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Alec Baldwin fires prop gun on movie set killing a film crew member

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

One person is dead, and another is injured after a prop gun discharged on a New Mexico movie set yesterday. The Santa Fe County sheriff says actor Alec Baldwin, one of the film's stars, discharged the weapon. NPR's arts reporter Neda Ulaby is on the line. Good morning, Neda.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

DETROW: As far as we know at this point, what happened?

ULABY: Well, it's a situation that's still unfolding. And a lot of the details are still slowly coming out. The movie is called "Rust." It was being filmed in Santa Fe, N.M. It's a western that's set in the 1880s. And it's actually about the accidental killing of a rancher.

DETROW: Wow.

ULABY: Alec Baldwin was one of the stars, along with Frances Fisher. And Baldwin is also a producer on the film. And what we do know is that yesterday afternoon, Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun, striking and injuring the movie's director and fatally wounding the director of photography. She was airlifted to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead. No charges have been filed at this point. And the sheriff's office of Santa Fe County says an investigation is ongoing.

DETROW: I mean, I'm thinking how many movies have guns in them. But we do not hear about things like this so often. How common is this?

ULABY: This is so not common.

DETROW: Yeah.

ULABY: This is just an absolutely rare and completely horrifying incident. I mean, you're right. When you think about all the movies there are that contain guns, there are so few accidents. When - there are accidents on film sets all the time, but they almost never involve firearms. The very last high-profile incident of this type that I can think of was back in 1993. And I don't know if you remember that tragedy...

DETROW: I do.

ULABY: ...When actor Brandon Lee was accidentally killed - right? - in North Carolina when he was making the movie "The Crow."

DETROW: Yeah.

ULABY: And he was struck then by a gun that was supposed to fire blanks, but it contained a bullet. And 10 years before that in 1984, the actor Jon-Erik Hexum accidentally shot himself while he was horsing around with a prop gun on a TV set. And both of those incidents were just really traumatizing for the industry. And I think it's safe to say they have a lot to do with why there have been so, so very few similar accidents over decades of moviemaking.

DETROW: Yeah. What do we know about the victims?

ULABY: The director, Joel Souza, was injured. He's also the film's writer. And there's not a lot publicly known about his condition right now. Halyna Hutchins was the cinematographer. She was only 42. She's originally from Ukraine. She'd studied cinematography at the American Film Institute Conservatory, according to her Facebook page. She'd worked steadily for the past 10 years, making movies and shorts and not anything really high-profile. The last thing she posted on Facebook just a few days ago was a picture of the cast and crew of "Rust" standing in solidarity with the union IATSE that had been threatening to go on strike over the past few weeks, in large part over safety issues.

DETROW: I mean, in the hours since this story has become public, what has the reaction been from the film

ULABY: You know, of course, people are devastated. The heads of the actress union, the Directors Guild and the Cinematographers Guild have all issued statements saying they're devastated, and they intend to work to make sure that - how this happened and to keep it from ever happening again.

DETROW: Neda Ulaby covering a surprising and sad story from the film industry. Thank you so much.

ULABY: Thanks, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.