STYLING BY JENNY RICKER
GROOMING BY ROSIE JANE JOHNSTON
As a comic actor and vocal virtuoso there’s no doubt Hank Azaria has made you laugh. In what he refers to as his “longest relationship” the Queens native has voiced a whole banana‑colored bunch of Groening guises in The Simpsons. So when Sony announced he was their lead baddy in one of this year’s biggest 3D flicks The Love Lab cracked a huge smile. With a set of Emmy and Screen Actors Guild awards and an illustrious film career under his belt, demonstrating his talents once again as an evil balding wizard for The Smurfs was water off a duck’s back.
Based on the original comic strip and the 1980s cartoon TV series,The Smurfs sees an almost unrecognisable Azaria take on the live-action role of devious potion-mixer Gargamel. The film follows a band of the animated miniature do-gooders (voiced by the likes of Jonathan Winters, Katy Perry and Alan Cumming) as they are set upon by Azaria’s nasty Smurf-hunter and chased out of their picturesque village only to wind up in the Big Apple. With a little help from some new human friends (Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays) they must find their way back before the black-caped, bucked-teeth, big-nosed meany, accompanied by a ginger feline sidekick, tracks them down and captures them for his own evil ends.
“He is a man obsessed with little blue people and married to a cat. As a result he’s fairly easily stressed out,” Azaria says of his latest character’s unusual personality. He arrived at Gargamel’s distinctive voice after narrowing it down from two or three different options, resulting in a suitably wicked Eastern-European lilt. Azaria has also said previously how during filming he occasionally reminded himself of his Greek mother chasing after him and his sisters when they were children.
Raised by Sephardic Jewish parents in New York, Azaria grew up admiring the timeless standards of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Mel Blanc, and Willis Reed. And after years in the business, he’s now highly regarded by his own fans and peers – especially in the voice-acting realm. Adding his latest stint as Gargamel to the list, he says his top all-time jobs are as lisping Guatemalan houseboy Agador Spartacus in The Birdcage, his growing stockpile of Simpsons characters and, “a memorable summer behind a cash register at Au Bon Pain.” And the role he feels he bears the closest resemblance to? “Personality-wise… Moe. Look-wise… Moe,” he says affectionately of the Springfield bartender he has been voicing since 1989.
Hank now lives in Los Angeles where he admits the public get to see pretty much everything of his life besides, “my raising of chinchillas.” Soon he might have to find a sitter for those fluffy furballs because his current workload will certainly be keeping him busy. “Happy Feet Two is out in November, 2011. I play a Scandinavian puffin bird. Also, I’m in Free Agents on NBC this fall, which premieres September 14th. It’s really funny, I swear. Amazingly, I also play a Scandinavian puffin bird.”
There’s no doubt Hank Azaria has made you laugh, but what’s been his biggest career giggle? Was it something Apu said? Or maybe one of Moe’s unfortunate prank calls? Nope.
“I once had a wardrobe malfunction and accidentally exposed my nipple to the entire Super Bowl audience,” he says. “Oh no wait, that was Janet Jackson.”