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DOH! I GAVE HOMER A LARBERT ACCENT; Simpsons slob pinched his famous catchphrase from 1920s Laurel and Hardy villain Scot coined classic line.

DOH! Homer Simpson's catchphrase is instantly recognised across the world.

But millions of fans of the cult cartoon series don't realise that, far from being a 90s' phenomenon, Homer owes his classic line to a Scots actor from the 20s.

Dan Castellaneta, the man behind the voice of the TV superslob, has revealed that his inspiration came from James Finlayson, best known as the bald, cross-eyed villain in many Laurel and Hardy classics.

Dan admits: "Doh worked for him - and it sure worked for Homer."

Castellaneta, probably one of the world's biggest 'unknown' superstars, is bringing The Simpsons to this year's Edinburgh Festival.

Along with fellow cast members Yeardley Smith (the voice of Lisa), Nancy Cartwright (Bart) and Hank Azaria (bartender Moe) and Simpsons' creator Matt Groening, he'll perform classic scripts at the Assembly Rooms on August 14.

And no doubt he'll spare a thought for Finlayson, the man who paved the way for Scots in Tinseltown.

Although best known for his work with Stan and Ollie, Finlayson appeared in almost 150 movies during his career.

Born in Edinburgh in 1877 and raised in Larbert, Stirlingshire, 'Fin', as he was known, caught the acting bug as a student at Falkirk College and turned his back on the family brass-founding business to head for Hollywood.

It was there he met Stan Laurel - originally from Ulverston, Cumbria, but who had been brought up in Glasgow after his father landed a theatre manager's job in the city.

Stan decided on a showbiz career after his dad caught him playing hookey and roped him into helping out backstage. Then, like Fin, he decided to try his luck in the States.

The two met when Stan, the brains behind the huge success of Laurel and Hardy, worked as a scriptwriter for Fin.

And when Stan hit the big-time with screen partner Ollie, he remembered his old pal and Fin was cast as the villain ... always on the receiving end when things went wrong and ready to exclaim "Doh!"

As the first great Scots film star, Finlayson has already staked his claim in Hollywood history but with Castellaneta's - or rather Homer's - help, the big man's legend now extends to television.

For Dan and the rest of the cast of The Simpsons, real life is often far more bizarre than reel-life. For over a decade, each has been the star of the most successful sitcom in history, regularly watched by more than 60 million people worldwide.

Yet it's doubtful if any of them could command a decent table in a Los Angeles restaurant, because no one recognises them. People know only their voices.

Hank Azaria is the voice of 40 characters in The Simpsons, but he is virtually unknown. It is only when he is on the arm of his wife, Oscar-winner Helen Hunt, that he gets a taste of what fame is all about - and that suits Hank just fine.

Dan, also the voice behind Krusty, Grampa, Barney and Mayor Quimby, agrees. He said: "We can stay anonymous."

Ironically, it was the cast's anonymity which almost cost them their jobs.

In 1998, they threatened a strike unless their pay demands were met. Unlike the casts of other sitcoms, they had not been lavished with gifts and huge pay-packets.

The cast of hit comedy Mad About You, which stars Azaria's wife Helen Hunt, were each given a gleaming Porsche Boxster as a thank-you from their producers.

The cast of Friends received a Range Rover each and their pay cheques now read like telephone numbers.

But when The Simpsons' cast demanded pounds 65,000 each, the Fox hierarchy noted that, without recognisable faces, they could be replaced. One executive allegedly said the voices could be mimicked by high school kids.

Only one member of the cast didn't return after the pay negotiations.

Simpsons' next-door neighbour Maude Flanders was killed off when Fox refused the pay demands of actress Maggie Roswell.

But the stars' anonymity will vanish when Edinburgh audiences get a glimpse of the people behind the yellow family. It's only their second live performance, their first being at the Aspen Comedy Festival in Colorado earlier this year. It was a huge success, encouraging them to bring the show to Edinburgh.

The live show was a vast change from the usual routine in California, where they are part of a slick production line, churning out award-winning comedy week after week.

In the years since the first episode was aired - on December 17, 1989 - The Simpsons has spawned merchandising worth over $1billion.

Time magazine even dubbed the show the most successful comedy of all time.Stars, including Madonna, Paul McCartney and Elizabeth Taylor, have appeared in roles and this year The Simpsons will even get their own 'star' on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.

Every Monday, the cast sits around a huge desk in the basement of the Darryl Zanuck theatre on the Fox lot in LA.

Surrounded by writers, series creator Groening and the occasional guest star, the cast run through the script and the writers throw in ad-libs and sight gags until the script is tight and laden with laughs.

Each 28-minute show takes six months from concept to airing and includes a score from a 38-piece orchestra. Artists in California and South Korea painstakingly create 25,000 cell frames for each new episode.

Groening based the show on his family but says the look has softened since they first appeared as a segment on The Tracy Ullman Show in the States.

The shapes are more rounded than the original style and the voices have changed too.

Castellaneta first modelled Homer on the late actor Walter Matthau. But, by the second series, he gave him more emotional range.

Little else has changed and, thanks to the cartoon-format, wild child Bart will stay 10 years old forever.

NAME: Dan Castellaneta. AGE: 42

VOICE OF: Homer, Krusty, Grampa, Barney Gumble, Itchy and many others.

PERSONAL LIFE: A teetotal vegetarian, Dan studied to be an art teacher before switching to comedy and going on to become one of the world's biggest 'unknown' superstars.

PREVIOUS ROLES: The Client, with Susan Sarandon, and the narrator in Super Mario Brothers.

HE SAYS: "Homer's a dumb ox - but he loves his family very much.

"Doh worked for James Finlayson and it sure worked for Homer."

NAME: Nancy Cartwright. AGE: 40

VOICE OF: Bart Simpson, Todd Flanders and Nelson Munce.

PERSONAL LIFE: Nancy is mother to two children, aged eight and 10, and pockets $50,000 a week playing Bart.

PREVIOUS ROLES: On the large screen, she appeared in the film Godzilla. She has made numerous guest appearances on TV shows such as Cheers and The Kids From Fame.

SHE SAYS: "On-screen work is a whole new ball game for me

"But I need to do it so that people know I'm more than just a voice."

NAME: Hank Azaria. AGE: 36

VOICE OF: Bar owner Moe, Apu the convenience store owner, police chief Wiggum and many others.

PERSONAL LIFE: Married to Helen Hunt, star of American sit-com Mad About You, who won a Best Actress Oscar for her role in As Good As It Gets.

PREVIOUS ROLES: Hank's film credits include Pretty Woman, Quiz Show, Celebrity, Grosse Pointe Blank and The Birdcage with Robin Williams.

HE SAYS: "The Simpsons is a dream job. Not only do I get to do voices, I get to act voices."

NAME: Yeardley Smith. AGE: 36

VOICE OF: Lisa Simpson

PERSONAL LIFE: Very shy, known for her love of fine art.

PREVIOUS ROLES: Yeardley has starred alongside some of Hollywood's biggest names, including Arnold Schwarzenegger in Jingle All The Way, Billy Crystal in City Slickers, and Helen Hunt in The Legend of Billie Jean and the Oscar-winning As Good As It Gets.

SHE SAYS: "I don't get any great catchphrases.

"Bart gets 'Eat my shorts!', Homer gets 'Doh!' What do I get? Nothing."
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Wilson, Colin
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 6, 2000
Words:1313
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