The legal difficulties for actor Randy Quaid and his wife Evi have become another Hollywood headline refrain since telling ABC's Good Morning America earlier this month that they were refugees running from "star whackers."
But court documents show financial problems began for the couple more than 10 years ago.
Quaid and his wife, Evi, failed to appear Tuesday for their arraignment in Santa Barbara, Calif., on felony vandalism charges. Both Randy and Evi Quaid were free on $500,000 bonds, and by failing to show up in court they have forfeited the $1 million bail money.
The Quaids, who have not appeared to at least four scheduled court dates, still have warrants out for their arrest, according to the Santa Barbara district attorney's office.
The Quaids' most recent legal case involved their arrest on Sept. 18 in Montecito, Calif. The couple was found in a guest house where they allegedly caused $5,000 in damages to the property.
While the Quaids claimed they owned the home since the 1990s, a representative of the current owner provided documentation to police that the owner purchased the property in 2007 from a man who bought it from the Quaids "several years earlier," according to a statement from the Santa Barbara Sherrif's department.
Four days after the Good Morning America interview, Quaid clarified to CBS News that he did not feel his life was threatened, but there was a conspiracy against he and his wife, and other celebrities.
"What I mean by star whacking…it's not killing somebody necessarily. It's creating a scandal or mystery around a celebrity that discredits them," Quaid said. He also said his "ex-attorney, ex-business manager, and estate planner," were a part of that conspiracy.
With the irony that only Hollywood could create, the Quaids' financial difficulties began in part by a movie they created in the late 1990s called "The Debtors," starring Randy Quaid, Michael Caine and Catherine McCormack and directed by Evi Quaid.
According to Richard Marshack, an attorney and trustee in the Quaids' bankruptcy proceedings that began in 2000, there were legal and creative disagreements involving the Quaids and the movie's financier, Charles Simonyi. Eventually, the Quaids, listed in their 2000 Los Angeles bankruptcy filing as Randall R. Quaid and Evzenya H. Quaid, accumulated the $3.5 million of debt, with listed assets of $3.4 million in personal property. Calls to the Quaids' attorneys were not immediately returned.
An actors' bankruptcy is hardly unusual, according to Hollywood business manager Scott Feinstein. Even with high salaries from films, expenses including union dues and fees for lawyers, agent and publicists can add up and 25 percent commission rates are common. Also, while studios may pay movie stars relatively large amounts for successful films, the work can be sporadic.
"If he has no work, he has no income," said Feinstein, who is a business manager for actors including Taylor Lautner, Vanessa Hudgens and Hilary Duff.
"Clearly in 2000, he was bankrupt. What has transpired in the last 10 years is he has worked very little," said Feinstein after reviewing the actor's list of film and television appearances. Randy is known for his roles in National Lampoon's Vacation films, "Brokeback Mountain," and "LBJ: The Early Years" for which he received a Golden Globe.
Marshack said the bankruptcy dragged on partly because he believed the Quaids did not list all their assets properly and a proceeding continued to deny him a discharge from his liabilities. The 35 creditors listed in the bankruptcy filings include American Express, New York State Department of Tax, Citibank, their former law firms that represented them, and luxury clothing companies Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus.
"We didn't think he disclosed everything that he owned," said Marshack.
The case was settled after five years and the Quaids agreed to pay back 50 percent of everything they owed to their creditors. Marshack said that as a result of the bankruptcy, the actor was able to discharge half of his general unsecured debts, but had to pay in full any tax debts he may have had.
Eventually, the Quaids accumulated other debts since their bankruptcy, including payments to their former private investigator, Becky Altringer.
Altringer said the Quaids hired her to investigate "the mob" that was "out to kill them," whom they believed were responsible for the deaths of the actors Natasha Richardson, David Carradine and Heath Ledger.
"I took the case on because it sounded a little valid in the beginning, but as I started investigating, I realized no one was out to hurt them except Evi," said Altringer from her home in La Verne, Calif.
Altringer said she sued the Quaids for her services totaling about $19,000 during June 2009. She said she began receiving the actor's wage garnishments in October, which residual checks from his previous films. She said she has received over $600 from movie studios such as MGM and Sony.
It is unclear what kind of income the Quaids are currently receiving.
On Tuesday, the Quaids' attorney, Robert Sanger, told the judge that authorities in Canada have confiscated the actor's passport. Randy, who is seeking asylum in Canada, is scheduled to have an immigration admissibility hearing in Vancouver on Nov. 23. His wife is eligible for Canadian citizenship through her Canadian father.
Santa Barbara Deputy District Attorney Anthony Davis said his office was communicating with the Canadian authorities.
"Extradition is always a possibility," said Davis.