Most movies and TV shows end with a disclaimer informing viewers that the story is fictitious and "any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental." But Gig Harbor's Michael Bertsch is convinced that the similarities between his life, Donnie Darko, The X-Files, and Burn Notice are more than just coincidences, and he has filed a lawsuit demanding a whopping $100 billion from Fox and Rupert Murdoch.
The former owner of a video production studio in southern California, Bertsch alleges that Fox lifted details from his personal life and used them in the plot of the movie Donnie Darko, as well as in several episodes of The X-Files and another TV show called Burn Notice.
For the uninitiated, Darko is about a schizophrenic teenager who goes off his meds, meets a guy in a creepy bunny costume, and has part of an airplane fall into his bedroom. The creepy bunny tells the teen that the world is going to end soon, that he should break open a water main and flood his high school, and that he ought to burn down Patrick Swayze's house. Also, time travel is somehow involved.
So how does all that jibe with Bertsch's life? Here are a couple examples he cites in the court documents:
- "The family car in the movie was a sky blue Ford Taurus. My father has the exact same car with the exact same color."
- "Donnie Darko's sister's name is Elisabeth. My sisters name is Elizabeth."
- "Kitty Farmer is a religious school teacher character in the movie. My grandmother's name was Kitty and was very religious [and] very much resembled the actress in the movie. In addition, my aunt that lived with her was a teacher."
- "Donnie's girlfriend Gretchen is introduced as a new student in the movie. Gretchen is a German name, and my fiance was living in Germany and resembles the woman in the movie."
- "The main premise of the movie is about a plane engine that drops into Donnie Darko's room. I worked with a company that worked with the FAA in recovering parts of downed aircraft. And I worked out of my bedroom."
- "In the movie, the family has a gigantic Tramp-O-lean [sic] in there [sic] back yard. My sister and her husband have the exact same one in there [sic] back yard."
As for The X-Files, the immortal sci-fi series about a pair of FBI agents who investigate paranormal phenomena, Bertsch claims that his background is similar to that of protagonist Fox Mulder. Specifically, both of their sisters were murdered at young ages by men named John. And -- cue the spooky music -- Bertsch's social security number adds up to 1013, a common number on the show.
Bertsch describes similar crazy random happenstances for Burn Notice, a spy show that airs on the USA Network (owned by NBCUniversal, not Fox). He also suspects that Murdoch and his minions secretly recorded his phone conversations (actually not that farfetched) and used them on the show, as well as on The X-Files .
Reached by phone, Bertsch admits that it will be "hard to prove" his allegations, but he nonetheless adamant that he has "a very strong case." He is representing himself in court for the time being because he couldn't find a lawyer willing to take the case on contingency (i.e. the attorney only gets paid if they win a settlement).
Bertsch explains he didn't notice the similarities between his life and the productions until about six months ago, but he now believes that it somehow caused him to lose his video production business. He says he now works as an inventor, and is also writing a book.
"I'm not in this to get famous," Bertch says. "I just want my life back. It's basically been taken away from me. It's been hard to get a job because of these slanderous accusations...There's no doubt in my mind that this was going on, but how do you prove it?"
As they say on The X-Files, "The truth is out there."