Randy Quaid is probably best known as redneck conspiracy theorist Russell from 'Independence Day', a character who was convinced he'd been abducted by aliens and probed in certain uncomfortable areas (and we don't just mean the Deep South).
Life, as always seems to be the way, has imitated art once more, because Randy Quaid – a once great, Oscar-nominated actor – is now peddling the kind of paranoid rants that even Russell might consider far-fetched.
It's not aliens that are out to get him, says Randy, but a sinister cabal of what he calls "star-whackers", who Quaid claims were responsible for the deaths of his celebrity friends. So how did Randy Quaid go from working with directors like Ang Lee and Milos Forman to spouting wacko theories while on the run from the law?
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Quaid – older brother of actor Dennis – made his movie debut in Peter Bogdanovich's 'The Last Picture Show' and impressed in Hal Ashby's 'The Last Detail' opposite Jack Nicholson – the latter even gained him an Oscar nomination. However, it was in Chevy Chase's comedy vehicle 'Vacation' – known in the UK as 'National Lampoon's Vacation' – that he played goofy Cousin Eddie, establishing a pattern of slightly odd supporting characters that would serve him well throughout his career on stage and screen. Quaid won a Golden Globe in 1985 for playing US President Lyndon Baines Johnson in TV movie 'LBJ: The Early Years' but seemed to gravitate towards outlandish comedy – fitting, as eventually his personal life would become just as farcical as any sitcom.
The problems started in 2006, when Quaid raised a lawsuit against Focus Features, makers of 'Brokeback Mountain', in which he played the role of small-minded rancher Joe Aguirre. The movie, Quaid alleged, was sold to him as a small indie flick with little chance of making any money, so he accepted a low fee – he was then outraged when the movie received a wide release and racked up award nomination after award nomination. Quaid sued for $10 million plus damages, but dropped his lawsuit a few short months later. He says that Focus Features settled out of court. They claim this never happened.
Quaid was no stranger to treading the boards but he burned his bridges in Broadway when he physically and verbally abused his co-stars in 'Lone Star Love', a Western re-telling of Shakespeare's 'The Merry Wives Of Windsor'. Twenty-five of his fellow performers filed charges against him, including allegations that he slapped an actor in the face four times during rehearsal. Quaid claims he was merely getting into character; the Actors' Equity Association disagreed and banned him for life, fining him $81,000. The actor was unrepentant: "I am guilty of only one thing," he stated, "giving a performance that elicited a response so deeply felt by the actors and producers with little experience of my creative process that they actually think I am Falstaff."
In 2009, Quaid's money problems started to become apparent. In September, Randy and his wife Evi – a former model and socialite – were arrested for defrauding an innkeeper: a roundabout way of saying they skipped out on paying a $10,000 hotel bill. Charges were dropped against Randy, but his wife was given three years probation and ordered to complete 240 hours of community service after they missed several court dates and resisted arrest. The Quaids, it turned out, had history in doing runners from hotels.
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One year later, and the Quaids were in trouble again. Randy and Evi faced burglary charges for living in a guest house that wasn't theirs – despite their pleas to the contrary. The answer was obvious, according to the Quaids: they were being slowly discredited by a sinister group who wanted them out of the picture so they could cash in on their numerous insurance policies. "We believe there to be a malignant tumour of 'star-whackers' in Hollywood," said Randy. "How many people do you know personally who have died suddenly and mysteriously in the last five years?" Heath Ledger (accidental overdose) was one victim of the star-whackers, claims Quaid; David Carradine (asphyxiation) and Chris Penn (cardiac arrest) were others. Mel Gibson was an ongoing project. Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan were also being targeted. "They follow us, they trail us," Quaid revealed. "They tag our cellphones, they hack our computer." It was around this time that Quaid revealed he wasn't mentally ill and had to publicly admit that he wasn't on drugs. Brother Dennis voiced his concern: "I love my brother and I miss my brother," he said.
By now, Quaid had given up on his acting career completely; his last movie was a terrible Seann William Scott film called 'Gary The Tennis Coach' – an ignominious end to a career that had started so promisingly almost 40 years previously. Quaid's life had become a circus: in 2010, when Randy and Evi were a no-show at yet another court date, they become fugitives of the law – and none other than Dog The Bounty Hunter announced plans to bring them to justice. With his big bushy beard and a publicity hungry wife with a history of over-spending, Quaid became a TMZ mainstay – a joke that he wasn't in on. At least, that's what one assumes. It'd be one hell of a piece of performance art.
"What I'd like to do is put all this behind me and resolve it in some way that's favourable to us," Quaid told Vanity Fair in 2011. The chances of him returning to his old life, sadly, seem remote. Randy and Evi are currently living in Canada as refugees, seeking permanent residency: if they return to the United States, they'll be arrested. Living outside of US borders seems to have calmed the couple in recent years, as the crazy stories have slowed and the publicity machine seems to be whirring to a stop. The last we heard of Randy Quaid was in January 2013 when immigration officials denied him visa to live in Canada permanently – he's still looking for a place to hang his hat on a long-term basis.
However, there is one upside to Randy's self-imposed exile: he has so far managed to evade the star-whackers that are out to get him.
Check out our gallery of Infamous Movie Star Mugshots, below.