“X-Files” star David Duchovny sued 20th Century Fox Film Corp. Thursday, alleging that the studio has cheated him out of millions of dollars in profits from the television series.
The lawsuit, filed in the Santa Monica branch of Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that Fox sold various rights to the “X-Files” to its own or affiliated companies at below-market prices and engaged in other actions that reduced the apparent profits generated by the series.
Adding an unusual twist, Duchovny also alleges that series creator and executive producer Chris Carter conspired with Fox to cover up the self-dealing, and was paid hush money amounting to millions of dollars for his compliance. Carter, however, is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
Although the amount of damages is not specified in the complaint, sources say Duchovny is seeking in excess of $25 million.
Duchovny is not planning to leave the series, which is beginning its seventh season.
Duchovny and his company, King Baby, are represented by Larry Stein of Alschuler Grossman Stein & Kahan. In similar suits alleging self-dealing, Stein represented Wind Dancer, the producers of “Home Improvement,” against ABC, and Alan Alda, who has a profit participation in the “MASH” series, in a suit against Fox. Both cases were settled before trial.
A spokesperson for Fox said, “It is the policy of this company not to comment on potential or actual litigation. In fact, we have neither seen a complaint nor are we aware of a complaint having been served on Fox. Suffice to say, it is regrettable that Mr. Duchovny and his representatives have opted to communicate this matter through the press rather than directly with Fox.”
The series, starring Duchovny as special FBI agent Fox Mulder, is hugely profitable. According to the complaint, the series will generate a profit of $1.4 billion to $1.5 billion to Fox over its life as a network series, in syndication and in other formats. The series was also the basis for a feature film with a worldwide gross of almost $185 million.
According to the complaint, Duchovny agreed in 1995 to extend his contract to do the show for two more years in exchange for profit participation, which was to be defined and paid in the same manner as Carter’s participation.
But, states the complaint, because of “corporate greed,” Fox intentionally reduced revenues to profit participants by selling the show to its affiliates instead of seeking the most competitive and beneficial deal.
Fox sold the series to its own broadcast network, Fox Broadcasting Co.; its own cable network, FX Cable Network; and the syndication rights to its own group of stations, Fox Television Stations.
As for Carter’s role in the matter, Duchovny alleges that Fox “paid to Carter millions of dollars in ‘hush’ money and granted to Carter a 13-episode commitment to develop and produce a new television series for Fox and FBC in order to ‘buy’ Carter’s silence and his acquiescence in Fox’s self-dealing with its affiliated entities.”
Attached to the complaint is an internal Fox memo indicating a $4 million payment to Carter and an additional series commitment. Duchovny alleges that the payments to Carter were charged against “X-Files” as advances to Carter and deducted from the gross receipts of the show. By reducing the gross, these payments also reduce Duchovny’s profit participation.
Carter could not be reached for comment Thursday.