Harry Shearer wants his piece of 'The Simpsons' pie
He may provide the voice of greedy tyrant Monty Burns on "The Simpsons," but off screen Harry Shearer says it is the company behind Fox's cartoon hit that is being a bully.
Shearer, the first cast member of "The Simpsons" to speak publicly about the contract dispute between the actors who do the voices for the cartoon characters and production company 20th Century Fox Television, said the cast is being ripped off.
While acknowledging that he's hardly a pauper, Shearer said the salaries in the cast "pale in comparison to what the show's profit participants have been taking home." Profit participants are typically the creators and key writers and producers.
The studio has said it "cannot produce future seasons under its current financial model." Shearer and the other primary cast members have been asked to take pay cuts of 45%. Currently, the key cast members make $440,000 per episode, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
Shearer said he will take an even bigger cut if he can get a "tiny share of the billions of dollars in profits that the show has earned." The idea of giving the cast a piece of what's known in the industry as the back end is a non-starter for the studio.
Though "The Simpsons" has been a cash cow for 20th Century Fox Television and its parent News Corp. for two decades, the Fox network loses money on the show. Its ratings have dropped over the last five years while the cost to the network to air the show has gone up.
-- Joe Flint
Photo: Monty Burns of "The Simpsons," left, who is voiced by Harry Shearer, right. Credit: Associated Press and Rob Loud / Getty Images.