“Midnight Rider” star William Hurt has pulled out of the Gregg Allman biopic, which suspended production in February after a train accident killed a camera assistant.
“I can confirm he’s out of the movie,” said a spokeswoman for ICM Partners, the talent agency that represents Hurt. The Oscar-winning actor was cast as the legendary rocker.
Hurt’s withdrawal from “Midnight Rider” raises doubts about whether producers Randall Miller and his wife Jody Savin can revive the controversial project.
The couple had planned to resume production of the film in L.A. in June, raising concerns among union officials and some local crew members, who questioned why filmmakers would proceed with the project after the death of 27-year-old Sarah Jones.
Friends and colleagues of Jones set up a Facebook page calling for crew to boycott “Midnight Rider” in the wake of the accident, which has sparked multiple federal and state investigations into possible negligence.
The camera assistant was killed and several other workers were injured by a freight train that collided into the crew on the first day of filming in Georgia. The tragedy prompted nationwide calls to improve safety on sets.
Hurt himself had raised concerns about crew safety shortly before the incident occurred on a train trestle outside of Savannah. The crew had placed a bed on the tracks to prepare a dream sequence for Hurt.
While Hurt declined to comment on the accident, he gave a vivid account in an email to a friend. In that email, obtained by The Times, Hurt said he was twice assured that the bridge was safe for filming. He then asked “how long the crew had to get off if by some impossible chance another train came” and was told 60 seconds.
“I said, ‘Sixty seconds is not enough time to get us off this bridge.’ There was a communal pause. No one backed me up. Then, we ….. Just went ahead. I took off my shoes, got on the heavy, metal hospital bed and began preparing,” Hurt wrote. Then the train came. “We didn’t have sixty seconds. We had less than thirty.”
A spokeswoman for Unclaimed Freight Productions, owned by Miller and Savin, declined to comment.
By Richard Verrier