Alec Baldwin shooting tragedy: Who was Halyna Hutchins?

‘Kind and loving’ cinematographer in Alec Baldwin tragedy: Ukraine-born married mother Halyna Hutchins, 42, was raised on a Soviet military base surrounded by nuclear submarines, trained as a journalist and was tipped as a rising star in Hollywood

  • Halyna Hutchins, 42, was killed when Alec Baldwin fired gun in film set accident 
  • Cinematographer, believed to have one son, was a rising star in the industry
  • Born in Ukraine in 1979, Halyna said she grew up ‘on a Soviet military base in the Arctic circle surrounded by reindeer and nuclear submarines’
  • Graduated with a journalism degree and spent time on documentaries in Europe
  • Later moved to Los Angeles where she had a son with husband Matthew

Sun streaming from above, cinematographer Halyna Hutchins smiles into the camera as she films herself riding off into the New Mexico desert on horseback.

This was the last Instagram post shared by the married mother-of-one before she was accidentally killed by actor Alec Baldwin when he fired a prop gun while filming a scene for an upcoming Western on a ranch near Santa Fe.

Born in Ukraine and raised on a Soviet military base ‘surrounded by reindeer and nuclear submarines’, Halyna, 42, had trained as a journalist and spent time in Europe working on British documentaries before making the move to Los Angeles, where she had established her career – and started a family. 

Remembered by friends as a ‘kind’ and ‘loving soul’, Halyna lived in Venice Beach, California, with her husband Matthew, a lawyer, and their son Andros, known affectionately as her ‘little man’ and thought to be around nine years old. 

‘Halyna loved him so much and enjoyed watching him grow into the handsome boy he is today,’ one friend wrote in a moving Instagram tribute. ‘I know she is looking after him and Matt in this horribly scary time.’

Social media photos capture a playfulness and sense of adventure, with Halloween costume parties, road trips with friends and days out exploring all lit up by Halyna’s smile. 

She was also highly regarded by her peers and had been tipped as a ‘rising star’ by other cinematographers. ‘She was somebody who was absolutely dedicated to art and integrity,’ director, colleague and friend Adam Mortimer told GMB this morning. ‘I can tell already she was going to be a genius.’ 

Sun streaming from above, cinematographer Halyna Hutchins smiles into the camera as she films herself riding off into the New Mexico desert on horseback. This was the last Instagram post shared by the married mother-of-one before she was accidentally killed by actor Alec Baldwin when he fired a prop gun while filming a scene for upcoming Western, Rust, yesterday

Remembered by friends as a ‘kind’ and ‘loving soul’, Halyna lived in Venice Beach, California , with her husband Matthew, a lawyer, and their son Andros, pictured in an old Facebook photo

Photos capture a sense of playfulness and adventure, with snaps of Halloween costume parties, road trips with friends and days out exploring all lit up by Halyna’s smile

Born in Ukraine and raised on a Soviet military base ‘surrounded by reindeer and submarines’, Halyna had recently wrapped on a project in Ireland and was tipped for a bright future in Hollywood when her life was so tragically cut short. Pictured, in 2018

Baldwin, 62, was filming a scene for new film Rust when the gun went off around 1.50pm, fatally wounding Hutchins and leaving writer-director Joel Souza, 48, injured. The incident took place at at Bonanza Creek Ranch.

Hutchins was rushed to the University of New Mexico Hospital in an air ambulance but was pronounced dead a short time after. 

Souza was taken by ambulance to the Christus St Vincent Regional Medical Center. He has since been released although his exact condition is unclear.

Meanwhile Baldwin was taken to a Santa Fe detectives’ office to be questioned about the shooting. He was not arrested and was later released without charge – though investigations are ongoing.  

The Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office said the gun was fired during the middle of a scene that was either being filmed or rehearsed. It is unclear exactly how the gun was fired – whether by accident or on purpose. Detectives said the gun was ‘discharged’ and gave no further details. 

Alec Baldwin is seen on the set of Rust with fake blood earlier Thursday, hours before he shot and killed the film’s cinematographer. He shared this photo on Instagram with the caption ‘Back to in person at the office. Blimey…it’s exhausting.’ Filming was halted following the fatal incident at the Bonanza Creek Ranch movie set in Santa Fe

Police tape cordons of a small church used as a set for the movie, after a fatal accidental shooting at a Bonanza Creek Ranch movie set near Santa Fe on Thursday

Halyna, 42, was shot dead in the incident on Thursday at the Bonanza Creek Ranch movie set in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where writer-director Joel Souza, 48, (pictured) was also injured

Baldwin and Hutchins (circled) are pictured together on the set of Rust, in an image that she uploaded to Instagram two days ago saying the crew of the film were supporting a strike by the IATSE union

Fatal accidents with prop guns are rare, but not unheard of. Brandon Lee, the 28-year-old son of martial arts star Bruce Lee, was shot and killed on the set of The Crow in 1993 after part of a dummy round got lodged in the barrel of the gun – and was then fired into Lee’s stomach when a second dummy round went off. 

It is a tragedy that has shaken the film industry and led friends, colleagues and strangers to pay tribute to Hutchins, whose life was so shockingly cut short. 

Born in 1979, Halyna Hutchins was the daughter of military parents and grew up on a Soviet base ‘in the Arctic circle’. Recalling what it was like, she said they were ‘surrounded by reindeer and nuclear submarines’. 

In a sign of her broad interests, Halyna, who was fluent in Russian and English, attended the National University of Kyiv, Ukraine’s most prestigious higher education institution, and graduated with a degree in International Journalism.

She used this as a ticket to work abroad and spent time as an ‘investigative journalist with British documentary productions in Europe’. Details of the projects have not yet emerged. 

At some point Hutchins moved to the US, settling in California. She married husband Matthew, a lawyer who worked as an associate with US firm Kirkland & Ellis until 2017. His current role is not known. 

Halya (right) on a visit back to Kiev in December 2018. She was raised on a military base in the country and later attended the National University of Kyiv, studying International Journalism

Her social media profiles also paint a clear image of a free-spirited, much-loved friend, many of whom have been paying tribute. Pictured, a touching post by close friend Stephanie

In 2012 the couple welcomed their much wanted son, Andros.  

‘I remember when Halyna and I would talk about how much she wanted to have a child so many years ago,’ wrote her friend, Stephanie, ‘and being at the hospital the day he was born and seeing her so filled with happiness.’ 

The couple both posted loved-up family photos on Facebook, treasured memories of family hikes and fun-filled days out. 

Shortly after Andros’s birth Hutchins, who had begun working on short films, enrolled on a two-year course at the American Film Institute Conservatory to hone her skills as a cinematographer. A cinematographer, also known as a director of photography, is in charge of the film and lighting crews on set. 

The AFI Conservatory is well regarded within Hollywood and provided a launchpad for the likes of directors Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) and Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman). 

Hutchins would later speak of the important role this experience played in developing her career, saying it made her ‘rethink’ who she was as an artist. She added: ‘One thing I learned is that cinematography is not something you do by yourself. 

Hutchins, pictured back centre as Harley Quinn, dressing up with friends at a costume party

‘It’s a group [project]. You need to develop your own vision, but the key to a successful film is communication with your director and your team.’ 

Another tragedy on set: How Bruce Lee’s son Brandon died in similar accident on The Crow  

Halyna Hutchins’ death is not the first time that a prop gun has killed someone during the filming of a movie. 

In 1993, Brandon Lee, 28, son of the late martial-arts star Bruce Lee, died after being hit by a .44-caliber slug while filming a death scene for the movie The Crow. 

The gun was supposed to have fired a blank, but an autopsy turned up a bullet lodged near his spine. 

Actor Brandon Lee (above) was killed on the set of The Crow in 1993 when a blank round fired a squib load from the prop gun

In that case, an investigation determined that a bullet became lodged in the barrel of the gun, a dangerous condition known as a squib load.

The crew had made dummy cartridges, which are supposed to look like a real bullet but be inert, by removing the gunpowder from real bullets, but they failed to remove the primer charge.

At some point, one of the dummy rounds was fired, and the primer pushed the bullet into the barrel, where it remained stuck unnoticed.  

Later, the gunpower in a blank cartridge, which creates the sound and muzzle flash of gunfire for film but has no bullet, propelled the squib load out of the gun’s barrel, striking Lee. 

And in 1984, actor Jon-Erik Hexum died after shooting himself in the head with a prop gun blank while pretending to play Russian roulette with a .44 Magnum on the set of the television series Cover Up. 

In that case, the paper wadding used to secure the gunpowder in the blank cartridge was expelled with enough force to shatter his skull near the temple, sending fragments into Hexum’s brain and causing massive hemorrhaging. 

Alongside her early cinematography work, Hutchins worked as a fashion photographer in order to learn how to ‘create the mood, the feeling’ in an image. A string of smaller projects came along, largely in short films.

In 2018 she was named as part of the inaugural class of the 21st Century Fox DP Lab, a networking cohort designed to expand opportunities for female cinematographers by connecting them with working professionals.

The following year, she was hailed as one of the ‘rising stars of cinematography’ in respected industry publication American Cinematographer. 

‘Right now, I’m just really interested in finding fruitful collaborations,’ she said in an interview with the publication. She added, ‘I’m just hoping to find my Wong Kar-wai,’ in a nod to the renowned Hong Kong director. 

Hutchins worked on two feature films. The firs, Darlin’, a horror directed by Pollyanna McIntosh (The Walking Dead), premiered at the SXSW film festival 2019 and played internationally at the Edinburgh Film Festival and London FrightFest.

The second, Blindfire, was a racially charged police drama written and directed by Mike Nell starring Brian Geraghty (The Hurt Locker, TNT’s The Alienist) and Sharon Leal (Supergirl, Instinct), which was winner of Best Crime Drama at the Houston International Film Festival, 2020.

Director Adam Egypt Mortimer, who worked with Hutchins on the 2020 superhero mystery-thriller Archenemy, said on GMB today: ‘She was somebody who was absolutely dedicated to art and integrity.

‘She was Ukrainian and had this incredible European art sensibility so that the more things on our set that would become challenging or difficult the more she would want to figure out how to transcend the limitations and turn it into art.

‘When I met her I knew after about five minutes of talking to her she would be an incredible partner to work with… I can tell already she was going to be a genius and she was so dedicated to do anything to make a movie seem immersive and truthful and that was her personality.’   

Actor Joe Manganiello, who starred in Archenemy, called her ‘an incredible talent’ and ‘a great person’ on his Instagram account, adding that he was lucky to have Hutchins as director of photography on the film. 

Director Amy J. Berg, who also shared a Deadline article detailing the accidental shooting, penned: ‘What an absolute nightmare. We lost a rising star, female cinematographer Halyna Hutchins’. 

Across Halyna’s Instagram and website reels are numerous stills and clips from short films and features she’s worked on, ranging in genre and aesthetics. 

She was recently in Ireland where she enjoyed runs in Dublin and sight-seeing while on breaks from filming what is believed to be an upcoming period drama.

Her social media profiles also paint a clear image of a free-spirited, much-loved friend, many of whom have been paying tribute. 

As her friend Stephanie said: ‘I don’t even have words, I have known Halyna for so many years and to find out that she is dead is beyond words I can even express. She had such a kind-loving soul… 

‘I can’t even believe I am saying “had” it just doesn’t make any sense… I just can’t believe this is happening….Halyna was so full of life and way too young to die.’

Hutchins worked on two feature films. The firs, Darlin’, a horror directed by Pollyanna McIntosh (The Walking Dead), premiered at the SXSW film festival 2019 and played internationally at the Edinburgh Film Festival and London FrightFest. Pictured, with the Darlin’ team 

Hutchins’ devastated friends were too distraught to talk, but Ariel Vida, a production designer who worked with the director of photography on 2020 film Archenemy confirmed her death to DailyMail.com, tearfully adding: ‘I’m sorry, I can’t talk about this right now.’ 

No criminal charges have been filed, but police said that a criminal investigation into the incident is currently active to determine the circumstances of Hutchins’ death. 

‘According to investigators, it appears that the scene being filmed involved the use of a prop firearm when it was discharged,’ sheriff’s spokesman Juan Rios said in a statement. ‘Detectives are investigating how and what type of projectile was discharged.’ 

‘The incident remains an active investigation. As more information becomes available, updates will be provided,’ he added. 

Filming for Rust was set to continue through early November, according to a news release from the New Mexico Film Office, but production has now been halted on the film.

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