A master of voices on The Simpsons, Dan Castellaneta steps in front of the camera as Cecil B. DeMille in Sands of Oblivion, another of Sci Fi Channel's cheeky horrorfests (premiering Saturday at 9 pm/ET). Castellaneta talked to us about the legendary filmmaker and The Simpsons Movie, which just hit theaters.
TV Guide: How do you prepare to play a larger-than-life figure like Cecil B. DeMille?
Dan Castellaneta: Basically I went onto YouTube and somebody put the 10-minute speech he gave before the film, and I watched that. I remembered him from a part he had in Sunset Blvd. and even one documentary. I didn't see any [other] documentary footage of him so I basically used what I saw from the films I saw or remembered.
TV Guide: Does being "realistic" matter when you're playing someone who people don't really know as a set personality?
Castellaneta: Because he was kind of a public figure and there are records of him on film, I tried to capture the essence as much as I could. It's an interesting-enough character to portray anyway. On top of which it certainly fit that you never called him "CB" unless you were his friend. You called him Mr. DeMille or else you'd find yourself working for a cowboy picture at Republic. He had that kind of stern, oratory figure to him in his speaking voice. He had a very cornball, early Americana-adventure narration style — that's the best way I can put it.
TV Guide: Tell us about the plot.
Castellaneta: It starts with Cecil B. DeMille shooting The Ten Commandments and we discover that all of the Egyptian artifacts are real artifacts that he brought back from Egypt. Some nefarious group had given him artifacts that were cursed with a particular evil spirit, and he was aware of it and they'd done something to contain it. But then years later, as they buried the set for The Ten Commandments, a bunch of people who are excavating the site for posterity unleash this evil spirit.
TV Guide: You also did The Pursuit of Happyness with Will Smith. Do you plan to continue to mix dramatic roles with comedy and voice work?
Castellaneta: I've been doing whatever comes along. It's nothing planned. I've done comedy parts in film and TV and a few dramatic roles, and I'd definitely like to continue doing on-camera stuff. If it's a good part, whether it's dramatic or comic or a fun project, I'll definitely continue to do it.
TV Guide: Sands premieres the same weekend as The Simpsons Movie. Apparently Homer pollutes the river with toxic waste and threatens the future of Springfield. What can you tell us about the film that no one else knows?
Castellaneta: The only thing I could say is that there are cameos by some very big stars. Some of them play characters, and some play themselves.
TV Guide: And Albert Brooks plays a megalomaniac bent on ruling the world?
Castellaneta: He's a guy who works for the EPA, but he gets carried away with his power.
TV Guide: Is it true we get a glimpse of Bart's, ahem, "doodle"? Did that affect the rating at all?
Castellaneta: That I won't reveal. There's a sequence that deals with that. But I guess it affected the rating. I don't know whether it was that or whether it was some salty language in the film. It's by and large kid-friendly, but there's some adult humor, too.
TV Guide: If the film is a big success, how long will it take for Bart or Lisa — or Barney — to enter rehab?
Castellaneta: I don't think Lisa would. Barney's been in rehab and relapsed. But everyone else in Springfield certainly deserves to be in rehab.
TV Guide: Other than Homer, who's your favorite character to voice?
Castellaneta: I think Krusty the Clown is my next favorite because there's such a world to explore there. Most of the writers have already written for a big comedy star during a sitcom or a talk show, and they take the worst aspects of that and put them into Krusty. He's sort of the porthole to the showbiz world in the Simpsons universe. It's pretty funny that even though he's a kiddie clown, he has all the traits of a Jackie Gleason or a Milton Berle, and he thinks he's a bigger shot than he really is.
TV Guide: Do you get asked to do the voices a lot at parties? Do you slug those people who ask?
Castellaneta: Boy, I haven't gotten into a fight since I was 13. For the most part I oblige; if they continue to press me, I'll say, "That's enough." There have been a few times I've been in a bad mood and said I don't feel comfortable doing it. But for the most part I'll do it; it's not a big deal.
TV Guide: When you first started doing the Simpsons on The Tracey Ullman Show, did you ever imagine these characters would resonate with people around the world?
Castellaneta: No, I didn't even know that they'd resonate with people around the country. I thought it was a really well-written and hip show, but it was so different in terms of what it was doing; I didn't know if it would catch on here as big as it did in the rest of the world. I had no idea that they would embrace it as they did here, not just in English-speaking countries, but in Spanish-speaking countries and across Europe. It's really incredibly popular.
Send your comments on this Q&A to email@example.com.