UPDATE: On Thursday, James L. Brooks, one of the developers and writers on The Simpsons, tweeted about the situation and claimed that they are still trying to resolve it with Shearer. "Hey, we tried. We're still trying," said Brooks in the tweet. "Harry, no kidding, let's talk.
The Simpsons is the ultimate classic American show, but it's about to go on without one of its major players. Harry Shearer, The Simpsons voice actor behind Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner, and a dozen more characters, is leaving the show, according to his Twitter. Shearer tweeted Wednesday evening an alleged quote from the lawyer of Simpsons' writer and producer James L. Brooks, which indicated the longtime cast member would not continue with the show.
from James L. Brooks' lawyer: "show will go on, Harry will not be part of it, wish him the best.". (1/2)
Shearer followed with another tweet, saying he wanted to have "the freedom to do other work."
This because I wanted what we've always had: the freedom to do other work. Of course, I wish him the very best. (2/2)
According to his IMDB profile, Shearer worked on The Simpsons since it first premiered in 1989. Shearer was also behind the characters Smithers, Otto the bus driver, Lenny, Dr. Hibbert, and Rev. Lovejoy. He voiced characters in other works, including the dog announcer in the animated film Chicken Little. Shearer also had a number of roles in movies that included The Truman Show, My Best Friend's Wedding, and the 1998 version of Godzilla. Bustle's requests for comment from Fox and a representative of Shearer were not returned Wednesday.
Earlier this month, Fox announced The Simpsons would return for two more seasons. The show is about to wrap its 26th year, but a TMZ report also said one of the show's key actors had not yet signed contracts to return. While the TMZ report didn't name who the holdout was, Shearer had previously expressed dissatisfaction with the studio.
In 2011, there were reports of tense negotiations between Fox and six of the show's main actors, who sought to receive a small portion of back-end profits in exchange for a reduction in salaries. Actors can receive pretty large salaries based on the number of TV episodes shot, but often, what is more lucrative are the back-end profits, which can include syndication and merchandising. At the time, Fox refused and the deal went through on the studio's terms.
Shearer then released a public statement through The Daily Beast, explaining why he believed the longtime actors deserved to be better compensated.
Given how much joy the show has given so many people over the years — and given how many billions of dollars in profits News Corp. has earned and will earn from it — I find it hard to believe that this is Fox’s final word on the subject. ... the alternative is to cancel the show or fire me for having the gall to try to save the show by helping Fox with its new business model. Neither would be a fair result — either to those of us who have committed so many years to the show or to its loyal fans who make our effort worthwhile.
Shearer was a huge part of The Simpsons, and his departure could be a sign the curtains might soon close on the beloved show. If so, better enjoy these next two seasons. Who knows, they might be the last.
Image: Getty Images (1)