Oscar-nominated actor Randy Quaid, fearful of being murdered in Hollywood, is seeking refugee asylum in Canada with his wife.
The 60-year-old actor, featured in such movies as The Last Detail, Brokeback Mountain and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, made his goal clear at an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing on Friday in which he said that he and his wife Evi Quaid want to start a new life in Canada.
During an emotionally charged hearing that came after they were arrested in Vancouver on outstanding warrants in California, Ms. Quaid said they were worried about friends "murdered" in Hollywood such as actors Keith Carradine - who is alive though she may have been referring to his deceased brother, David - and Heath Ledger, who starred in Brokeback Mountain, and Chris Penn. None of the actors deaths were ruled suspicious or homicides.
The couple has been dogged by legal troubles for skipping a court date in California over allegations of vandalizing a Santa Barbara home they formerly owned. They also have been charged for allegedly defrauded an innkeeper in Montecito, Calif.
After the couple was ordered released on $10,000 bond each, various reporting conditions and the promise to return for a further hearing next Thursday, Ms. Quaid told The Globe and Mail she and her husband sought to "find asylum from murderous rings in Hollywood" that consisted of lawyers.
At the time of that comment, she and her husband, who have been married for 20 years, were being handcuffed by security staff so they could be taken for processing and released.
Earlier, they released a handwritten statement to the media through their lawyer Brian Tsuji that read, "Yes we are requesting asylum from Hollywood Star Whackers. Evi and Randy Quaid."
The Quaids did not offer any substantive basis for their concerns.
Mr. Quaid, tanned and sporting a thick but neatly clipped beard, told Daphne Shaw-Dyck, the IRB member who presided over the hearing, that he and his wife want to start a new life in Canada. They arrived in the Lower Mainland on Oct. 17 and were arrested Oct. 21 on outstanding warrants. They have been in jail since.
"I wanted to restart my career and get it going again. [Vancouver]seemed like a good place to do it," Mr. Quaid told the hearing after he and his wife waived their privacy rights during the proceedings and welcomed a crowd of reporters into the hearing room at a downtown skyscraper.
He noted he has had acting gigs in Canada over the last 40 years. Brokeback Mountain, for example, was filmed in Alberta.
"I love Canada," he said. "I would not do anything to besmirch my reputation any further than it has already been.
Jim Murray, counsel for the Canada Border Services Agency, argued against the couple's release, noting they have failed to meet their legal obligations in a series of vandalism and fraud allegations in the United States.
But the couple's lawyer, Mr. Tsuji, said they would meet all obligations if released, with Ms. Quaid volunteering to wear an ankle bracelet and suggesting she and her husband would be happy to stay at the downtown Sutton Place hotel, which has been a popular haunt for celebrities in Vancouver.
"It's physically painful to be separated," she said of being kept apart from her husband of 20 years. She also said she has been suffering high blood pressure and a jail nurse said it raised the possibility of a stroke. The couple was also worried about the fate of a puppy travelling with them and papers in their car.
At various points, Ms. Quaid referred to her father's work as a "Canadian FBI agent" until an exasperated Ms. Shaw-Dyck said there was no such thing. "We don't have the FBI up here," she observed. Ms. Quaid suggested he was a Canadian who became a member of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Still, Ms. Shaw-Dyck ordered their release at the end of the detention review hearing, noting they have largely tended to obey court orders.
She observed: "They have both made statements that lead me to conclude they are under a great deal of stress."
The couple was taken from the hearing room for processing, pending their release.
Making their way through a gauntlet of reporters, Ms. Quaid denied she had drug or alcohol problems. "Heath Ledger was murdered," she yelled.
Mr. Quaid was nominated for an Oscar as best supporting actor for his role in The Last Detail, released in 1973.