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SUPERDOUGAL; Father Ted's Ardal lands pounds m comedy hero role.

FATHER Ted star Ardal O'Hanlon has signed a pounds 500,000 deal to play a comic strip action hero in a new BBC sitcom.

The Irish comedian, who played Father Ted's dimwitted sidekick Dougal, was offered the starring role in My Hero when former Neighbours star Craig McLachlan was dropped after filming just one episode.

The Aussie hunk was not funny enough for the role of a Superman-type hero who gives up saving the world to run a health food store in south London.

Now O'Hanlon, 33, is set for a triumphant return to TV comedy since Father Ted ending its award-winning run last year following the death of main star Dermot Morgan.

An insider revealed: "Craig's a good actor but he wasn't quite right for My Hero.

"He was chosen because he's a muscular guy with a body like Superman. But somehow after we'd filmed the pilot with Craig it wasn't that funny."

A source close to O'Hanlon said : "The BBC has approached Ardal about My Hero and it's exactly the type of comedy role he'll be brilliant at.

"A lot of people want him to be in their sitcom because of the success of Father Ted.

"But he's been very careful not to jump at the first thing he was offered."

Off-screen O'Hanlon couldn't be more different from dummy Dougal.

He has written a novel, hosted a series on stand-up comedians and is also a serious actor.

He is currently filming a ITV drama called Easy Listening in which he plays a thirtysomething journalist worried about being left on the shelf.

O'Hanlon is also a controversial character. He shocked BBC bosses last month by launching a stinging attack on hit drama Ballykissangel. He said it portrayed an unrealistic "chocolate box lid version of Ireland".

He said: "As an Irish person I would be far more offended by the depiction of Ireland in Ballykissangel than in Father Ted.

"It's clearly ridiculous, this softy focus, traditional representation."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 19, 1999
Words:327
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