Harry Shearer, the voice of some of the most memorable characters in the entire Simpsons universe, has been fired from the show.
That’s if tweets from Shearer’s official Twitter account are to be believed. Shearer tweeted out the following missives late last night:
from James L. Brooks’ lawyer: “show will go on, Harry will not be part of it, wish him the best.”. (1/2)
— Harry Shearer (@theharryshearer) May 14, 2015
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) — Harry Shearer (@theharryshearer) May 14, 2015
Last week, the show was renewed for two more seasons. All the primary voice actors–Dan Castellaneta (Homer), Julie Kavner (Marge), Nancy Cartwright (Bart), Yeardley Smith (Lisa), and Hank Azaria (Moe)–re-upped. Shearer did not sign a contract. Production on the show’s 27th season began without Shearer, and both sides remained optimistic that they could reach some sort of compromise.
This is hardly the first time The Simpsons has weathered serious contract disputes. In 1998, Fox threatened to replace the show’s voice actors or cancel the show outright if they couldn’t reach salary agreements. And, in 2011, the network again threatened to cancel the show unless all the primary voice actors took a 45 percent pay cut.
In both of those instances, all parties worked their differences out, and The Simpsons went on. This is the first time that any of the primary actors has been fired from the show, whether jokingly, temporarily, or otherwise. In addition to Mr. Burns, Smithers, and Ned Flanders, Shearer is best-known for voicing Principal Skinner, Reverend Lovejoy, and Otto the bus driver. Which one would you miss the most?
UPDATE (1:53 PM): Al Jean, Simpsons producer from way back, has announced that Shearer refused a deal that the five other primary voice actors accepted, one which would have allowed him to work on projects outside of The Simpsons. Jean called Shearer’s tweets “confusing.”
He also said–in news that has come as a huge shock to Simpsons fans–that Shearer’s parts will be recast “if Harry does not return.” It’s almost impossible to fathom what Shearer’s iconic characters would sound like if they were suddenly, after 27 years, voiced by someone completely different.
It also sounds like the producer is leaving the door open for Shearer to come back, but is perfectly willing to slam it shut on him.
Jean’s final comment on the matter? “My dream in life is for someone to treat me the way the Simpsons treated Harry.”
(Photo credits: WENN)