The movie director who was wounded on set when Alec Baldwin discharged a prop gun says he is "gutted" by the death of the film's cinematographer, as more details emerge suggesting the production was troubled even before the accidental shooting.
Joel Souza, who was hit in the shoulder on Thursday when Baldwin fired a prop gun that unexpectedly contained a live round while rehearsing a scene, broke his silence as the investigation entered its third day, with multiple questions remaining over how the mistake happened.
"I am gutted by the loss of my friend and colleague, Halyna. She was kind, vibrant, incredibly talented, fought for every inch and always pushed me to be better," Souza said in a statement on Saturday.
The shot hit cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in the chest, according to the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office. She died of her wounds and Souza, who was behind her, was injured but later released from the hospital.
Just hours before the incident on the New Mexico set of Rust, a low-budget western, several crew members quit in protest at what they saw as poor working conditions, according to multiple news outlets.
The Los Angeles Times reported that last week Baldwin's stunt double accidentally fired two rounds with a prop firearm after being told it was "cold", an industry term meaning a weapon is not loaded with ammunition, including blanks.
At least one employee complained to a production manager about gun safety on set, the newspaper reported, citing unnamed crew members.
The same mistake may have occurred on Thursday, according to court records. An assistant director, Dave Halls, handed Baldwin the prop gun and told him it was a "cold gun", according to an affidavit from the sheriff's office that was filed as part of a search warrant application.
Halls could not be reached for comment on Saturday.
A Santa Fe judge on Friday approved the warrant, allowing authorities to seize firearms, clothing, cameras, video tapes and ammunition from the Bonanza Creek Ranch outside Santa Fe.
Rust Movie Productions said on Friday it had not been aware of any safety concerns but was investigating the incident.
"Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down," the company said. Baldwin is among the film's producers.
It is unclear why the gun contained a live round. The person in charge of weapons on set is known as an armourer; the armourer for Rust, Hannah Gutierrez, had set up the gun and two others, according to the affidavit.
Gutierrez could not be reached for comment on Saturday.
No charges have been filed, and police say the investigation remains active. Security guards were posted at the road leading to the ranch on Saturday.
The International Cinematographers Guild planned to hold a candlelight vigil for Hutchins, 42, on Saturday evening in Albuquerque, about 60 kilometres from the ranch. A second vigil was scheduled for Sunday in the Los Angeles area.
"Halyna inspired us all with her passion and vision, and her legacy is too meaningful to encapsulate in words. Our loss is enormous," her husband Matt Hutchins wrote on Twitter.
The American Film Institute set up a scholarship fund for female cinematographers in Hutchins' honour.
Baldwin, 63, best known for his roles in TV comedy 30 Rock and his Saturday Night Live impersonations of former US president Donald Trump, said on Friday he was shocked and heartbroken at Hutchins' death and was fully co-operating with authorities.
Australian Associated Press
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.