Source: Godzilla official movie magazine
Hank Azaria as Animal
Comic actor Hank Azaria has a pretty simple description of his character-- one that references the protagonist of the Big G's very first film. "I'm the news guy chasing Godzilla," he says. "I'm one of a whole bunch of people who together kind of add up to the Raymond Burr character [from Godzilla, King of the Monsters]. I'm the guy with the camera running after Godzilla, trying to get him to stand still so I can take his picture. And I'm the guy who keeps getting into trouble along the way."
Azaria, who balances steady gigs as a voice on The Simpsons and the dog walker on Mad About You, is a newcomer to this kind of action filmmaking, and he was smart enough to go to a veteran of the genre for advice. It did not hurt that the teacher was also his girlfriend, actress Helen Hunt, who faced an equally destructive force of nature in Twister. "Helen has told me a whole bunch of stories about how it is to react to things that aren't there," the actor laughs. "It wasn't anything really heavy. She just told me to play things real big and to watch out for flying objects."
Azaria grew up watching Toho's Godzilla movies, and as an impressionable youngster, he took them all very seriously. "I would actually worry about who was going to win," he admits. But he has on such concerns with this latest incarnation of the King og the Monsters. "There are moments of humor in this film and we're trying to make it funny, but not silly or campy," he says. "Which can be tough, because we're playing off things that aren't there. It's funny, because it has been years since I've acted to imaginary things, and I was wondering why I wasn't having a problem. Then it dawned on me that I had been doing The Simpsons all along, and in that I was totally acting to nothing."
Since Azaria's character is always running after Godzilla while everybody else is running away from Godzilla, the actor took a beating during filming. "There would be hundreds of extras running toward me, and I would be running toward them. I was constantly being smashed and getting banged in the face, and I swear I almost died a few times. But hey! Anything for a laugh."
Azaria trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, Columbia University and Tufts University. After a series of East Coast theater roles, he moved to Los Angeles, where he began to rack up acting and voiceover credits. His film résumé includes Heat, Pretty Woman, Quiz Show, The Birdcage, Anastasia, and Great Expectations-- but he says it is with his TV work on Simpsons and Mad About You that he regularly pays the rent.
A survivor of the films city-smashing action, Azaria would gladly do a Godzilla 2, though he hopes that a new adventure would incorporate a change in the weather. "The tough part of [making] this movie was that it all occurs in the rain," he complains good naturedly. "Five months in the rain! Man, that's rough!"