'Midnight Rider': After on-set death, William Hurt withdraws from film

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Image Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

William Hurt has withdrawn from a bio-pic of southern rocker Gregg Allman that has been targeted with a boycott by Hollywood crew workers following the death of a camera assistant in February, his representatives tell EW.

“The show must go on” is a maxim that has been around for as long as there have been shows – a rallying call for casts and crews who lose someone in the midst of a production. But the opposite call to action – “The show must stop” — is being directed at Midnight Rider.

Camera assistant Sarah Jones, 27, was killed and six others were injured on Feb. 20 during a scene being shot on a train trestle in Georgia when a train crossed the bridge unexpectedly. The incident, which remains under investigation by multiple agencies, occurred during the guerilla-style filming of a dream sequence in the movie, and triggered a wave of outrage about the issue of on-set safety throughout the film industry.

The production company, Unclaimed Freight, recently informed the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees that it planned to resume production on Midnight Rider in Los Angeles this June, but that is now in serious doubt. The union has vowed to monitor any resumption of filming closely, and has insisted on clearances from government and police investigations. But the union has no power to stop the movie from resuming production.

The film can’t move forward, however, if it can’t find crew to work on it.

That has led legions of crew workers to rally via the Facebook group “I REFUSE to work on Midnight Rider! For Sarah!!!” (At press time, almost 10,800 people had signed on.) “If we shut Midnight Rider down, it will send a strong signal to the other producers who share this level of disregard for safety,” says David Allen Grove, a steadicam operator who helped found the page.

Representatives for director Randall Miller, who runs Unclaimed Freight with his wife, Jody Savin, declined to comment for this story, and a source close to the film said that the decision to restart the film isn’t definite yet. The source also said they are aware that Hurt has backed out and will be recasting the role, if the film ends up moving forward.

In the mind of Grove and many others, the decision is already final.

“If we stop the film, we may save another life and this will send a very strong and clear message to other filmmakers,” Grove tells EW. “If you cut corners on safety, if you don’t get the proper permits, we won’t let you finish your film. I think if we stop this show, it will give crew members a sense of unity, strength and courage that we’ve never really felt we had before.”

In emails obtained by the Los Angeles Times last month, Hurt wrote to a friend that he had expressed concern about shooting on the train trestle, but that his worries went ignored. The actor was on location during the accident, but was not among the injured.

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