|Helen Hunt||(17 July 1999 - 18 December 2000) (divorced)|
Engaged to Helen Hunt in 1997.
Was trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York.
Was a bartender in New York at the Arcadia.
Attended Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, from 1981-1985, but did not receive his B.A. until he completed two courses in L.A. in 1987. Tufts awarded him its Light on the Hill Award in 1999.
A favorite of playwright Jenelle Riley; characters in her shows are frequently hybrids of his name with his "The Simpsons" (1989) characters (e.g. Hank Wiggum). The lead character in her award-winning film The Perfect Candidate (2004) is named Frank Grimes, after "Homer's Enemy".
Both sets of his grandparents came from Salonika in northern Greece.
His family is of Sephardic Jewish background.
He based his character in The Birdcage (1996) (a flamboyantly, almost over-exaggeratedly feminine homosexual house servant) on his grandmother, in particular his character's speech.
Spent over $300,000 of his own money to make his short film Nobody's Perfect (2004).
Based the voice of Comic Book Guy (in "The Simpsons" (1989)) on his college roommate.
He and his ex-wife Helen Hunt have both guest-starred on the TV show "Friends" (1994), though not in the same episode. Paget Brewster, who plays his wife on "Huff" (2004), also had a recurring role on "Friends" (1994).
He is close friends with actor Matthew Perry.
Had a son, Hal Azaria, on June 6, 2009 with girlfriend Katie Wright.
Was a camper at the real life Camp Towanga, where the movie Wet Hot American Summer (2001) was filmed.
Paid exactly $10 million to purchase a seven-bedroom, ten-bath, 8434-square-foot house in Los Angeles' Bel-Air area. He also owns a 1108-square-foot house in the Hollywood Dell area of Los Angeles' Hollywood Hills; and a 3320-square-foot house in Beverly Hills. 
He has estimated that he has done 'literally 100, 150 different characters' voices on The Simpsons (1989) (TV).
Good friends with Ben Stiller and Woody Harrelson.
Just watching Jack Lemmon made me want to get into this business.
Godzilla's a monster for the 90s. He's been working out.
(2011, on Godzilla) That was... Ultimately, you'd have to call it a tough experience. I remember I was with Helen Hunt at the time-we were together-and that movie was a big break for me as well. It was a big part in a big, big action film. I remember right before I went to shoot, Roland Emmerich met with me and said, "So, listen, I've decided all the exteriors are going to be in the rain. I think the creature's going to look much more excellent in the rain, so this is what we're going to do." I'm, like, "Okay, man!" I get home and tell Helen, and... It's going to be a five-month shoot, and I say, "Every exterior's going to be in the rain," and she said, "Oh, my God, you're kidding me. That's terrible!" And I had not worked enough... I don't think I'd ever shot in movie rain before, and I didn't know what that meant. And I learned very quickly that that was absolutely a disaster. I mean, you get soaked, and... I remember in particular that there was a stretch of three and a half weeks of night shooting in L.A., all in the rain. By 4 a.m., you're just permanently shivering. There's no getting around it. And talking about acting, the only usable takes were the ones that your teeth weren't actively chattering in. It was one of those things where you just kept telling yourself, "Look, I'm going to get through this, because it's going to be a huge film!" Again, like Mystery Men, it was still early enough in the days of CGI where it wasn't as seamless with what you were doing with these creatures that weren't there. Now it's much more actor-friendly, how you act like that, but back then, they were still sort of figuring it out, and it was hard and not very rewarding. But again, we all kept telling ourselves, "Well, it's all going to be worth it when the movie makes a gajillion dollars." I know it was perceived as a tremendous flop, so it was a tough experience. Tough to make, and very disappointing when it came out. It was one you definitely chalk up and say, "That was part of paying your dues, better luck next time."
(2011, on Herman's Head) I was very excited to get that when I got it. It was... fun. It was one of Witt-Thomas' last real big shows. [Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas] had an amazing run of really funny sitcoms in the '70s and '80s-Soap, The Golden Girls, Empty Nest, blah blah blah-and I was really psyched. I learned a lot. You know, there's nothing that replaces when, every week, you have to get out there and make shtick work, basically. I never really stayed with the stand-up thing. I think a lot of comedians find those kinds of chops out on the road and spend years doing stand-up and working audiences. The Simpsons meant a lot for me as far as learning to create characters, but there's no audience when we record The Simpsons, so it's a different thing. So to just get out there and make jokes work week after week after week... That's what I remember most about that show. Especially the times when the jokes were, y'know, maybe not that great, and you really have to make a purse out of a sow's ear, if you will. That becomes a skill that's even more valuable than making good material work, in some ways. For a comedian, anyway. Like they say, there's no unfunny material, only unfunny actors, which isn't quite true. I made really good friends doing that, but the truth is... I didn't really love that show...And the people who still come up to me and say, "Oh, Herman's Head, I used to love that show," it's... It's always an awkward moment when people come up to you and they like something you did that you don't like, 'cause you kind of want to go, "Well, then, you must be kind of an idiot." But you don't say that, of course. You say, "I'm glad you enjoyed it." But I was sort of happy when that show ended. I was kind of tired of doing that.
(2011, on Tuesdays With Morrie) Working with Jack Lemmon was a tremendous learning experience. I asked him a lot about acting. It was actually very moving when I realized halfway through shooting that... Jack actually was quite ill when he shot that, so I think that's why the material spoke to him so much.
(2011, on Cool Blue) That was the very first film I ever did. I mean, Pretty Woman was the first film I had any lines in, and Quiz Show was the first kind of big film I did, but Cool Blue... I can't remember which came first, Pretty Woman or Cool Blue. But it was certainly the first big part I had in a film. I learned a lot. I became good friends with Woody Harrelson, and Richard Shepard and Mark Mullin and I got really close, the guys who wrote and directed that. I made a lot of friends doing that, and I was absolutely terrified. I had no idea what I was doing. I remember one night, we hung out with Sean Penn, which to me was like... I mean, I still hold him in the status of, like, Marlon Brando or whoever, but to be 23 years old and grow up pretty much idolizing Sean Penn, and then to get to hang out with him one night? I think I remember that more than anything we did while actually shooting the movie. He was as cool as you would imagine he'd be...I can tell you this story, which I've told a bunch of other places, but I kind of cut my teeth on that movie. As an actor, I look back and see a lot of mistakes and bad acting that I do here and there, but one time I was watching TV late-this was about 15 years ago-and it came on in the middle of the night. My girlfriend's asleep on my shoulder, and I'm watching it, and I'm kind of glad she's asleep, because I kind of wanted to check it out, 'cause I didn't feel like I was very good in it. And I'm watching it, and I'm, like, "You know, this isn't as bad as I thought. I mean, I'm doing okay." Sure, I found some moments that, if I could do 'em over again, I would. This is on a regular channel, with commercials and everything, and they even had an announcer. And he said [Announcer voice.] "We now return you to Cool Blue, starring Woody Harrelson... and Hand Azaria." Pronounced my name "Hand." I couldn't believe it. I woke my girlfriend up, I'm like, "Did you hear that? I just got called 'Hand Azaria'!" How do you make that mistake? He must be reading it off a card, but what, he's like, "Well, this is either 'Hank' or Hand,' and what with 'Hand' being the more common name..." [Laughs.] I have no idea how he made that mistake. But some of my friends to this day will refer to me as Hand Azaria.
(2011, on Mystery Men) That movie... I look at it now very, very fondly. I actually just saw a little bit of it a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed it. It was one of those that was very, very difficult to make and should've been much more fun than it was. It was logistically a very hard movie to shoot, with all the effects, and it was kind of the early days of CGI things, and people didn't know so well how to marry that kind of technical filmmaking with comedy. It was tough. It was really like trying to be funny in the middle of a math equation or something. And as a result, it made things... Very long hours, very stressful and tough on the set. I think we all felt-"we" being the actors: me and Ben, Bill [Macy], Janeane [Garofalo], and others-very out there, if you will. It was kind of a big swing, or a high-wire act, and it would've been hard enough just to do a little comedy with that subject matter, but given that it was a big, expensive CGI festival, it was highly pressurized. It was tough to all agree, between the producer, the director, and Ben, Bill, and myself, especially, and then all the others actors, too. I mean, when you've got that many comic minds-Janeane, Paul Reubens-not to mention Geoffrey Rush and Lena Olin, it was tough for everybody to agree on the vision. And it was a first-time director, a guy named Kinka Usher, who was a brilliant visual guy and does a lot of commercials, but was not an old salt, and he had to be a daddy on the set to a bunch of ego-y actors running around, wanting their funniest bits in. So it was... There were some hilarious moments where, y'know, there we are, dressed as these ridiculous superhero characters, having very heated arguments about what we should be doing or saying, and we'd take two steps back and go, "What are we doing? I have a turban on, I'm throwing a fork, and I'm yelling about what I think would be the funnier way to throw it at somebody." It was just ridiculous. But it was a long, technical, difficult shoot, and I think it could've come out better if we'd all found a way to have more fun with it.
(2011, on Huff) It was a very difficult show to make. As rough and hard to look at as the subject matter was, the doing of that show was equally difficult. It was very logistically challenging. There were a lot of disagreements about what the show should be, and Bob Lowry-who wrote the show, who is brilliant-it was tough to marry our visions all the time, and we both cared so much about it that neither of us were willing to let go. So it was one of those difficult situations where... I think it came out great, but that was the grain of sand, if you will, that created the pearl. And it was also because the subject matter was so rough. It was kind of hard to do that all day long. It's a lot more fun to do a comedy all day long. But I got to work with my very close friend Oliver Platt, who was one of the reasons I wanted to be an actor. When I went to Tufts, we did a lot of productions together, and he was equally great back then as he is right now. I found his performances back then inspiring. They inspired me to want to keep going as an actor...Working on that show, I just remember... Especially the first year was the hardest, most emotional job I had, both due to acting the subject matter and agreeing on what we were going to put out there. It was dark.
(2011, on Heat and working with Al Pacino) There's a scene where Al Pacino's interrogating me, and... I shot that on the night of my 30th birthday. And it happened to also be Al's birthday. We have the same birthday: April 25. It just so happened, however, that I was shooting The Birdcage at the same time, and my first day on The Birdcage was the following morning. So I had to go straight from the Heat set, where I shot 'til 6 in the morning, over to the Birdcage set, where I shot the whole rest of the day. That was my 30th birthday. And Mike Nichols found that out and took pity on me. He said, "It's your birthday?" I said, "Yeah." He said, "What are you going to do?" I said, "Well, I've been shooting for 18 hours straight so far." And he's, like, "Oh, God, go home. We'll do something else." Which was very sweet. Although I kind of felt robbed, too, because I kind of wanted to say that I shot for 24 hours straight...Pacino was awesome. Michael Mann does like to shoot a lot of takes-if you're going to shoot it once, you're going to shoot it about 25 times-and Al really likes to play around. But I was so young and naive then that I was silly enough to ask Michael Mann if, when Al was improvising, I could sort of improvise back and start riffing. And Michael Mann thought about it for a minute, then said, "Nah, just say what's on the page." I mean, now, of course, as a more experienced actor, I would just not ask. It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission, you know? I'd just start riffing right back at Al. But I asked Michael and he said no, so I'd be doing the same exact thing on every take while Al was improvising all these brilliant things. It probably frustrated Al, looking back on it. It was probably annoying to him. But one thing that did make it into the movie that was extemporaneous was... I don't know if you remember, but I say something like, "I don't know why I got mixed up with this stupid broad," and he says [Does a loud, spot-on Pacino impression.] "'Cause she's got a great ass!" He just screams it. And that was the line, but Al kind of yelled it for the first time, and he did it so completely out of nowhere that it scared me. So much so that I just went, "Jesus!" Not in character, just as Hank. I got frightened, and I went, "Jesus!" And then Al improvised [As Pacino.] "I'm sorry. Something happens to me when I think about a woman's ass." Or whatever it is that he said. And that actually made it into the movie! Michael Mann told me not to improvise, and the one line that I said that wasn't scripted made it in there because... I don't know, I guess because it was a good moment. Because I was scared of Al.
(2011, on The Birdcage) That was very fun for me to do. And also terrifying. It was my first big role in a film, and it was kind of an out-there role to be my first big one. It was really a fluke, the way I got that. It was originally written just to be a one-scene part. That first scene where I'm dressing Nathan Lane, getting him all dressed up? The maid/houseman was supposed to be a whole other character, who was supposed to be a black character like it is in the French version, and... I think he was going to be played by David Alan Grier. And they thought David was brilliant, but they thought that in an American context, the idea of a black houseman would be somewhat distasteful and have racist overtones. So since it's set in Miami, they decided to make it a Latin character. And I was already playing the other character. So I think it was Robin Williams' idea: "Why not just combine the two roles and just let Azaria do it?" Which turned into what you could call my big break, I suppose.
(2011, on Friends) Matthew Perry was the first friend I made in Hollywood. We met when he was 17 and I was 22. We booked our first pilot together: a show called Morning Maggie, with Ellen Greene, that never saw the light of day. So I was very happy to be working with him in the middle of his huge success. That was as fun a set to be on as you might imagine, but especially back in that first year, where it was literally like being in the middle of Beatlemania. It was really fun to be in the middle of that and enjoy it while it was the phenomenon that it was. Herman's Head had just gotten canceled when Friends was first starting up, and when I read that script, I was like, "Oh my God..." At the time, when it was a pilot, it was called Friends Like Us, and just about everybody who read it knew it was going to be special. I mean, they didn't know it was going to be as huge as it would become, but they knew it was a really funny script that they wanted to be in. And I went and auditioned for Joey and got rejected, but-and this was the first and only time I've done this-I asked to go back in. I said, "I know you said 'no' to me once, but I just want to try it again, because I like that show that much." And I went back in... And I got another very quick "no." Almost as quick as the first time. And you know, it's tough coming off a series that's just gotten canceled to be hired right back on another series, especially when they had their choice of every actor in town. But then I did the movie Quiz Show, which came out around that time, and I think my stock went up a bit. And as a result, they offered me the role of David, which is one of those examples of how in Hollywood, you're only as good as your last thing. When you're on a series that's been canceled, there's a little bit of a stink on you. When you do well in a movie that's seen as really great, you're revitalized for six weeks.
(2011, on getting into acting) I was a huge fan of comedy and movies and TV growing up, and I was able to memorize and mimic a lot of things, not realizing that that meant I probably wanted to be an actor. I just really, really amused myself and my friends with memorizing entire George Carlin or Steve Martin albums, or mimicking whatever we saw on Happy Days the night before, or whatever, not realizing that kind of obsessive ability to mimic things meant that I probably had an affinity for acting. It probably wasn't until I was 16 and did a play at school. I was a rather good student... And then I did a play when I was 16 and completely lost all my concentration for academics. I didn't realize it. I just kind of became obsessed with acting, and then by the time I graduated... I did a lot of theater in college, and I knew that not many people make it, but I just figured, "Well, I really want to try acting while I'm young, and I don't ever want to look back and say that I never gave it a try." I fully figured I'd be back in grad school-probably for psychology-by, say, the time I was 28. But then I tried it and got jobs like Family Ties and Growing Pains. And that gave me enough encouragement to keep going.
|"The Simpsons" (1989)||$100,000 per episode (2002 season)|
(July 2004) Has been selected to play Sir Lancelot in the Broadway production of "Spamalot", the musical version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), scheduled to open on Broadway in February, 2005.
(February 2005) Is playing a gay version of Sir Lancelot in the Broadway production of "Spamalot", the musical version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), which opened on Broadway in January, 2005.
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