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Date:  March 27, 1998

"Simpsons" Voice Try-Outs Looming
by Daniel Frankel

The confirmed signing of Bart-voicer Nancy Cartwright Thursday bolstered the hopes of The Simpsons faithful that the 10th season of the hit Fox toon would start rolling without a hitch.

But today there is no joy in Springfield. Perhaps taking a cue from the nefarious Mr. Burns, Fox has hired casting directors in five cities to begin auditioning replacement voices for the four actors (Dan Castellaneta, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer) still holding out for bigger contracts, Daily Variety reports.

It looks like Fox might very well make good on its threat to make a go of things at the nuclear power plant next fall without the talent responsible for more than 40 voices on the show, including Homer, Lisa, Moe, Ned Flanders, Smithers and even Mr. Burns.

"We're actively trying to replace them because we've not been led to believe they will make a deal," an unnamed Fox exec close to the negotiations tells Variety.

"And we're not going to let them extort this corporation. Fox is being portrayed here as this big, bad monolith, and that just isn't the case. These people have made a mint off this show in merchandising and licensing."

The studio will begin looking for soundalikes in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles. (Strangely, nobody was hired to find "D'oh" mimics in either Springfield or Shelbyville.)

Meanwhile, an unnamed Simpsons voice tells Variety the studio's latest offer to the holdouts is "in line with" the estimated $50,000-per-episode deal Cartwright inked earlier this week.

The Deep Throat also says the unsigned actors--who were originally reported to have been seeking as much as $150,000 per episode--don't hold a grudge against Cartwright for breaking ranks and making an agreement worth double her previous salary.

And while Fox allegedly claims the show's holdouts are further examples of actors trying to strong-arm the television salary world out of the stratosphere, representatives for "The Simpsons four" tell Variety the actors are simply seeking what's fair.

The reps claim the four lead actors on Seinfeld earn more money in three weeks than the four negotiating Simpson-ites have made in the first nine years of the show, adding that they used to earn as little as five grand an episode in the beginning.

Plus, the reps say, the actors have seen little of the reported $500 million Fox has earned from licensing and merchandising The Simpsons over the years.

Says the unnamed voice to Variety: "Given that we haven't asked for anything during the first nine seasons of the show, we don't feel that what we're asking for is unreasonable."