them support, and he said he's fully cooperating with the police investigation. According to a search warrant filed in a Santa Fe court that was viewed by the Associated Press, it was an assistant director that handed Baldwin a loaded gun. The court document says the AD didn't know it was loaded and indicated it was safe to use. But, you know, accidents like this are really, really rare. And I can only think of two times, Audie, when people have been killed on set by prop guns, including Bruce Lee's son Brandon Lee in 1993.
Usually on a film set or a location, there's someone specifically there to check guns and props being used. They're called armorers, and they're supposed to make sure the guns are handled correctly. And they inspect them. But what we're gathering here is that this was a really low-budget production and that lots of the crew members felt unsafe and overworked on this set at Bonanza Creek Ranch. On Facebook, a cameraman who was working on this film, "Rust," said that producers were treating local crew members horribly. And he wrote that conditions were so bad, some of the crew had walked off the set the same day before the shooting. The union IATSE, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, sent out a statement today reinforcing to their members that if they feel unsafe on set, they can report it.
CORNISH: And we should note that this is the same union that almost went on strike recently.
DEL BARCO: That's right. And a huge part of what they were fighting for was better working conditions, allowing crew members to have more breaks and more sleep. Before they reached a deal with the studios and producers, they were ready to go on strike against Hollywood. Just a few days ago on Instagram, Halyna Hutchins posted a photo of the "Rust" crew together on set, and she said she was standing in solidarity with IATSE. It's still not clear exactly what was going on on the set, but something went horribly wrong here.
CORNISH: In the meantime, can you give us a little more background on Halyna Hutchins, the director of photography?
DEL BARCO: Well, Halyna Hutchins was 42. She was born in the Ukraine. She started out as a journalist before turning to feature films. She worked on the superhero action film "Archenemy" and a film called "The Mad Hatter." In 2019, the American Society of Cinematographers named her a rising star. And earlier this week, she posted an online video of herself riding horses on her day off from "Rust." She said in the caption that was one of the perks of working on a Western. There's been a real outpouring of grief for Halyna Hutchins. And like her, director Bandar Albuliwi studied at the American Film Institute. I spoke with him today.
BANDAR ALBULIWI: There's absolutely no reason why real weapons need to be on set. You mean to tell me we can't CGI a bullet going out of a gun? It's heartbreaking, and it's shocking. And there needs to be some real change in Hollywood.
DEL BARCO: He started an online petition in her name to ban real guns on movie sets.
CORNISH: That's NPR arts correspondent Mandalit del Barco.
Thank you for your reporting on this.
DEL BARCO: Thank you.
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