Television star David Walliams has suffered suicidal thoughts since being dropped from Britain’s Got Talent, court papers reveal.
The explosive claim is in a UK High Court writ against the makers of the hit ITV show.
Walliams, 52, who was axed after leaked jibes about contestants, also claimed bosses of Britain’s Got Talent spied on him in the £10 million (A$19 million) High Court showdown.
His writ says makers Fremantle Media “recorded, transcribed and retained” private conversations for ten years.
Walliams is demanding up to £10 million (A$19 million) after being dropped last year following a leak of crude comments he made mocking two contestants.
In his devastating opening salvo, he accuses Fremantle of an unlawful data protection breach on an industrial scale.
He alleges they collected private and sensitive details of conversations throughout his time on the family favourite series.
And he claims fellow judges Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden and Alesha Dixon were monitored the same way by production staff.
Walliams, who says he has suffered suicidal thoughts after being cancelled from public life, is seeking £1 million (A$1.9 million) he stood to get from the prime-time ITV show, plus £1.7 million (A$3.25 million) in lost earnings from the last year.
He wants an additional £3.4 million (A$6.5 million) covering future losses over at least the next two years, taking the total to £6.1 million (A$11.65 million).
In addition he is seeking further unspecified damages for psychiatric harm, distress and upset and the loss of control over his private information and legal costs — which sources say could bring the total up to as much as £10 million (A$19 million).
The writ states that after he was dropped an invitation to read at the Commonwealth Writing Competition with Queen Camilla at Buckingham Palace was withdrawn.
His earnings plummeted from £3.7 million (A$7 million) in 2022 to just £101,800 (A$194,300) in the first five months of this year, the papers reveal.
He said in that time he has received only one new work booking, having “catastrophic results for his reputation and career”.
Walliams says he is now fighting “active suicidal thoughts” and has “lost the ability to be funny” amid fears that whatever he says or does will be used against him.
The lawsuit is set to shock the world of showbiz and promises to lift the lid on one of the nation’s favourite shows.
In a 21-page legal document his lawyers say: “The Claimant (Walliams) now understands that, unknown to him at the time, his microphone was kept on and recording throughout the whole filming day, including breaks, during his whole tenure as a judge on the show.”
He says this even happened when he went to the lavatory.
His claim alleges Fremantle “produced and retained transcripts of the audio recordings of everything he said during that time, including the private information that had no relevance to production of the show”.
A copy of the transcripts was also made available to Cowell’s co-producer firm Syco upon request, it is claimed.
It amounted to 1,700 hours of audio recordings over ten years and 145 episodes.
In addition they kept 41,526 hours of visual recordings from 191 days of filming.
But Walliams complains some of the recorded material was private — including heart-to-hearts with Alesha about his marriage, divorce, spending sprees, sex life, relationships and his physical and mental health.
They also covered the funnyman’s political views, reasons behind his atheism and family disputes, his battle with food addiction, weight problems, his opinions of other celebrities and even the impact of his father’s death.
His lawyers say: “He was extremely upset to learn that private information, including many highly sensitive personal matters, had been recorded without his consent or knowledge, transcribed, shared internally among the Defendant’s (Fremantle) employees and retained apparently indefinitely.
“Furthermore, the Defendant’s breaches have affected the Claimant’s ability to perform.
“He 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.
“Because of the constant concern that any unguarded comments could be used against him, he has lost the ability to be spontaneous or edgy — in short, to be funny.
“His inability to perform in this, his signature manner, has caused him further acute distress, because he has lost an important part of his personal and professional identity.”
Walliams says he had no idea of the extent of the surveillance until his “disrespectful” remarks about two hopefuls were leaked to The Guardian, he claims, and published on November 10 last year.
The newspaper said it had obtained and reviewed “transcripts of the judges’ comments for three days” at the London Palladium in January 2020.
Walliams called one man a “c***” three times and said of a woman: “She thinks you want to f*** her, but you don’t.”
He apologised at the time and insisted the comments were taken from “private conversations” not intended to be shared.
But an offer to remain on the judges panel for this year’s show was withdrawn on December 14 and he was later replaced by ex-Strictly judge Bruno Tonioli.
Walliams says the fallout destroyed his “reputation and career” as a comedian, TV personality and children’s author.
Scores of TV appearances and programs were axed, including The Jonathan Ross Show, a podcast with Little Britain co-star Matt Lucas and West End musicals.
The lawsuit details how Walliams has since suffered “a return of severe depression, including suicidal thoughts”.
In a report, consultant psychiatrist Dr Mark Collins, who has treated him for many years, said his depression was “possibly the worst since I first met him”.
He said the leak of the transcripts “has had a profound, severe and, at times, very worrying effect on his mental health”.
The star has “severe problems with his sleep” and “is plagued by uncontrollable negative thoughts”, including “active suicidal thoughts”.
Walliams, who lodged the lawsuit under his real name David Edward Williams, has paid a legal fee of £10,569 (A$20,200).
Under court rules, it means he is seeking unlimited damages of more than £200,000 (A$382,00) for a breach of his data protection rights.
His lawyers state: “The Claimant is an experienced television professional.
“It was readily apparent to him when, during the filming day, audio and video footage was being captured for potential inclusion in the show and when it was not.
“Because he assumed that he was not being recorded during other times, the Claimant would talk and joke in an unguarded manner with the other judges.
“All four judges would regularly make jokes using rude and/or sexual language: that was the culture among the judges on the show.
“They did this to keep themselves amused during long filming days, without any thought that these remarks would ever be made public — not least because the very nature of the remarks made them obviously unsuitable for broadcast.
“Rather, they were private conversations among adult friends.”
He and Alesha, who sat next to one another on the judging panel, became “close personal friends” and would “talk and joke” during breaks in filming.
Their chats were “serious as well as lighthearted” and covered a wide range of sensitive issues relating to his private life.
His lawyers went on: “The private information was personal information belonging to the Claimant, in relation to which he had a reasonable expectation of privacy.
“He was not made aware that he was being recorded continuously, and therefore made the remarks constituting the private information in the belief that they would remain private.
“It is obvious from the sensitive nature of some of the conversations that the Claimant held with other judges, in particular Ms Dixon, that he intended them to be private, and not shared beyond the immediate recipient.”
They claim: “Transcripts are, in important respects, inherently more privacy-intrusive than recordings. Large volumes of transcripts can be searched much more quickly than recordings for particular words or phrases.
“It is therefore far easier to extract and re-use personal data from a transcript than from a recording (including for unauthorised purposes).”
Walliams’ agent had written to BGT bosses on November 28 accepting the £1 million (A$1.9 million) offer, and stating: “David would be happy to accept and looks forward to working with you next series.”
But it was withdrawn just over two weeks later.
Walliams, who was a judge on the show between 2012 and 2022, is demanding Fremantle destroy all of the recordings and transcripts.
Lawyers for Walliams declined to comment.
Fremantle 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.”
The Sun on Sunday approached Syco for an official comment, but a source there insisted no transcripts were ever requested.
This article originally appeared in The Sun and was reproduced with permission.