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Hollywood stars battle over BP deal

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Kevin Costner arrives at Federal Court in New Orleans ( AP/Bill Haber)

Kevin Costner arrives at Federal Court in New Orleans ( AP/Bill Haber)

Kevin Costner arrives at Federal Court in New Orleans ( AP/Bill Haber)

A lawyer for Kevin Costner told a court his fame was the only reason fellow Hollywood actor Stephen Baldwin and another person were suing him over their investments in an oil clean-up device tried out after BP's spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Baldwin and his friend Spyridon Contogouris claim Costner and business partner Patrick Smith duped them out of their shares of an 18 million-dollar (£11.7 million) deal for BP to buy oil-separating centrifuges after the April 2010 spill.

Costner's lawyer, Wayne Lee, said his client played no role in Baldwin and Mr Contogouris' decision to sell their shares in a company that marketed the centrifuges to the energy company for 1.4 million (£915,000) and 500,000 (£327,000) dollars respectively.

"Kevin Costner is here for one reason and one reason only: He's famous," Mr Lee said in opening statements at the trial in New Orleans.

Plaintiffs' lawyer James Cobb accused Costner and Mr Smith of spinning a web of lies that cheated his clients out of millions of dollars, telling the eight jurors that the case was about deception "fuelled by power and greed".

Baldwin and Mr Contogouris are seeking more than 21 million dollars (£13.7 million) in damages. Costner and other defendants are also seeking damages in counter-claims.

US District Judge Martin Feldman told jurors they could not be swayed by the celebrity status of Baldwin and Costner, who sat at opposite ends of the courtroom. "Celebrity has no place in this courtroom or in any of the issues that need to be resolved," the judge said.

Among Baldwin's roles was caveman Barney Rubble in The Flintstones: Viva Rock Vegas. Costner's films include Dances With Wolves, Field Of Dreams, and JFK, Oliver Stone's film with New Orleans connections to the assassination of President John F Kennedy.

Mr Lee said Costner, who had lost about 20 million dollars (£13 million) in an earlier effort to market the centrifuge technology to the oil and gas industry, decided to lobby BP to use the devices after the oil spill because he wanted to help protect the Gulf Coast from the nation's worst such offshore incident.

Baldwin and Costner are expected to give evidence at the trial. Baldwin said his lawyers had advised him not to comment.

PA