A cast member on CBS's "Big Brother 2," the network's three-nights-a-week reality TV show, was once sentenced for an "elaborate scheme" to infiltrate a Hollywood studio and surreptitiously obtain video and photographs of a top secret movie production, The Smoking Gun has learned.
Michael Carri, 31, was arrested by Burbank police in October 1996 after Warner Bros. security personnel detained him outside the set where "Batman & Robin" was being filmed. A search of Carri and two cohorts turned up forged Warner's ID cards and several phony drivers' licenses. Carri, who uses the surname Malin on "Big Brother 2," was also found to be carrying a miniature 35mm camera in his sock, and his hat appeared to be wired for use with a hidden video camera (though none was recovered by cops). In addition, police found a stolen Warner Bros. walkie-talkie in the group's getaway car, which had its license plates removed.
Before their arrest, Carri, a wannabe actor/rapper, and his accomplices had twice sneaked onto "Batman & Robin" sets, according to court records, and sold videotape shot there to "Inside Edition," the tabloid TV show (the smuggled footage included shots of actors George Clooney, Uma Thurman, and Chris O'Donnell). An indication of the video's value to tabloid bounty hunters was found in Carri's pocket, where investigators found a scrap of paper with the notation, "Batman only--$35,000."
The trio returned a third time, on October 19, in a bid to photograph Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was shooting his first scene as the villainous Mr. Freeze. The film in the camera hidden in Carri's sock had 35 exposed images, many of which showed Schwarzenegger in costume.
Burbank Municipal Court records show that Carri spent a day in jail before his release on $10,000 bail. Charged with five misdemeanors, including burglary, malicious mischief, and trespassing, Carri initially pleaded not guilty (as did his two codefendants, Gary DeRosa and Kimberly Weiant). On January 23, 1997, Carri pleaded no contest to three of the counts--carrying counterfeit government-issued ID, trespass and injury to property, and malicious mischief. He was sentenced to three years probation, fined $100, and ordered to do 400 hours of community service (which he performed at a Los Angeles theater). Judge Rand Rubin also ordered Carri to "stay away from Warner Bros. studios."
But that wasn't the end of his legal troubles.
A month after the criminal sentencing, Warner Bros. filed suit in federal court charging Carri with, among other things, copyright infringement and misappropriation of trade secrets. The 34-page lawsuit alleged that Carri and his cohorts "executed an elaborate scheme to infiltrate the Warner Bros. lot and locations, to copy and pirate" photos and videotape of "Batman & Robin." The studio added that the trio used stolen security badges and the swiped walkie-talkie to monitor filming and help them gain access to various closely guarded sets. A subsequent filing by the studio's chief investigator described the lot's security measures and how Carri & Co. were apprehended.
Five months after Warner Bros. filed suit, Carri and his codefendants agreed to a judgment permanently enjoining them from using any of the ill-gotten footage and from retaining any "photographs, negatives, video, images, identification badges, illicit driver's licenses, and any other property used in connection with the several unlawful entries" on the movie sets. The judgment also barred Carri from "entering or attempting to enter Warner's premises, Warner's sets, Warner's film locations, or other places of production, including public areas blocked off for purposes of Warner's production."
While the studio's aggressive prosecution of Carri was primarily intended as a warning to other possible interlopers, Warner Bros.'s action seemingly should also have left the aspiring performer a Tinseltown pariah. The legal proceedings portrayed Carri as an untrustworthy sneak, an actor who had somehow gotten himself legally barred from the premises of a flagship Hollywood studio (an honor usually reserved for stalkers and suspected drug dealers).
But you only have to turn on CBS (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday) to see Carri ensconced in the "Big Brother 2" house, which sits on the network's Studio City lot, about five miles from Warner Bros.'s off-limits Burbank compound. Activity in the house/TV set is captured by 38 cameras and 62 microphones and is broadcast live, round the clock--in all its monotonous detail--on the Internet. Sometimes, it seems the only place without a camera is the inside of Carri's sock.
According to the CBS website, which identifies "Big Brother 2" housemates by their first names only, Mike is a 30-year-old bar owner from Los Angeles. The network offers little other biographical information, though Carri has not been shy about promoting himself on the tube. Along with breaking into impromptu raps (his freestylin' has been panned on the Internet, where he's been tagged "Vanilla Mike"), Carri has made sure to talk up Belly, the Santa Monica Boulevard tapas bar he supposedly owns (though his name does not turn up anywhere in official licensing/ownership records kept by California's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, according to ABC spokesman Carl DeWing).
Carri is a New Hampshire native who, according to a July 14 Concord Monitor story, changed his name to Malin when he moved to Los Angeles in 1993 (though TSG could locate no such name change petition filed in Los Angeles Superior Court). In fact, when he was arrested for the Warner Bros. invasion and then sued by the movie studio, the legal filings in both matters bore only the Carri surname (including those made by his own lawyer). And when signing case documents, he used Carri as his last name.
So, did Mike dust off the Malin surname (which his mother now uses) to help obscure a rap sheet skeleton? Well, TSG would love to ask him, but Carri is incommunicado until he is either voted off "Big Brother 2" or walks away with the $500,000 grand prize in a couple of months. As for what Carri may or may not have disclosed to CBS's crack crew of investigators, TSG is still trying to find that out.