Kevin Costner downplays Baldwin's role in BP deal

Kevin Costner testified Friday he never saw actor Stephen Baldwin contribute anything to their company's efforts to sell oil cleanup devices to BP in the aftermath of the 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Baldwin and friend Spyridon Contogouris sued Costner and business partner Patrick Smith, claiming they were duped into selling their shares of Ocean Therapy Solutions — the company that marketed the machines to BP — and cheated them out of millions of dollars.

Costner said he wondered what Baldwin was doing for their company before BP agreed to make an $18 million deposit on a $52 million order for 32 oil-separating centrifuges.

"I never saw him do anything," Costner said.

Costner said the company's CEO, John Houghtaling, begged Baldwin and Contogouris not to sell their shares shortly before BP committed to buying the devices. Only Smith and Houghtaling were putting up money to keep their company afloat in the days before BP ordered the machines, according to Costner.

Costner and Baldwin have largely ignored each other in the courtroom during the trial, which started Monday and is expected to last another week. But Costner snapped at Baldwin from the witness stand as he recalled being frustrated by how the press portrayed his efforts to sell the centrifuges to BP while the oil giant was scrambling to stop the flow of oil from its blown-out well.

"I had to get over the mythology of Kevin and his crazy machine," Costner said, a remark that apparently drew a reaction from Baldwin, who was seated at the plaintiffs' table with his back to the courtroom gallery.

"Are you amused by this?" Costner asked Baldwin, who didn't respond before U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman interrupted.

"If anything, this is going to stay civil," the judge said.

Baldwin is expected to testify later in the trial.

Costner's attorney, Wayne Lee, has said his client played no role in Baldwin and Contogouris' decision to sell their shares in Ocean Therapy Solutions for $1.4 million and $500,000, respectively. Lee claims Costner's fame is the only reason he is a defendant in the case.

Costner, who had lost roughly $20 million in an earlier effort to market the centrifuge technology to the oil and gas industry, said money and positive press didn't motivate him to take on the task of lobbying BP to use the devices. He said he was heartbroken by the images from the nation's worst offshore oil spill and wanted to help protect the Gulf Coast.

"I'm not interested in press. I was interested in this machine going into battle in the Gulf of Mexico," he said.

But the "dysfunctional" company quickly started bleeding money and was plagued by in-fighting among the business partners as bills from contractors piled up, Costner said.

"I was pissed," he recalled. "We had come really far and now we're squabbling about who is going to put up money."

Baldwin and Contogouris claim they were deliberately excluded from a June 2010 dinner meeting at which BP executive Doug Suttles committed to ordering the centrifuges. Costner, however, said the deal was far from done at that meeting because BP wanted the devices to pass a battery of tests before signing a binding contract.

"I wasn't hiding anything," Costner said. "There was no intention to deceive or hide in the dark the good news."

BP deployed a few of the centrifuges on a barge in June 2010. The company capped the well the following month, and it was permanently sealed in September 2010.