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Tuesday, August 17, 1999 Published at 10:05 GMT 11:05 UK


Dr Benton's $27m cut

Eriq La Salle (centre) dons the gown again for £27m

ER's Dr Benton, actor Eriq La Salle, has signed a reported $27m (£18m) deal to stay with the top-rated American medical drama for three more years.

According to Daily Variety, the new contract is expected to net the star $410,000 (£270,000) per episode, making La Salle one of the highest paid actors in television history.

La Salle, who plays ambitious surgeon Peter Benton, had recently hinted to the press that he might quit ER when his contract expired.

He had been earning a modest $85,000 (£56,000) per show, prior to this latest offer from ER's makers, Warner Brothers.

In 1998 NBC, the American TV network whic screens ER, offered Warner Bros a three-series deal, paying a record $13m (£8.6m) per show.

[ image: Anthony Edwards: 35m reasons to be happy]
Anthony Edwards: 35m reasons to be happy
Network bosses admit that Dr Benton is a positive role model for the minority audiences they are keen to secure.

La Salle's salary is not the highest in the emergency room. Co-star Anthony Edwards recently landed a record-breaking $35m (£23m) contract. Noah Wyle is reported to have had an equally lucrative salary hike.

Although still topping US ratings, ER experienced a slight drop in viewers during the last series. Securing the services of three of the hit show's original stars may help to halt a further slide.

Hospital heart-throb George Clooney left the show last year, after five years as popular paediatrician Dr Doug Ross. His farewell episode attracted 35m viewers in the US.

[ image: Smouldering Dr Doug left last year]
Smouldering Dr Doug left last year
The Chicago-based drama is expected to lose two more established stars, Julianna Margulies and Gloria Reuben, in the coming series.

Warner Brothers has become accustomed to salary hikes for its top stars. In 1996 the cast of worldwide hit comedy Friends threatened to strike over pay.

The sitcom's stars had been receiving $1,600 (£1,000) per show when the series started in 1994. In a recent deal, the coffee-swilling buddies were promised an estimated $250,000 (£159,000) for each episode they complete.

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