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Source: June 1998 issue of US magazine

Hank Azaria

The actor who launched a thousand voices gives lip to Godzilla.(He'd say more, but then he'd have to kill you.)

Ok you think here's a true cutup. Hank Azaria greets you at a Los Angeles diner, and when he opens his mouth, out comes the gravel gargle of the bartender Moe from The Simpsons. After all, Azaria is the man of a Thousand dialects, supplying Moe's voice and a gallery of others on the show. From Kwik- E- Mart owner Apu to Police Chief Wiggum to countless one-shot characters. There is also his now legendary Guatemalan houseboy from 1996's megahit The Birdcage. And his thickly accented "Nat the dog walker" off of Mad About You. What next? Ordering the turkey hash as that crazy little bat Bartok in Anastasia? Well no. Azaria has in fact lost his voice and gained Moe's. "I just finished this hockey movie," he croaks, "and I'm cheering in this one scene. But shooting a movie-one cheer means you do it 44 times. By the 12th time I blew out my vocal chords." On another pair of subjects, the soulful-eyed 34 year old actor is voluntarily saving his breath if not his excitement. First is the updated Godzilla. It's the kind of shrouded-in-secrecy behemoth event about which all Azaria can reveal is that he plays a TV news cameraman named Animal who is hellbent on securing footage of the giant reptile. "The script was first delivered, says Azaria, "by a large man who insisted I sign something saying that I wouldn't say anything. I don't know if he was large on purpose." Azaria will also let on that the movie delivers the goods, which doesn't mean inspiring, Oscar-caliber speeches and such, but as he puts it,"the credibility of a 20 story lizard messing up your city." Top secret topic No.2 is Azaria's Academy Award Winning fiancee, Helen Hunt, about whom all he will reveal is that she is the most down to earth person he's ever met and the recent engagement was the happiest moment of his life. You can sense his remorse at even admitting that much. Not talking about each other in the press, to acknowledge, is part of what keeps us happy.(Witness to Hunt's Oscar acceptance speech, in which Azaria was not named but referred to as her beloved.) Still the actor is all too aware of the scrutiny that comes with a celebrity romance. Take for example, his initial meeting with Godzilla director Roland Emmerich. Emmerich: So Helen Hunt is your girlfriend? Azaria: Yeah. Emmerich: God I love her. Azaria: Yeah, me too! Emmerich: How did you get . . Azaria: Were you going to ask me "How did you get to become her boyfriend?" Emmerich: Well, yes. Azaria: What can I tell you? I auditioned like everybody else. Emmerich's partner Dean Devlin jokes that Azaria was hired just to get Hunt to visit the set. Azaria is a long way from where he started his career a dozen years ago. Back then, he was a freshly graduated Tufts University drama major trudging through a "couldn't get arrested" actor's life in New York. Auditioning may have been hard, but bartending was worse. One night Azaria closed up Arcadia, the restaurant where he worked in such a daze that he left the day's cash intake on the counter, the front door open, and the gate up. An oversight so egregious it wouldn't pass muster as a cartoon story line for Moe. "The owner said I did everything but construct a neon sign that said ROBBER'S WELCOME," Azaria recalls. "I took it as a sign, I shouldn't be in New York." So Azaria moved to L.A. in 1986 and tried stand up comedy, but he discovered it wasn't for him. "Next to these comics, even actors seem calm and self-assured," he recalls thinking. Focusing on television proved the ticket, and he landed The Simpsons gig three years later. A gifted mimic, Azaria has generated so many voices that when Simpsons creator Matt Groening saw The Birdcage he was surprised to hear a fresh accent. (Albeit one with roots - Azaria a Sephardic Jew was doing his grandmother Esther). "We'd never seen that much of his body either," Matt Groening jokes refering to the scene where Azaria sports a thong. "I think we all got a special treat." Azaria's profile improved with The Birdcage, but much of the next year was spent convincing studio suits that he could operate and accent and a wig. He hopes that with Godzilla he has moved beyond the "Fourth Supporting role" parts,from the venal TV executive in Robert Redford's acclaimed film Quiz Show to Gweneth Paltrow's arrogant fiancee in Great Expectations, that he has perfected. Azaria is nonetheless a busy guy these days - managing film, TV, and voice over careers. And with the success he reluctantly admits he has "gotten to be irritable at times." He is determined, though, not to let his logistically convoluted life turn him into, well, an actor version of Godzilla. "That's how monsters feel inside, I think," he says. "They just can't handle all the details."

Special thanks to Danielle and her site for typing this article. (I wasn't capable of typing it at this time)