Dan A Man Of Many Parts
B Y . ... T O N Y . ... J O H N S O N

It is surprising American actor Dan Castellaneta is not a regular on the therapist's couch to help sort out the myriad of characters he inhabits.

Since The Simpsons started 10 years ago, Castellaneta has been the voice of family patriarch Homer Simpson, plus such other regulars as Grampa Simpson, Barney Gumble, Krusty the Clown, Groundskeeper Willie, Mayor Quimby, Sideshow Bob and Itchy.

Not to mention numerous guest roles that have brought his total number of personalities to 33.

The beauty, or problem, for his career is he has not been visually typecast by playing a cartoon character. And whereas many actors will admit to hiding behind the masks of various roles, Castellaneta could be said to be living in a hall of mirrors. While it means he still works as an actor (this season he had guest roles on The Drew Carey Show and Mad About You), it also means he has to audition for parts, despite his alter-ego's fame.

"Most of these people know who I am when I go to an audition but they still want to see how you might look in the role," he says.

"I like it, because it breaks the ice. Normally I am slightly shy."

The Simpsons' creator, Matt Groening, is a friend of his - and told him he thought the series would be lucky to run five years.

"Just because a show is good, doesn't mean it's going to catch on," says Castellaneta.

"But The Simpsons has something to say, albeit black, about the way Americans live.

"The advantage I think the series had from the behinning was that it was the first prime-time show to hit a nerve (with the American public) like that. It is ubiquitous, and now ingrained on everyone's mind."

And rather than running out of ratings legs after a decade at the top, Castellaneta says the series is finding new impetus in reruns.

Since The Simpsons began as a sketch on The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987, the nuclear family of Homer, wife Marge and kids Bart, Lisa and Maggie has chalked up five Emmys and numerous other awards.

The series also consistently attracts some of the biggest names in entertainment to make guest appearances.

This season's guests have included Kim Basinger, Jerry Springer, Stephen Hawking, Rupert Murdoch, Elton John, Cyndi Lauper and Mel Gibson.

In the meantime, Castellaneta, 41, has only one hang-up about putting voice to the world's most likeable obnoxious slob.

"I have this recurring nightmare where they are trying to make me wear Homer's blue pants," he says.