Hand over the money, Skippy

By Legal Eagle

Skippy and Sonny

As someone who is interested in restitution and gain-based remedies, I couldn’t help but be interested in this story about an actor trying to recover some of the profits from the makers of the TV series Skippy.

Actor Tony Bonner, the star of the show that debuted in the late 1960s and sold to more than 128 countries, has lodged a claim in the Supreme Court that could be worth “millions”.

With the show still running overseas in places such as Hong Kong, he is seeking declarations that he’s entitled to a share of four decades worth of profits from the show, merchandising and associated film and music spin-offs.

With three seasons made between 1968 and 1970 by Fauna Productions Pty Ltd, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo is arguably our most enduring showbiz export.

Bonner, 64, who played dashing helicopter pilot Flight Ranger Jerry King, says he has never received any residual payments despite its phenomenal worldwide success.

But he insists it’s not about money – he just wants to be recognised for his contribution to the series’ longevity.

I wonder how he will fare? Bonner’s lawyer has stated that they have lodged documents with the Equity Divison of the NSW Supreme Court seeking declarations he is entitled to be adequately compensated. I’m trying to imagine what his cause of action would be, but it’s difficult to speculate without having access to the original contracts between the parties. It’s not really a question of “compensation” in the true sense because he has not suffered a “loss”, other than perhaps the loss of opportunity to bargain for a share of the profits. It seems more to be a case for a reasonable fee representing his contributions towards the profits of the television series. In any case, I will keep an eye on it to see what happens.

7 Comments

  1. jc
    Posted August 17, 2008 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    How can he demand any residuals when it wasn’t part of the contract? His deal finished when the series ended. He was paid for services rendered.

    If he wins there would be all sorts of ramifications through the commercial world.

    I say he doesn’t have a chance in hades.

  2. pete m
    Posted August 18, 2008 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Actors had to strike in the US to get this sort of residual claim in their contracts – and damn smart of them too.

    I guess his argument might be that neither party had any expectation of the residual value of their work – therefore the contract and the contract sum did not reflect that event – hence equity ought to correct the omission and achieve fairness in this windfall situation. I think it has some merit for such an old case – the people in the last 20 odd years though would not have such an argument given M*A*S*H reruns.

  3. Nanu
    Posted August 18, 2008 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Reminds me about Sir Alec Guinness, who I understand negotiated his contract for Star Wars on the basis that he didn’t have to do any publicity and that in addition to his fee he received TWO PERCENT of the GROSS…bloody hell, whats 2% of a $1-2 billion in the 1980 in today’s money? And all for doing a part he thought beneath him (which is a fair enough call I guess).

    One thing I would say about this post, can a person be said to have signed away their right to royalties/remuneration for something that didn’t exist at the time…DVD sales. I do think this is probably the only way this claim could possibly run. I can’t wait for the detail.

  4. DeusExMacintosh
    Posted August 19, 2008 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    I had my first crush on Tony Bonner. **blush**

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