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Alec Baldwin seeks to avoid liability in fatal ‘Rust’ shooting

Alec Baldwin gave his most detailed account yet of fatally shooting a cinematographer on the set of the film “Rust” last year in an arbitration demand that his lawyers filed Friday against his fellow producers, claiming that his contract protected him from financial responsibility in her death and seeking coverage of his legal fees.

Baldwin has been named in several lawsuits seeking damages since he shot and killed the cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, on Oct. 21 in New Mexico while practicing for a scene that required him to draw a gun. The filing said that he was not responsible for her death, since he had been assured that the gun did not contain any live ammunition and because he was not responsible for checking the ammunition or for firearm safety on the set.

The filing provided new details of Baldwin’s role as a producer of “Rust,” a production some former crew members claimed in lawsuits had sacrificed safety by cutting costs. While Baldwin was involved in creative matters, the filing said, others had authority over hiring and budgets. Baldwin was to be paid $250,000 to star in the movie and act as a producer, it said, but he gave back $100,000 as an “investment” in the film.

And the filing contained text messages that Baldwin had exchanged with Matthew Hutchins, the widower of the slain cinematographer, which showed how their relationship had deteriorated over time — from mutual expressions of condolence and support in the immediate aftermath of the shooting to the pointed wrongful-death lawsuit Hutchins filed against Baldwin this year. Brian Panish, a lawyer for Hutchins, said in a statement that Baldwin was trying to avoid accountability for his “reckless actions.”

In the filing, Baldwin’s lawyer, Luke Nikas, says a clause Baldwin and his company had signed in his contract with Rust Movie Productions LLC means he bears no financial responsibility for legal fees or claims arising out of the death. The filing, with the JAMS private arbitration service, seeks to enforce the clause. The document names Rust Movie Productions LLC and Ryan Smith, one of the other producers, as the respondents in the claim.

Representatives of Rust Movie Productions LLC and a lawyer for Smith did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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