ER STAR FUMING OVER PLANS TO BRING BACK ERIQ LaSALLE

Published on: February 13, 2002

NBC bosses want to bring Eriq LaSalle's Dr. Benton back to "ER" -- but sources say show star Anthony Edwards wants to keep him away!

Edwards' character Dr. Mark Greene is scheduled to leave "ER" at the end of this season, and before he goes, viewers will see an exciting season finale in which his relationship with onscreen love Dr. Elizabeth Corday hits the skids and then he dies, The ENQUIRER has learned.

Edwards doesn't want LaSalle's grandstanding to lessen the impact of his dramatic final episodes, insiders say.

"Anthony has made it clear to the producers and writers on 'ER' that he doesn't want to see Eriq LaSalle back on the show this season, not even for one episode," said a source close to the Warner Bros. TV production.

"Anthony feels the set isn't big enough for him and Eriq's huge ego!"

LaSalle's character, Dr. Peter Benton, was written out of "ER" in a December episode. But before he left, the 39-year-old actor had demanded a raise from $100,000 to $500,000 an episode and made a bid to unseat Edwards, who after eight seasons was finally the star, sources say. His behavior alienated many on the cast -- especially Edwards.

What's more, many show insiders are concerned that a return of LaSalle's character could blow the dramatic impact of the season's final episodes. The "ER" staff is keeping the season finale heavily under wraps, but the plan is that Dr. Greene, who had undergone surgery for a brain tumor, will be killed off during the May ratings sweeps when the cancer returns.

In the story line Dr. Greene's marriage to fellow doc Elizabeth Corday (Alex Kingston) will blow up as the result of their baby becoming ill from eating an Ecstasy pill that belonged to Rachel, Greene's teen daughter by another marriage. After the blowup, Greene will die.

The dramatic story line should command all the attention and LaSalle's return would only be a distraction, say insiders.

"Other cast members aren't pleased at all about the possibility of LaSalle stealing their thunder at the end of the season," said a production insider. "Eriq LaSalle coming back to 'ER' could really cause a lot of real-life drama behind the scenes."