Voic­ing a can­tan­ker­ous oc­to­pus named Hank in Pixar’s new feel­good fam­ily flick Find­ing Dory was a lot more dif­fi­cult than Ed O’Neill had imag­ined

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - MOVIES - NEALA JOHN­SON

Oh, my God. I don’t think I wanna work that hard again. I did think about com­ing back for some kind of se­quel, but I wasn’t think­ing in terms of Hank be­ing the star

Ask Ed O’Neill what springs to mind of his visit – with the rest of the Mod­ern Fam­ily sit­com cast – to Aus­tralia in 2014 and a theme soon starts to emerge.

“I had those great meat pies down by that wharf … then I was up in one the old­est pubs in Syd­ney … then I found my­self down at the docks where the big cruise ships come in and I had the fish ’n’ chips … Most of my time in Syd­ney,” he con­cludes, “was spent eat­ing and drink­ing.”

It sounds as though it would be danger­ous for O’Neill to spend too much time Down Un­der. “Oh,” he replies, “it def­i­nitely would be.” Though that Aus­tralian visit was al­most two-and-a-half years ago, O’Neill had al­ready started work­ing on his new movie, Find­ing Dory. The long-awaited se­quel to the beloved Pixar an­i­ma­tion Find­ing Nemo, which sends the blue tang voiced by Ellen DeGeneres off on a whole new ad­ven­ture, has been a lengthy and “in­ter­est­ing” ride, says O’Neill.

And giv­ing voice to a can­tan­ker­ous oc­to­pus named Hank – who’s miss­ing a ten­ta­cle, has a caf­feine habit and an ink-con­ti­nence prob­lem, would rather stay in cap­tiv­ity than re­turn to the ocean, and who def­i­nitely doesn’t want to help Dory find her par­ents – turned out to be much harder work than O’Neill imag­ined.

“It was stren­u­ous. These ses­sions are four hours long some­times and the na­ture of the role (meant there was) a lot of ten­sion, a lot of anx­i­ety – try­ing to get from one place to an­other with­out be­ing caught, and his frus­tra­tion with Dory be­cause she was al­ways putting him in bad spots ... So it’s tir­ing.”

Though O’Neill had to “drink troughs of tea” to sur­vive Hank’s yelling habit, the cur­mud­geonly sea crea­ture did even­tu­ally find his way to a more sooth­ing place.

“He started out dam­aged, pho­bic, mis­trust­ful, an­gry, a loner, then be­cause of a mu­tual need he started to have this ad­ven­ture with Dory and be­fore he knew it he was start­ing to like her and he was pro­tected by her and he re­turned the favour,” O’Neill says. “Ba­si­cally,” he adds, “Hank was pulled back into life.” Now the vet­eran ac­tor is find­ing ev­ery­one who’s seen the film – in­clud­ing writer-direc­tor Andrew Stan­ton – con­sid­ers Hank to be Find­ing Dory’s break­out char­ac­ter. Even the el­der of his two daugh­ters, 16-year-old Sophia, loved it – “and she can be crit­i­cal,” O’Neill laughs. Could there be a Find­ing Hank in his fu­ture? “Oh, my God. I don’t think I wanna work that hard again. I did think about com­ing back for some kind of se­quel, but I wasn’t think­ing in terms of Hank be­ing the star of the show, I was think­ing more in terms of he prob­a­bly makes a bet­ter side­kick.”

Far from look­ing for movies to head­line, O’Neill ad­mits he’s reached the point in his ca­reer where it might be time to slow down. Af­ter all, he did turn 70 in April.

“That was the hard­est one,” he says. “Sixty didn’t bother me too much and 50 was a snap … but 70? No. That was a hard one. I’m los­ing the bat­tle with that – I mean, what can you do?”

If it is time to wind down, O’Neill – whose defin­ing roles in­clude Ed Bundy in Mar­ried … With Chil­dren and Glen the ni­hilis­tic diner man­ager in Wayne’s World – can’t say he’s un­sat­is­fied with his ac­com­plish­ments.

“I could al­ways say I wished I had a bet­ter film ca­reer … but over­all, I’ve been one of the lucky ones. If you can sus­tain a ca­reer over 40 years in this busi­ness, you’ve gotta con­sider your­self lucky.”

We’re not fin­ished with him yet, of course. He’ll step back into Mod­ern Fam­ily pa­tri­arch Jay Pritch­ett’s shoes when sea­son eight starts shoot­ing in Au­gust.

“Af­ter eight,” he says of the show’s fu­ture, “I think we’ll ei­ther go on and do two more, or we’ll call it a day.” Find­ing Dory is in cin­e­mas now

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