Alec Baldwin fatally shoots director of photography on film set in apparent prop gun accident

Originally published at: Alec Baldwin fatally shoots director of photography on film set in apparent prop gun accident | Boing Boing


This combined with the situation on the set of Batwoman that Ruby Rose described recently is pretty much going to guarantee that the IATSE deal is going to be rejected by their members and a strike will happen. It wasn’t just a pay and work hours thing… it was about on-set safety too with the members’ concerns also being about lax safety/covid protocols the past few years.


Where’s Columbo when you need him?

I swear I’ve seen this plot on several detective shows.

How does Alec get over this? What a tragedy.


Good. It’s clear that there are some real issues that they need to work out.


What an awful thing. I don’t wish that on anyone. I’m surprised prop guns are still a potential hazard in the film industry considering the previous tragedies. They really should be using foam rubber guns and just add in the bangs later.


I wish there was more info. Because what is out there doesn’t make sense. He was firing blank rounds… that somehow launched a projectile?

The two prop firearm deaths I’m aware of, one was because a stunt double put the blank firing gun right to their temple and fired, and the muzzle flash alone was enough to kill them.

The other was on the set of The Crow where the armorer cut corners making a supposedly inert prop round (blanks look like blanks, especially in some revolvers, so they use fake dummy bullets in some scenes then cut to blanks being fired) by putting a bullet into a casing with no powder… but a real working primer. Someone struck the primer, launching the bullet into the barrel. Then the prop master(s) failed to check the barrel, so when the actual blank was fired, it launched the stuck bullet into Brandon Lee.

If this went down similarly to what happened with The Crow, it’s because they’re cheaping out and cutting corners.


That’s exactly what we said! Colombo or Perry Mason or JB Fletcher is ON this.

On the flip side, we cracked that before the details came out, and I have so many questions…first, neither of those people are an actor, so were they goofing around? Even prop guns shouldn’t be pointed at people except in scene, right? I feel bad for Alec, but worse for those who were injured and killed. So preventable.


The rumor is that the armorer was non-union.


The actor in this case was Jon-Erik Hexum. He put a real .44 magnum revolver to his temple and pulled the trigger as a joke, not realizing how dangerous blanks are. The muzzle blast killed him instantly.
A blank has a lightweight cotton wad packed over the gunpowder and the cartridge is then crimped over the end. The primer still ignites the gunpowder and the wad plus expanding gases are still blasted out the barrel. At really close range it still has devastating effect.


Per this story at least 43 people working on film sets in the US have died from accidents with prop guns:

[edit: I misread that statistic. 43 is the number of all-cause deaths on set from 1990.]

It’s so easy these days to make convincing gunfire using digital effects that I wonder if the industry will just move away from pyrotechnic blanks entirely. But maybe it’s just too hard to get the actors not to involuntarily say “bang bang” when pretending to shoot an unloaded gun.


Or hey, maybe make more movies where guns don’t have a starring role? :woman_shrugging:


While still tragic, I read that as the total number of fatal accidents on set from all causes, not specifically the number killed by prop guns.


They shot The Crow in Wilmington, North Carolina for tax reasons, I’m guessing that most of the crew was non-union.

Because this wasn’t done in a proper union environment, the “armorer” on that shoot was simply the prop master, who had to make due with a tight budget and instead of sourcing proper dummy rounds they made their own by emptying out the powder from regular bullets, but because the prop master wasn’t well-versed in this stuff he forgot to remove the primer. Somewhere along the way, the primer struck (maybe on set, maybe in storage?), lodged a bullet in the barrel, prop master didn’t clear the barrel before handing a gun full of blanks to Michael Massee, and that lodged bullet ended up killing Brandon Lee. Pure negligence on multiple fronts.


Yikes. When I heard the news I was hoping to hear more details of how it happened. I guess that will be sorted out with an investigation. It hit two people, which makes me wonder if it was a shot gun, or just two people were hit with one bullet, or the 2nd person injured by shrapnel hitting a camera or something. Yikes.

As someone pointed out above, Brandon Lee was killed when a bullet which had had its powder removed, but a live primer (these are used for close up shots where you can see into the chamber of the gun) was fired at some point, and the props master didn’t realize it was lodged in the barrel, and it was dislodged the next time a blank was fired.

So it would be pretty tragic if this happened again, because 1) you shouldn’t have live primers in close up “hero shots” any more, and 2) you should be checking for obstructions for each scene and of course 3) there shouldn’t even BE live ammo on a set.


For semi-automatic guns, they have to be set up to fire properly with blanks, lighter springs and the like. With revolvers, lever actions, and break action shotguns - like you would find in a western - you don’t need any extra modification.

Someone else mentioned plastic guns, and many times if you are in the background, not shooting, or doing an action scene where you will be dropping or slamming a gun into things, they are a type of rubber or resin. They are much lighter than real guns and cheaper and no one cringes when you put a huge gouge on the side. They also make zinc guns that fire blanks only, though those or usually seen on lower budget movies. Same with airsoft. A lot of small, independent film makers (home budget) use airsoft and add effects later, but it usually looks “fake”. (sci fi guns that shoot lazers are an exception, though in older movies they used real guns dressed up, including the first Star Wars they used blank firing Sterlings for many of the prop guns and you can see the smoke in the movie.)

It used to be they used live ammo all the time in Hollywood. If you watched an older gangster film in the 30s and someone ducked behind a wall followed by a hail of bullets, there is a great chance they were shooting real bullets. Those and war movies lead to dead and wounded actors. It was about that time that time the Screen Actors Guild was formed, and I can’t remember who it was, I want to say Clark Gable (ETA - it was James Cagney I was thinking of), who joined and lobbied for safer conditions including no live ammo on sets.


After Brandon Lee’s death, Michael Massee, the actor who was given a squib-loaded prop gun by someone who told him it was safe, couldn’t act for over a year and had nightmares for the rest of his life. If this was in any way similar, something like this might end Alec Baldwin’s career. Imagine doing your job play acting with toy guns in a supposedly safe environment and then killing someone because the guy who’s job it was to make sure nobody could get hurt put a loaded weapon in your hands.


Right, I misread that.

I want to respond to this but I know I need to wait and hear what happened. it does seem odd that the DP was killed and the director was injured. that implies a shotgun? I have been working in narrative film for almost 40 years and over that time I have seen a lot of prop gun usage. These things happen rarely and it us usually someone fucking around with a weapon, but not really understanding all the rules.
I was on a show where we had a real swat team with all their weapons and battle rattle. I was enlisted to inspect each of those weapons, their clips and the breeches. to assure they are empty and there is no live ammunition on set. Even non functional prop weapons need to be inspected and demonstrated as un functional. Particularly airsoft with the orange tips painted black. I have even seen injuries on set with edged weapons cause things got too intense. An actor whapped upside the head with a sword during a filmed production of Midsummer Nights dream. The bottom line, all weapons even the safe ones, are dangerous. Firearms particularly are to be treated as they are loaded and will discharge.
All that said, what happened on that set. Were they rolling and the action required discharging the weapon? Were they rehearsing and the weapon accidently discharged? Were they between takes or setups and the armourer did not take the loaded weapon out of the hands of the actor?
This is just tragic and regardless of where the fault lies, Baldwin pulled the trigger and will have to live with that for the rest of his life. Not to mention the unnamed armourer who will ultimately be the fall guy in this.


My god, what a thing to carry with you for the rest of your life.

I am teaching my kid to drive right now, and the one thing I keep repeating to him is that he really doesn’t want to harm anyone with his vehicle. He is very empathetic, and even if it isn’t technically his fault he will think of it every day afterwards.

I’ve never caused or been in a fatal accident, but I’ve been on the scene of a few and the people who were involved were devastated. Poor Baldwin.


I imagine this will weigh very heavily on Alex Baldwin’s conscience. I wouldn’t be surprised if he retreated to focus on his family rather than acting going forward.


My nephew has a similar attitude, to the point where he is scared to drive. I think he is having “dark thoughts” to the point that he can’t shake them off.