As Court Rules Against Actor-Producer Kevin Spacey, There Could Be Ramifications for Alec Baldwin

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

The recent ruling represents a significant shift in the insulated nature of actors.

This week a hearing delivered a small surprise when it ruled on a case involving Hollywood star Kevin Spacey in a case brought against the actor by the production studio MRC. The arbitration found that Spacey will be responsible for tens of millions of dollars payable to the studio because of the manner that he impacted the production of the television show “House Of Cards”.

It was in 2017 when Spacey was taken down for inappropriate sexual behavior, as the MeToo movement provoked a number of individuals to testify that Spacey behaved in an inappropriately aggressive fashion with some on set, as well as in his past. As a result of his actions, the actor ended up needing to depart the show and impacting the production. Due to the fallout, MRC has brought suit against Spacey and his production company — and this is a ruling that should have Alec Baldwin deeply concerned.

Kevin Spacey
AP Photo/Steven Senne

The arbiter found that Spacey’s actions and his production connections to the show led to his being responsible for the negative impact he caused.

A document filed in Los Angeles Superior Court requesting a judge’s approval of the ruling says that the arbitrators found that Spacey violated his contract’s demands for professional behavior by “engaging certain conduct in connection with several crew members in each of the five seasons that he starred in and executive produced House of Cards.”

The change that needs to be recognized is that for as long as most remember, celebrities have managed to elude responsibilities for anti-social behavior. This represents a shift, and not because of MeToo, though that was the impetus. The shift worth noting is that many established stars have moved into producing these days and that connective tissue brings a new level of responsibility. Beyond a morals clause that could have a paycheck affected, this professional involvement carries a deeper level of culpability.

And this is where Baldwin could be facing some serious accountability. The story of the on-set shooting during the independent film production for “Rust’’ is one filled with its own drama and intrigue. The cinematographer was killed and the director seriously wounded, with a gun mishap where Baldwin fired a weapon mistakenly loaded with live rounds. So much of this needs to be cleared up still, but there are numerous signs of negligence and this is where the Spacey case could impact future decisions.

Not simply the star of the small film, Alec Baldwin was the producer — it was his pet project. This means that he is facing accountability well beyond being responsible as the one who fired the weapon. Baldwin is more than a performer who was mistakenly handed a live weapon; he was the name behind the entire production and as such, becomes the one who needs to answer for anything that transpired. 

He hired the crew, including the armorer who was in charge of the weapons, a 24-year-old with a problematic work history. As the producer of the small-budget project, he needed to be in control of the set and those in charge of the shoot. That is why the Spacey result is impactful, because of the level of involvement the actor also had in the TV show’s production. His merely partnering with the “House Of Cards” show behind the camera meant he bore a level of responsibility when the show was adversely affected.

Like Spacey, Baldwin’s actions led to a direct negative impact on the filming. However, Baldwin was not just working in tandem with the shooting of his film; he was the primary force behind “Rust”, and as such, bears an even greater level of responsibility. Now, take into consideration that a life was lost and the level of accountability is even greater, one that falls squarely on Baldwin himself. 

This will not be the usual celebrity excusal, where some form of poor behavior is bypassed because of the elevated nature of a star. In the growing desire by some to acquire more power in Hollywood, they are beginning to learn they have also acquired more responsibility.