Alec Baldwin is claiming he’s contractually protected from responsibility in the death of Halyna Hutchins, the Rust cinematographer he shot and killed last fall, in a new arbitration demand filed Friday, March 11.
According to legal documents obtained by Rolling Stone, Baldwin’s lawyers claimed Baldwin wasn’t aware that the gun he was holding at the time of the incident contained full rounds, but he also wasn’t responsible for firearm safety on set. The filing also pushed back on the notion that Baldwin should be held responsible as a producer on Rust, stating that he had no input in the hiring of the crew.
Baldwin has been named in several lawsuits tied to Hutchins’ death, including a wrongful death suit filed by Hutchins’ family. But the actor’s new arbitration filing aims to uphold an indemnification clause in his Producer Agreement to ensure he doesn’t become financially liable for any claims or legal fees. The filing names Rust Movie Productions LLC and co-producer Ryan Smith as respondents.
Luke Nikas, a lawyer for Baldwin, declined to comment further. A representative for Smith did not immediately return a request for comment.
Outside of an interview with ABC News last November, the new filing offers one of the more detailed accounts of Baldwin’s side of the story thus far. To start, it states that on the day of the incident, Baldwin had handed the gun he was using to Rust armorer Hannah Guttierez-Reed before a lunch break; when Baldwin, Hutchins, and others returned to set to practice a scene, it was assistant director Dave Halls (who was also authorized to handle firearms on set) who handed him the gun. Per the filing, Halls announced to everyone in the vicinity, “We have a cold gun on set,” meaning the gun had no live ammo.
“Baldwin has no knowledge of what happened to the gun from the time Reed relieved him of it before lunch to the time he was handed the gun declared ‘cold’ by Halls,” according to the filing.
The filing claims that from both his firearm training on Rust and other films, Baldwin not only relied on Hall’s statement that the gun was cold, but knew he, as an actor, wasn’t allowed to check the safety of the gun himself. “If actors open their own gun on set to confirm the absence of live ammunition outside of the armorer’s close supervision, that gun should be repossessed by the armorer and cleared again,” the filing states. “To Baldwin’s knowledge, several other actors on the Rust set followed the same process, relying on an appropriate crew member’s representation that a gun was ‘cold.’”
Additionally, Baldwin’s lawyers argued that his role as a producer on Rust was limited to creative and financial support. Citing part of his Producers Agreement, the filing claims “Baldwin had no independent authority to make hiring decisions on Rust.”
Additionally, the filing pushes back on claims from various members of the Rust crew that there had been growing concerns about safety on set. It states that Baldwin “never personally observed, was informed of, or became aware of any safety issues.” And that when Baldwin spoke to Lane Luper — the camera assistant who walked off the Rust set allegedly in protest of safety conditions — about “some problems,” the only issue brought up was “his desire for better hotel rooms for his team.” Luper, the suit claims, “never mentioned any issues regarding gun safety.”
A good chunk of the filing also touches on the aftermath of the shooting, including Baldwin’s alleged attempts to craft a settlement for Hutchins’ family. The filing claims Baldwin led these efforts and that Smith was not an active participant, allegedly not even returning Baldwin’s phone calls. Baldwin also claims he tried to convince the Rust cast and crew to complete the film in Hutchins’ memory while using any proceeds from the movie to provide further support for her family.
But the filing claims this latter effort broke down after Hutchins’ husband, Matt, filed his wrongful death suit and criticized Baldwin during an interview with Today. In rebuffing the wrongful death suit and Matt Hutchins’ public claims, Baldwin’s filing includes excerpts of several text message conversations between the two, which the filing characterizes as “polite, collaborative, and, at times, even warm.” It also states that the wrongful death suit contains “numerous false allegations against Baldwin.”
Brian Panish, a lawyer for the Hutchins family, said in a statement to Rolling Stone, “Alec Baldwin once again is trying to avoid liability and accountability for his reckless actions before and on Oct. 21 that resulted in the death of Halyna Hutchins, as demonstrated by today’s arbitration demand for indemnification from the Rust production company. 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.”