August 30, 1999 12:00 PM

Alien-ated Actor

Is there $25 million out there? David Duchovny sues the producers of The X-Files in search of financial truth

Focus

After six seasons starring on FOX’s The X-Files, David Duchovny has likely become hyperattuned to the possibility of conspiracy. Now he believes he has found one—in real life. On Aug. 12 the actor filed a 12-count, $25 million lawsuit against 20th Century Fox for, among other things, plotting to breach his contract.

Duchovny, 39, claims that the studio—which produces The X-Files—sold syndication rights to FOX affiliates and the FOX-owned FX Channel at below market prices, ignoring higher bidders. Peter Martin Nelson, an attorney for Duchovny, says that, as a result, the star—who is entitled to a chunk of that sale—”makes less money, and the studio makes more money.”

There’s more. Duchovny’s suit also alleges that FOX entered into a conspiracy with X-Files creator Chris Carter, paying him $4 million in hush money in order to “buy [his] silence.” (Carter, who is not a defendant in the suit, declined to comment. His new show, Harsh Realm, airs on FOX this fall.)

It’s too soon to tell how the case will turn out, but a nearly identical suit filed last year by Alan Alda and writer Larry Gelbart—alleging that FOX sold the rights to M*A*S*H to FX for too low a price—was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum this month. And last April the production company behind Tim Allen’s Home Improvement settled a similar grievance against Disney before the case went to trial. Terms were not disclosed.

Duchovny, who earns a reported $200,000 per episode portraying FBI Agent Fox Mulder, is committed to The X-Files’ upcoming season—the last on his contract. His attorneys say the suit won’t interfere with his performance. Meanwhile, the truth is out there—it just might take a judge to find it.

The Buzz in Maine? A Plane

For John Travolta, Islesboro, Maine (pop. 600), is the ideal place to escape the noise and excitement of Hollywood. Some residents suspect, however, that early on the evening of July 26, the actor brought some of that excitement with him. Shortly after 8 p.m., a very large jet plane reportedly flew startlingly close to Travolta’s island home. “It terrified me,” says Agatha Cabaniss, who lives across the cove from the actor’s summer house and is editor and publisher of the Islesboro Island News. “It was going very fast past my bedroom window.” Other islanders claim the jet circled the area three times before flying off.

So far, neither the pilot of the aircraft nor a specific plane has been identified. Travolta declined comment, and the FAA is still investigating. But locals suspect the actor because he loves flying, the plane passed near his home and, notably, he’s the only guy in town who owns a Boeing 707, a full-size commercial aircraft that can seat up to 189 people. “Who else could it be?” asks David Mahan, owner of the Island Market grocery store. “You could tell it was a jet from the noise.” If the FAA confirms that Travolta was flying dangerously low, it could suspend or revoke his pilot’s license—which several locals think would be excessive. After all, says Mahan, “some people are quite upset about it, and some people think it’s great—but either way, it gives people something to talk about.”

Campaign Trail Mix: Beatty & Politics

An actor running for President isn’t exactly new, but when Warren Beatty said last week in The New York Times that he was considering a White House bid, it did cause a stir. Conservative columnist Arianna Huffington is enamored, even though Beatty is a liberal. He “would take the issues directly to the people,” she says. Other pundits think the Bulworth star is full of bull. George Stephanopoulos wondered on TV if he was trying to call attention to his pet issue, campaign-finance reform. Analyst Larry Sabato noted past relationships that make Bill Clinton seem monkish. And Al Gore’s camp brushed off the notion altogether: “Is [Bulworth costar] Halle Berry going to be a campaign spokeswoman?” quipped an official. No need; Beatty does fine. What other candidate admits that “there certainly should be someone better” for the job?

Been There, Done That?

The story, by now, is well-known: A group of people venture into the woods in search of a mythical creature and meet a tragic end. Only the film isn’t The Blair Witch Project, it’s The Last Broadcast, made in similar mockumentary style for less than $1,000 and released in a limited market last fall. BWP directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez saw the film before they finished theirs—but insist they came up with the BWP in 1992. In any case, Broadcast creators Lance Weiler, 29, and Stefan Avalos, 31, aren’t suing. Says Weiler: “We just want people to know our movie exists.”

Keeping Fido Off the Menu

Brigitte Bardot’s campaign urging South Koreans to stop eating dog meat has come back to bite her. According to the European press, South Korean politicians, seeking to re-legalize what is still a common local dish, object. This week, one called Bardot “barbaric” for not acknowledging that different nations have different cuisines. After all, the pol noted, the French eat everything from snails to horses. Bardot, the former French film star, wrote reporters and soccer officials demanding that dining on dog end before the 2002 soccer World Cup, slated for South Korea.

A Summer Breeze? Not with These Jobs

In exchange for his skills in the trauma rooms of NBC’s ER, Eriq La Salle, 37, will be paid $27 million over the next three years, reports the trade paper Variety this week. That payday is a far cry from his younger days, when La Salle earned money during the summer selling flavored popcorn. “I would go home smelling like lime and root beer popcorn,” he recalls.

Judging by their past experiences, celebrities found summer jobs no day at the beach. Saturday Night Live’s Molly Shannon hung up clothes at a women’s bath house. Country singer Clint Black did time in the construction field as an iron worker in Houston, where, judged by the heat index, temperatures reached 125 degrees. “Not the best time to be up on a roof,” Black says.

Other future stars showed an aptitude for enlivening their mundane duties, as when Sports Night’s Peter Krause sold books over the phone: “Because I was embarrassed to be doing this, I started using foreign accents when I called people. That’s when I found out that the manager listened in on our conversations. She came storming out of her office one time and said, ‘You use your own voice, mister, or you’re gone.’

Kelli Williams (The Practice) even found ways to make handling bills at her plastic surgeon dad’s office amusing. “I would spend my time looking at all of the pre-and post-op pictures,” she says, “and I’d try to figure out what they had done.”

ON THE BLOCK

VERSACE’S VILLA

Gianni Versace lived a lush life at Casa Casuarina, the Miami Beach palazzo the designer created in 1992 from a rundown $2.9 million apartment complex. Madonna and Sylvester Stallone dropped by for parties; fine art decorated the walls. Versace died in front of the house in 1997, the victim of crazed gunman Andrew Cunanan. Versace’s family is now selling the 20,000-square-foot home. Asking price for the 12-bedroom, 13-bathroom house, built around an interior courtyard, is $23 million; the price includes an adjoining lot Versace purchased for $3.7 million and transformed into a 6,100-square-foot guest house with gardens and a swimming pool.

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