Alec Baldwin Claims ‘Rust’ Contract Protects Him From Financial Liability in On-Set Shooting Death

The actor filed an arbitration demand Friday against Rust Movie Productions and fellow producer Ryan Smith

Alec Baldwin
Photo by Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images for National Geographic

In his most detailed account of the “Rust” shooting yet, Alec Baldwin and his lawyer claim he should not be held culpable for the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, and that his contract with the film protects him from financial responsibility.

Baldwin on Friday filed with JAMS an arbitration demand against his fellow producers Rust Movie Productions LLC and producer Ryan Smith. Though Baldwin is listed as a producer, he goes into detail to explain that he was not responsible for checking the weapon that was found to contain a live round, nor did he have a role in hiring the film’s armorer or other individuals involved.

“He didn’t announce that the gun was ‘cold’ when it really contained a live round; he didn’t load the gun; he didn’t check the bullets in the gun; he didn’t purchase the bullets; he didn’t make the bullets and represent that they were dummies; he wasn’t in charge of firearm safety on the set; he didn’t hire the people who supplied the bullets or checked the gun; and he played no role in managing the movie’s props. Each of those jobs was performed by someone else,” the arbitration demand obtained by TheWrap reads. “This is a rare instance when the system broke down, and someone should be held legally culpable for the tragic consequences. That person is not Alec Baldwin.”

A lawyer for Rust Movie Productions LLC and Ryan Smith did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

Baldwin has been named in multiple civil lawsuits seeking damages after the gun he held discharged and killed Hutchins, as well as injuring director Joel Souza. Among the suits are a wrongful death suit by Hutchins’ husband Mattthew Hutchins, whose relationship with Baldwin deteriorated over time, according to text messages in Baldwin’s document. Hutchins has said he felt shock when Baldwin portrayed himself as a victim in a TV interview with ABC News.

Other civil lawsuits filed by various crew members on “Rust” have alleged unsafe working conditions on the set, and Baldwin clarified some new details as to his role as a producer. The filing says that based on an email he was unaware the “Rust” production had at the time not hired an armorer and was not involved in the hiring of armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed. It also notes that he was paid $250,000 for his role but gave back $100,000 as an “investment” for the independent production, and it claims to highlight sections in his contract that would limit his liability in the case of “negligence and/or willful misconduct.”

Baldwin also pushed back on claims from other suits that he declined proper firearm safety training, claiming instead that he trained with Reed and, was not instructed that he needed to check the gun himself, and that actors should not be the ones responsible for live-ammunition checks.

The demand goes into fuller detail about the day of Halyna Hutchins’ October 21 death, including script details saying Baldwin’s character Harland Rust’s gun is cocked. It reiterates that the film’s assistant director announced that there was a “cold gun” on set, and he lays out Hutchins’ instructions telling him to “hold the gun higher, to a point where it was directed toward her.”

“In giving and following these instructions, Hutchins and Baldwin shared a core, vital belief: that the gun was ‘cold’ and contained no live rounds,” the demand reads in part. “Baldwin then pulled back the hammer, but not far enough to actually cock the gun. When Baldwin let go of the hammer, the gun went off.”

In the immediate aftermath, Baldwin in his filing says he was approached by script supervisor Mamie Mitchell and was told, “You realize you’re not responsible for any of what happened in there, don’t you?” Mitchell is now among those suing Baldwin.

Baldwin finally shares a series of alleged text messages between himself and Matthew Hutchins in which Hutchins said “it would help if we can confront this crisis together” and thanking him as “very gracious of you to offer your help.” Baldwin says that he was never told by Hutchins that he doubted Baldwin’s account of the events or viewed him as responsible. But it claims their relationship soured after Baldwin’s Dec. 2 interview.

The filing even claims that at one point Baldwin led efforts at a proposed settlement and “made an exhaustive effort to contact the ‘Rust’ cast in the hope of acquiring their support to finish the film,” hoping that it could be made in honor of Halyna and that proceeds could go to her son, but Hutchins was “less open-minded about the idea.”

A criminal case investigation into the “Rust” shooting is still on going from Santa Fe authorities

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.