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By Lizo Mzimba
Entertainment correspondent, BBC News
David Walliams has said his removal from Britain’s Got Talent (BGT) led to “severe depression and suicidal thoughts” according to legal documents.
The presenter and author says he received a £1 million offer to appear in the 2023 series of the ITV show.
But that offer was withdrawn after the Guardian published disrespectful comments he made about two performers.
The company behind BGT said it hoped to “resolve the matter amicably” but if needed would “robustly defend” itself.
He is suing FremantleMedia, the company behind BGT, alleging that they allowed his private comments to be leaked.
In the documents which were released by the High Court on Tuesday evening, Mr Walliams said he and the other judges would talk and joke amongst themselves in between the periods when they were being filmed and recorded for inclusion in the show.
He added these private conversations, which happened while they were still wearing their microphones, included him speaking about his romantic relationships and sex life, highly sensitive issues relating to the impact of his divorce on his son, and his physical and mental health.
He also claimed he was unaware that they may have been recorded and transcribed. However, in 2018 BGT did announce that “their cameras would now be rolling 24/7”.
Personal data rights
Mr Walliams said that while he is unaware exactly how the Guardian obtained a transcript of his comments, comments which he later apologised for, Fremantle must be the ultimate source of the transcript.
The legal documents say that he is suing FremantleMedia claiming that they breached his personal data rights. And that he is claiming damages for loss of earnings, distress, psychiatric harm, and for loss of control of his personal information.
He said he has suffered financially, being deprived of the £1 million fee he would have earned for appearing in the 2023 series of BGT.
He added his reputation and earnings have also been severely damaged, with TV appearances and a podcast with Matt Lucas (his comedy partner from Little Britain) being cancelled.
Two planned stage adaptations of two of his books have also been abandoned.
Mr Walliams says that up to the present time, his lost earnings amount to £1,765,290.50.
IMAGE SOURCE,PA MEDIA
David Walliams alongside fellow BGT judges Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden and Alesha Dixon
Mr Walliams said that he has also suffered acute distress, and worries that other private and personal matters could be leaked to other newspapers.
The comic added the situation has affected his ability to perform, saying that “feels vulnerable on entering a studio because he fears that what he says and does in that setting may be recorded and leaked without his consent”.
He said that this means he has “lost the ability to be spontaneous or edgy – in short, to be funny”.
Mr Walliams says that he has suffered from severe depression in the past, and that what has happened has led to its return.
The legal documents quote a retired consultant psychiatrist and practicing Psychotherapist who has treated Mr Walliams for many years as saying that he is “plagued by uncontrollable negative thoughts” including “active suicidal thoughts”.
In addition, Mr Walliams said that before the offer for him to appear again on BGT was withdrawn, the Sun newspaper ran an article stating that Walliams was intending to quit the show.
He said he had no such intention, and had not spoken to the Sun, adding that the only plausible source for the Sun story was an employee or agent of FremantleMedia.
Mr Walliams said the disclosure of (untrue) information was a clear attempt to pressure him into refusing the offer to return to BGT. And that this inaccurate disclosure was “neither fair, transparent or lawful”.
He said he will seek the disclosure of any documents in the possession of FremantleMedia that “shed light the circumstances of (i) the leak to the Guardian and (ii) the briefing of false information about him to The Sun”.
In a statement FremantleMedia said: “We had a long and productive relationship with David and so are surprised and saddened by this legal action.
“For our part, we remain available and open to dialogue to resolve this matter amicably. However, in the interim, we will examine the various allegations and are prepared to robustly defend ourselves if necessary.”