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Alec Baldwin Tried to Work Out a Deal to Finish ‘Rust’ After Fatal Shooting

Alec Baldwin - Art Fraud -
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Alec Baldwin tried to arrange a settlement with the widower of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins which would have allowed filmmakers to complete “Rust,” the production on which Hutchins was killed last October.

Baldwin revealed the efforts in an arbitration filing on Friday. The settlement discussions ended when Matthew Hutchins filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Baldwin and others in the film last month.

Baldwin filed an arbitration demand Friday against Ryan Smith, the lead producer on on the film, and against Rust Move Productions LLC, the production entity. His attorneys are seeking to invoke the indemnification clause of his producer contract, which would force Smith and the production entity to assume liability for all legal claims and pay Baldwin’s defense costs. The filing also provides a detailed narrative of Baldwin’s involvement in the film.

Baldwin was holding a Colt .45 while preparing for a scene at a ranch near Santa Fe, N.M., on Oct. 21 when the gun went off, killing Hutchins and wounding the film’s director, Joel Souza. The production was suspended and appears to have little chance of resuming.

But in the arbitration filing, Baldwin states that he took the lead in persuading Souza and the primary cast to complete the film, as part of a proposed settlement that would compensate Matthew Hutchins and his son. The filing states that Baldwin began discussions with other producers as early as Nov. 3 on a possible settlement, but that the other producers — notably Smith — did not play an active role in such talks.

“No one who had been involved in ‘Rust’ is eager to return to New Mexico,” the filing states. “It was only after an enormous input of time and work that Baldwin was able to convince each of the primary actors needed to complete the film and the film’s director Souza — who had been injured in that day’s events — that finishing ‘Rust’ was an important step in honoring Halyna Hutchins’s memory and talent, defining her legacy, and, in turn, providing financial support to her family.”

In “Rust,” Baldwin was to portray Harland Rust, who breaks his young grandson out of jail and flees with him to New Mexico, where they are pursued by bounty hunters. Baldwin states in the filing that there was some urgency around restarting production, because if the young actor would age out of the role if they waited too long.

Baldwin had two phone conversations with Matthew Hutchins in January, in which he discussed the proposed settlement. The notion was to compensate Hutchins using a combination of insurance proceeds and a portion of the film’s profits.

“Depending on the success of ‘Rust’ upon its completion and release, this additional component of the settlement would likely have equaled millions of dollars,” the filing states.

In the first call, on Jan. 4, Hutchins said the idea sounded “interesting,” but by the second call on Jan. 26, he was “less open-minded,” the filing states.

Hutchins filed the wrongful death suit on Feb. 15, and later gave an interview on NBC’s “Today,” in which he expressed anger that Baldwin did not accept any responsibility for the shooting. According to the filing, that ended the hope of a settlement.

“When agreeing to complete ‘Rust,’ every person involved spoke of Halyna Hutchins’s flourishing talent and their desire to celebrate her legacy through completion of the film,” the filing states. “But plans to complete ‘Rust’ and to channel its proceeds into a fund for Hutchins’ and his son’s benefit have unfortunately broken down as a result of the lawsuit and these public statements.”

The arbitration filing also recounts Baldwin’s perspective of the events surrounding the shooting, which he had already articulated in an hourlong interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. Baldwin has emphasized that he was a “creative” producer on the project, and was not involved in hiring the crew. The filing also notes that Baldwin, as an actor, would not have had any role in checking the gun to make sure it did not contain live rounds.

“At this point, two things are clear: someone is culpable for chambering the live round that led to this horrific tragedy, and it is someone other than Baldwin,” the filing states.

Matthew Hutchins’ lawyer, Brian Panish, argued in a statement on Friday that it was “shameful” for Baldwin to blame his client for the failure to complete the film. Panish also took issue with Baldwin’s disclosure of text messages between Baldwin and his client after the shooting, saying they are irrelevant to the arbitration.

“Alec Baldwin once again is trying to avoid liability and accountability for his reckless actions before and on Oct 21st that resulted in the death of Halyna Hutchins, as demonstrated by today’s arbitration demand for indemnification from the Rust production company,” Panish said. “Baldwin’s disclosure of personal texts with Matt Hutchins is irrelevant to his demand for arbitration and fails to demonstrate anything other than Hutchins’ dignity in his engagement with Baldwin. It is shameful that Baldwin claims Hutchins’ actions in filing a wrongful death lawsuit derailed the completion of ‘Rust.’ The only action that ended the film’s production was Baldwin’s killing of Halyna Hutchins.”