To double salaries, receive $1 mil bonus in '05

Cast members of “The Simpsons” will double their salaries to $50,000 per episode next season and will each receive a $1 million bonus in the year 2005, according to sources familiar with the deal reached late Wednesday.

Fox also has secured the option to retain the actors for two more years beyond the next and 10th season of the animated hit. The price: $60,000 per episode in season 11 and $70,000 per episode in season 12, sources say.

The pact, which concluded weeks of tense contract renewal negotiations, marked a compromise on behalf of the studio and four voiceover actors who had threatened to walk away from the show unless demands for large salary increases were met.

The actors originally asked for $150,000 per episode and later requested a piece of the second-cycle syndication profits, but the studio balked at those conditions and prepared to recast the series.

Brooks assist

Sources say a lawyer for James L. Brooks’ Gracie Films, Sam Fischer, stepped in to break the impasse and help hammer out a deal between the two sides. Brooks is co-creator and executive producer of the series.

Even with actors’ salaries doubled and in some cases tripled, in the end Fox was largely able to hold the line and the final deal came in much closer to the actors’ original salaries than to their asking prices.

“We are delighted that the studio and ‘The Simpsons’ actors have settled our differences and will continue our long and successful relationship,” Sandy Grushow, president of 20th Century Fox TV, said in a statement.

First reading begins

Production for next season began Thursday morning with a table read attended by all the actors: Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, Yeardley Smith, Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner and Nancy Cartwright.

Kavner had a previous deal in place and was not among the actors asking for more money. Cartwright also pulled away from the rest of the group early and signed her own deal for $50,000 per episode last week.

The studio took a fairly hard line with the “Simpsons” negotiations both on principle and presumably in part to avoid a similar scenario with sophomore animated smash “King of the Hill,” whose actors are working under their original contracts for less than $5,000 per episode, sources say.

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