Randy Quaid, the American actor famous for playing characters as diverse as the trailer-trash scrounger in the National Lampoon series to his nation's saviour in Independence Day, is at the centre of a real-life drama more bizarre than anything the movies ever cooked up for him. He and his wife are claiming asylum in Canada because, in her words, they fear they are on a Hollywood "death list".
The couple were arrested in Vancouver after police responded to a call and found there were warrants out for them in California. The couple told the immigration adjudicator that they are being persecuted in the United States. Evi Quaid begged a Canadian immigration adjudicator not to force them to return, saying that friends, such as the actors David Carradine and Heath Ledger, had been "murdered" under mysterious circumstances and she was worried something would happen to her husband next. "We feel our lives are in danger," she said. "Randy has known eight close friends murdered in odd, strange manners... We feel that we're next."
During a break in the proceedings, the Quaids' lawyer, Brian Tsuji, approached the media to read a single-sentence statement from the Quaids. "We are requesting asylum from Hollywood star-whackers," he read, declining further comment on the mental state of his clients. Randy Quaid, 60, complained he had been persecuted for 20 years.
Despite objections from border officials, the couple were freed on C$10,000 (£6,200) cash bond until another hearing next Thursday. The Quaids, who said they needed to prepare their case and care for their puppy, hugged when the decision was announced.
The couple came to Canada on Sunday. The next day, a California judge issued an arrest warrant for them after they failed to appear at a mandatory court hearing on charges they had been illegally squatting in a home they owned years ago. The couple said they came to Canada to relax, and were talking about emigrating to Canada when they learned the warrant had been issued. The couple denied the allegations and had to be reminded by the immigration hearing official that the house dispute was not relevant to the detention hearing.
The couple have built up something of an impressive record of brushes with the law. Randy Quaid was arrested in September on suspicion of burglary and entering a building without consent. His wife was booked on those charges, as well as resisting arrest. Earlier this year, they were arrested on charges of failing to pay their bill at a California hotel. Evi Quaid was forced to pay $10,500 (£6,700) in restitution in that case and she pleaded no contest to defrauding an innkeeper.
Randy Quaid appeared in such films as The Last Picture Show, The Last Detail and Brokeback Mountain, and is the older brother of actor Dennis Quaid. Ledger was nominated for an Oscar for his lead role in Brokeback Mountain. He died in January 2008 from an accidental overdose. Carradine was the star of the hit 1970s television series Kung Fu and also had a film career before he hanged himself in Thailand last year. He was 72.
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