Hank Azaria

Hank Azaria


His friends refer to him as "the freakish mimic" due to his ability to copy almost anybody's voice instantly after he has heard it. As a child he believed that everyone could do such a thing, until he realised that it was a rare talent. Azaria was glad to have found the "ultimate outlet" for his skill, in "The Simpsons". Matt Groening has stated that Azaria possesses the ability to turn unfunny lines into some of the best in an episode, while former writer Jay Kogen stated: "Just when I think I know [Azaria's] bag of tricks, he's always got a new thing he does to surprise me." Throughout the run of "The Simpsons", Azaria has had to sing in character several times, a task which he describes as easier than singing normally. Azaria's work on the show has won him several awards, including three Emmys for "Outstanding Voice-Over Performance". Azaria, with the rest of the principal cast, reprised all of his voice roles from "The Simpsons", for the 2007 film "The Simpsons Movie". [cite news|url=http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117940840.html?categoryid=14&cs=1|title=Homer going to bat in '07|accessdate=2007-08-16|date=2006-04-02|author=Michael Fleming|work=Variety]

Up until 1998, Azaria was paid $30,000 per episode. Azaria and the five other main "The Simpsons" voice actors were then involved in a pay dispute in which Fox threatened to replace them with new actors and went as far as preparing for casting of new voices. However, the issue was soon resolved and from 1998 to 2004, they received $125,000 per episode. In 2004, the voice actors intentionally skipped several table reads, demanding they be paid $360,000 per episode. [cite news|url=http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/04/02/1080544690429.html|title=Simpsons actors demand bigger share|accessdate=2008-02-09|date=2004-04-03|author=Dan Glaister|work=The Age] The strike was resolved a month later, [cite news|url=http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/05/01/entertainment/main615066.shtml|title='Simpsons' Cast Goes Back To Work|accessdate=2008-02-09|date=2004-05-01|work=CBS News] with Azaria's pay increasing to something between $250,000 [cite news|title=Meet the Simpsons|date=2004-05-06|accessdate=2008-02-09|work=Daily Express|author=Peter Sheridan] and $360,000 per episode.cite news | author = Michael Schneider | title = Still no deal for 'Simpsons' cast | work = Variety | date = 2008-05-19 | url = http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117986121.html?categoryId=14&cs=1 | accessdate=2008-05-20] In 2008, production for the twentieth season was put on hold due to new contract negotiations with the voice actors, who wanted a "healthy bump" in salary to an amount close to $500,000 per episode. The dispute was later resolved and Azaria and the rest of the cast received their requested pay rise. [cite news | author = WENN | title = 'The Simpsons' Cast Settles Pay Dispute | work = Hollywood.com | date = 2008-05-20 | url = http://www.hollywood.com/news/The_Simpsons_Cast_Settles_Pay_Dispute/5239887 | accessdate=2008-05-31]

Once "The Simpsons" was "going steadily" and Azaria had enough money to live on, he stopped working on commercials as he found them "so demoralizing" and he always sounded sarcastic whenever he read for them. When recording the part of "Jell-O Man" for a Jell-O advert, he was told to make the voice he offered "more likeable and friendly so that children like him." After pointing out that "Jell-O Man" was a fictional character, he left and never recorded for an advert again.

Further career

After the continuing success of "The Simpsons", Azaria began taking other roles, such as an appearance in the 1990 film "Pretty Woman". From then he became a regular on the show "Herman's Head" playing Jay Nichols, alongside "The Simpsons" co-star Yeardley Smith. [cite web|url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/guide/articles/h/hermanshead_1299001449.shtml|title=Herman's Head|accessdate=2007-08-16|author=Mark Lewisohn|work=BBC] He regularly recorded for "The Simpsons" and filmed "Herman's Head" during the same day. He won praise as television producer Albert Freedman in the 1994 Academy Award nominated film "Quiz Show", and in the same year, he made his first appearance on "Friends", playing the recurring character David, one of Phoebe Buffay's boyfriends. His first appearance was in the show's tenth episode, before the character left for Minsk. He came back in the show's seventh season, before making several appearances in the ninth, which culminated in him proposing to Phoebe. She rejected him, and David left the show for good. From 1996, he also had a recurring role in "Mad About You" as Nat, the dog walker. Azaria earned an Emmy nomination for both roles. He continued his voice-over work as Venom/Eddie Brock in "" for four years, [cite web|url=http://marvel.toonzone.net/spideytas/bios/villains/venom/|title=Venom|accessdate=2007-08-16|work=Marvel Animation Age] and in the animated feature "Anastasia" as Bartok the bat, reprising the role in the direct-to-video sequel "Bartok the Magnificent".

In 1996, Azaria took on the role of gay Guatemalan housekeeper Agador Spartacus in the film "The Birdcage". He was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award, and critically branded "the most hilarious performance in the film." [cite news|url=http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Calendar/Film?Film=oid%3a138262|title=The Birdcage |accessdate=2007-12-31|author=Alison Macor|date=1996-03-08|work=The Austin Chronicle] For the role he put on a Guatemalan accent, and made himself sound as effeminate as possible. He had chosen two possible voices, a "fruity" one and a tougher voice. After advice from a drag queen, he chose the fruity voice. Three weeks into production, he realized he sounded exactly like his grandmother, which aided his performance. Azaria appeared in several films, often as minor characters. After appearing in "Heat" and "Grosse Pointe Blank", he was featured in the 1998 film "Godzilla" as photographer Victor "Animal" Palotti. He went on to appear opposite Gwyneth Paltrow, as Walter Plane in the 1998 adaptation of "Great Expectations", and co-starred in Tim Robbins' "Cradle Will Rock".cite web|url=http://www.thesimpsons.com/bios/bios_actors_azaria.htm|title=Hank Azaria|accessdate=2007-08-16|work=The Simpsons.com] He also starred in both Disney's "Mystery, Alaska", and Universal Pictures's "Mystery Men", in 1999, and appeared as Professor Groteschele in "Fail Safe", a show that was broadcast live. After appearances in the films "America's Sweethearts", "Along Came Polly", and "". For his role of Claude in "Along Came Polly", Azaria donned a wig and worked out "for seven or eight weeks," to get into the physical shape the part required. [cite web|url=http://movies.about.com/cs/alongcamepolly/a/pollyha011004.htm|title=Interview with "Along Came Polly" Co-Stars, Hank Azaria and Debra Messing|accessdate=2007-08-16|author=Rebecca Murray|work=About.com] He appeared as a smooth-talking American named Whit in David Schwimmer's directorial debut "Run, Fat Boy, Run". During production he became good friends with co-star Simon Pegg, performing "The Simpsons" voices on request, frequently distracting Pegg when he was supposed to be filming. [cite web|url=http://www.indielondon.co.uk/Film-Review/run-fat-boy-run-simon-pegg-interview|title=Run, Fat Boy, Run - Simon Pegg interview|accessdate=2007-09-11|work=IndieLondon]

Azaria became better known for his performance as Mitch Albom alongside Jack Lemmon in the 1999 television film "Tuesdays With Morrie",cite news|author=Ivor Davis|title=Hank Azaria Spends "Tuesdays With Morrie"|work=The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles|date=1999-12-03|url=http://www.jewishjournal.com/home/searchview.php?id=3897|accessdate=2006-12-13] winning an Emmy for the role. [cite news|url=http://edition.cnn.com/2000/SHOWBIZ/TV/09/10/emmys.04/|title='West Wing' sets Emmy record|accessdate=2007-08-16|date=2000-09-11|work=CNN] Azaria described it as the "best work [he has] done." It was one of the first dramatic roles Azaria had taken, as for much of his career he has been primarily associated with comedy. His next dramatic role was in the television film "Uprising" playing Mordechaj Anielewicz. Azaria was confused at his casting and frequently asked the producer and director Jon Avnet as to why he was selected. "I know [Avnet] liked the fact I was Jewish, and he knew I could do accents well. He cast me and David Schwimmer in ["Uprising"] , and we were both sort of mystified. He had some instinct that he wanted people who were more known for being funny. He never explained it satisfactorily to me; I don't understand why." His parts in "Tuesdays With Morrie" and "Uprising" affected him, sending him to a depressive state which he countered with "Monty Python" DVDs.

Azaria starred as psychiatrist Craig "Huff" Huffstodt in the television series "Huff", on which he also served as a producer. Azaria loved the role, and was pleased how "Huff" turned out, and by the second season began "to extend [the] character emotionally," and "he really is beginning to unravel." After reading the pilot script he sent it to best friend Oliver Platt, who took the role of Huff's best friend Russell Tupper. The show ran for two seasons from 2004-2006, garnering seven Emmy nominations in 2005 including a nomination for Azaria for "Best Actor in a Drama Series". Despite the awards, the show continually received low ratings and Showtime chose not to commission it for a third season. [cite news|url=http://www.zap2it.com/tv/news/zap-huffcancellation,0,3078116.story?coll=zap-news-headlines|title=Showtime Stops 'Huff'-ing|accessdate=2007-08-15|date=2006-06-23|work=Zap2it] Azaria directed an episode of the show's second season, and expressed his wish to move into directing in the latter half of his career.cite news|url=http://www.theatermania.com/content/news.cfm/story/7960|title=Playing Huff|accessdate=2007-08-15|date=2006-03-31|author=Brian Scott Lipton|work=Theater Mania]

He wrote and directed the 2004 short film "Nobody's Perfect", which won the "Film Discovery Jury Award for Best Short" at the US Comedy Arts Festival.cite web|url=http://www.tribute.ca/people/Hank+Azaria/1359/13035|title=Hank Azaria bio: The Simpsons Movie Actor|accessdate=2007-08-16|work=Tribute] In January 2007, he was confirmed to be directing "Outsourced", [cite news|url=http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/national_treasure/news/1648055/|title=The Weekly Ketchup: "Indiana Jones" Is Back, "National Treasure 2" Gets A Name, "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" To TV, And More!|accessdate=2007-08-29|date=2007-01-25|work=Rotten Tomatoes|author=Nick Hershey] a film about two American workers who journey to get their jobs back, after their factory is moved to Mexico. [cite news|url=http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/film/news/e3i067b281b3efa8f0d4198dfceaa870aab|title=Azaria's job 'Outsourced' for Col|accessdate=2007-08-29|date=2007-01-03|author=Tatiana Siegel and Borys Kit|work=The Hollywood Reporter]

Azaria has also appeared in several theater productions. In 2003 he appeared in London's West End as Bernard in "Sexual Perversity in Chicago", along with Matthew Perry and Minnie Driver. In 2004, Azaria began appearing as Sir Lancelot, the French Taunter, and other characters in "Spamalot" the musical version of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail", which opened in Chicago in December 2004 before moving to Broadway. The show was met with critical acclaim, receiving fourteen Tony Award nominations, including a "Best Actor in a Musical" nomination for Azaria.cite web|url=http://www.sho.com/site/huff/cast.do?castid=hank|title=Behind the Scenes: Cast Bios - Hank Azaria|accessdate=2007-08-16|work=Showtime] Azaria described it as "the most fun that I've ever had in my entire life."cite web|url=http://www.broadwayworld.com/viewcolumn.cfm?colid=3212|title=2005 Tony Awards Q&A: Hank Azaria|accessdate=2007-08-15|date=2005-05-27|author=Robert Diamond|work=Broadway World] Reuniting with "The Birdcage" director Mike Nichols and being a huge "Monty Python" fan, he saw it as an opportunity he could not pass up. He took a break from the show in June 2005, with Alan Tudyk filling in for him, [cite news|url=http://www.usatoday.com/life/theater/news/2005-05-23-alan-tudyk-spamalot_x.htm|title=Alan Tudyk replaces Hank Azaria in 'Spamalot'|accessdate=2007-08-29|date=2005-05-23|work=USA Today|author=Miranda Shen] to work on "Huff", but returned in December 2005. Continuing his theater roles, in late 2007 he starred in Aaron Sorkin's "The Farnsworth Invention", playing RCA head David Sarnoff. [cite news|url=http://www.playbill.com/news/article/109819.html|title=Azaria and Simpson to Star in Sorkin's Farnsworth Invention on Broadway|accessdate=2007-08-29|date=2007-07-25|work=Playbill|author=Andrew Gans]

Personal life

In the early 1990s, Azaria was engaged to actress Julie Warner. In 1994, Azaria began a relationship with actress Helen Hunt, and married her in a traditional Jewish ceremony at the couple's home in Southern California on July 17, 1999.cite news|url=http://www.people.com/people/article/0,26334,618774,00.html|title=Hunt Files for Divorce|accessdate=2007-08-16|date=1998-06-17 |author=Stephen M. Silverman|work=People] Azaria had appeared in "Mad About You" with Hunt, as well the "Simpsons" episode "Dumbbell Indemnity" when Hunt played Moe's girlfriend Renée. After a year of marriage, Azaria moved out of their home and began staying in a Bel-Air hotel. [cite news|url=http://www.hollywood.com/news/Hunt_Azaria_on_the_Rocks/312759|title=Hunt, Azaria on the Rocks|accessdate=2007-08-16|author=Don Chareunsy|date=2000-08-04|work=Hollywood.com] After being separated for six months, citing "irreconcilable differences" Hunt filed for divorce, which went through on December 18, 2000. [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/1080344.stm|title=Hunt files for divorce|accessdate=2007-08-16|date=2000-12-20|work=BBC News] Azaria remains best friends with Oliver Platt and is godfather to Platt's son George. Politically Azaria supports the Democratic Party, [cite web|url=http://www.newsmeat.com/celebrity_political_donations/Hank_Azaria.php|title=Hank Azaria|accessdate=2007-10-27|publisher=News Meat] enjoys the music of Elvis Costello, and would be a therapist if he were not an actor. [cite news|url=http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/article/283297|title=Getting personal with Hank Azaria|accessdate=2007-12-31|date=2007-12-08|work=The Star|author=Richard Ouzounian] He considers "The Godfather trilogy" to be what inspired him to become an actor, and counts Peter Sellers and Walt Frazier as his heroes. [cite news|title=4 Questions for Hank Azaria: Please, don't send me back to psych school|accessdate=2008-02-23|date=2002-01-13|work=New York Post|page=100]



Video games

*"The Simpsons Cartoon Studio" (1996) - Various characters
*"Virtual Springfield" (1997) - Various characters
*"The Simpsons Wrestling" (2001) - Various characters
*"The Simpsons Road Rage" (2001) - Various characters
*"The Simpsons Skateboarding" (2002) - Various characters
*"The Simpsons Hit & Run" (2003) - Various characters
*"The Simpsons Game" (2007) - Various characters


*"Sexual Perversity in Chicago" (2003) - Bernard
*"Spamalot" (2004-2005) - Sir Lancelot, the French Taunter, and other characters
*"The Farnsworth Invention" (2007) - David Sarnoff


External links

*imdb name|0000279
*ibdb name|384263
*amg name|2:3056
*voice actor|id=1039

NAME=Azaria, Hank
DATE OF BIRTH=April 25, 1964
PLACE OF BIRTH=New York, United States

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