June 4, 2012 -- It's a place you don't often see Hollywood actors off-screen: In a courtroom, facing off against each other.
Today, Kevin Costner and Stephen Baldwin met in a New Orleans court to hash out a lawsuit over investments in a device used to try to clean up BP's 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Baldwin is suing Costner claiming that Costner and a business partner duped Baldwin and a friend out of their shares of an $18 million deal for BP to buy oil-separating centrifuges after the April 2010 spill.
Costner arrived for opening statements wearing a blazer and khakis; Baldwin wore a mint green shirt and was sweating profusely.
Potential jurors appeared starstruck by the pair. U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman cautioned, "celebrity has no place in this courtroom or in any of the issues that need to be resolved by the jury in this trial" and asked if Baldwin and Costner's status would compromise the jurors' decision making abilities. No one in the pool said they felt influenced.
Costner's memorable work includes starring in "The Bodyguard," "Dancing with Wolves" and "Field of Dreams." Baldwin, the younger brother of actor Alec Baldwin, is best known for "Bio-Dome" and playing Barney Rubble in "The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas."
Costner has been working on the centrifugal device in question for more than 15 years. He previously claimed the machine, dubbed the "Costner solution," could "give us a fighting chance, to fight back the oil before it got us by the throat."
He became interested in technology that could separate oil from water after his 1995 box office flop, "Waterworld." Interest in the centrifuges was sporadic at best until the April 2010 oil spill, which prompted the formation of a new company, Ocean Therapy Solutions (OTS), to market the centrifuges to BP. New investors joined Costner, including Baldwin and his business partner Spyridon Contogouris.
But Baldwin and Contogouris claim they were deliberately excluded from a June 8 meeting between Costner, his business partner Patrick Smith and BP executive Doug Suttles where an incredibly lucrative deal was struck: BP agreed to make an $18 million deposit for 32 of Costner's devices.
Baldwin and Contogouris say they were deceived into letting go of their shares in OTS -- Baldwin owned 10 percent of the company, Contogouris 28-percent -- one day before the BP deal was finalized. They're seeking more than $21 million in damages.
But it doesn't end there. Despite the fact that Costner testified before Congress in the name of the centrifugal devices, invoking his famous film, "Field of Dreams," he has now filed for dismissal of the lawsuit on the grounds that he played no official role within OTS -- he was merely the famous face behind them. He and other defendants are seeking damages in counterclaims.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.