The fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins has sent shockwaves through the movie industry.
The 42-year-old Ukrainian native died Thursday after being accidentally shot by Alec Baldwin, 63, with a prop gun the actor was using during the filming of their Western movie, “Rust.”
But Hutchins isn’t the first person to be shot and killed on set, with two prior prop gun deaths still haunting Hollywood.
Actor Brandon Lee was fatally shot with a prop gun on the set of the 1994 film “The Crow.” The star — who was the son of martial arts icon Bruce Lee — was just 28 years old.
Meanwhile, budding star Jon-Erik Hexum died by a self-inflicted prop gunshot to the head while filming the CBS series “Cover Up” back in 1984. He was 26.
Those tragic deaths of rising young stars are still referenced frequently in Tinseltown, particularly by prop experts who train actors on how to safely handle weapons during production.
“We go through the utmost caution and care when putting any sorts of weapons in the hands of actors,” Kevin Williams, prop department supervisor at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, told NPR.
In Hollywood terminology, a prop gun can refer to a fake gun or an actual gun that is being used as a prop. In the latter case, the weapon is only supposed to fire blank rounds, USA Today reports.
As The Post explained in an earlier report, live rounds consist of a cartridge that contains propellant powder, which is ignited when the gun is fired, propelling the bullet out of the barrel.
Blank rounds, on the other hand, contain materials such as cotton, paper or wax wadding, rather than metal projectiles. However, they can still be deadly if the force propelling the wadding is strong enough or the gun is fired at close range.
That was the case with Hexum’s tragic death back in 1984.
The star was mimicking a round of Russian roulette during down time on the set of “Cover Up” when he fired a blank round into the right side of his head. The force of the wadding fractured his skull, causing serious brain hemorrhaging. He died six days later.
The death was ruled accidental, and no one faced criminal charges. However, his mother subsequently received an out-of-court settlement from both 20th Century Fox and the production team behind “Cover Up.”
While Hexum’s death made international news, it still wasn’t enough to stop a second prop gun death just a decade later.
Lee was shot and killed while filming “The Crow” in North Carolina when a prop gun that was an actual revolver was loaded with improperly made .44-caliber dummy rounds, one of which got lodged in the barrel and was discharged by a blank cartridge.
Because of these accidents, Hollywood now adheres to Safety Bulletins — a union document for standards on weapon and prop safety. However, the document is not binding law.
Williams told NPR that certain on-set pressures mean even the most cautious prop supervisor might violate those standards.
“When you are on set, dealing with creatives, and they are asking for certain circumstances, sometimes these demands are hard to say no to,” he stated. “A lot of our industry is built on relationships, so sometimes people have to make questionable decisions.”
Baldwin is reportedly reeling from Thursday’s horrific incident, which also left “Rust” director Joel Souza with injuries.
Baldwin reportedly asked why he was given a “hot gun” — meaning a real loaded weapon.
While more details on the incident will no doubt be made public in the coming days, Williams says it could make prop supervision even stricter during Hollywood productions.
“There is a lot of people hurting right now. We need to not look about laying blame,” he said. “If there is a way to make filming safer in the future, then that’s the road we need to take.”
However, prop gun deaths are not the only fatalities that have occurred on Tinseltown film sets.
The Associated Press reports that, between 1990 and 2016, “at least 43 people have died on sets in the US and more than 150 have been left with life-altering injuries.”