Hank Azaria usually lends his voice to a couple of guys named Moe and Apu on The Simpsons. But now the 43-year-old actor is getting a bit more serious for Chicago 10 (which opens today in select markets). Using animated reenactments and archival footage, the documentary — written and directed by The Kid Stays in the Picture’s Brett Morgen — tells the story of how Yippie founder Abbie Hoffman and several other activists went on trial following violent anti-Vietnam War demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. Azaria voices both poet Allen Ginsberg and Hoffman, who grabbed headlines during the court case with antics like donning a judge’s robe of his own.
The star sat down with EW.com to talk about why he took on the project, what Chicago 10 says about our political climate today, and whether he’ll ever revisit one of the most famous and beloved characters he has played.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How’d you come on board?
HANK AZARIA: Brett contacted me. I loved his Kid Stays in the Picture movie. I think they had been having a hard time getting the voice for Abbie. He heard or knew that I could mimic stuff pretty well and wanted to know if I would take a shot at it, and I was really intrigued. It’s not like they had to spend billions of dollars or even thousands of dollars to get me to do it, so we could always just give it a try and if it didn’t sound too good, you just trash it, you know.
So you’re not wary of taking on films with a political message?
No. I mean, it depends on what they are. This is a true story and a relevant story for today. I met with [Brett] for an hour, hour and a half, he gave me a crash course on the history of the entire topic. I was fascinated.
How’d you prepare for this voice work?
I had to really be meticulous about this because you were hearing the real Abbie and the real Allen Ginsberg throughout the entire film [in archival footage], so you really want them to be seamless and feel like you were hearing those same voices in the animation segment. Whereas if I were playing Abbie or Allen Ginsberg, I might have accepted 88 percent accuracy of my own interpretation. Abbie was such an emotionally out-there character, it’s very difficult as a giggling or screaming freak to capture someone’s exact vocal quality.
You must have been a toddler in 1968.
I was 4.
Do you have any recollections from that year or family stories of what it was like?
No. I don’t really remember much about the ’60s at all. You know, 1970 is the first year I remember pretty well. I remember my sister playing Beatles records mostly. And I remember all of the Watergate stuff really clearly.
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