The Simpsons continues to be America’s longest-running sitcom and the longest-running American scripted prime time television series. Debuting in December 1989, the animated show features the daily lives and antics of Homer Simpson (Dan Castellaneta), his wife Marge (Julie Kavner), and their three kids: Bart (Nancy Cartwright), Lisa (Yeardley Smith), and baby Maggie, who rarely speaks due to her attachment to her pacifier.
After 30+ years on the air and still going strong, The Simpsons has hosted numerous A-list stars in guest roles. Celebrities including Meryl Streep, Michael Jackson, and Dustin Hoffman have lent their voices to the show, as well as one iconic actor who had to do several takes after sounding a bit too sultry.
A-listers still flock to ‘The Simpsons’
In his 2018 book Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons, show producer and writer Mike Reiss shared that the series recruited celebrities since day one.
“If you believe Wikipedia, The Simpsons had 725 guest stars in its first 26 seasons,” Reiss wrote. “Guest stars have been a part of the show since the pilot, when Penny Marshall played the Babysitter Bandit.”
Top names voicing characters for the show aren’t limited to film and television, with talent from various genres offering to be a part of The Simpsons legacy.
“Our guest stars have come from the world of acting (Glenn Close), music (three of The Beatles),… science (Stephen Hawking), literature (J.K. Rowling), comedy (Joan Rivers), and tragedy (Jon Lovitz). There were even serious actors who were really funny (MacGyver’s Richard Dean Anderson). Best of all, there were guests who acted exactly like themselves in person (Larry King, who spent 20 minutes talking to me about bagels).”
Elizabeth Taylor said ‘Maggie’s’ first word
In 1992, Academy Award winner and Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor agreed to lend her voice to The Simpsons. Playing the part of baby Maggie, Taylor only had one word of dialogue.
“Liz created the biggest stir of any guest we’ve had on the show,” Reiss revealed. “Three hundred people packed our time studio to hear her record her one-word part: ‘Daddy.’”
Taylor was known for her sultry persona, which came out even in her limited scene.
“She had to do six takes because, as you can imagine, it kept coming out too sexy,” Reiss explained. “We had to remind her she was a baby talking to her father, not hitting on him.
Oscar winner took a liking to someone on ‘The Simpsons’ team
Apparently, a behind-the-scenes team member of The Simpsons caught Taylor’s eye while she was on set.
“Liz did hit on one guy in the crowded room – our animation supervisor, David Silverman,” Reiss recalled. “‘Who is that?’ she purred. Silverman was the handsomest guy in the room, but then, compared to Simpsons writers, Paul Giamatti would have also won that prize.”
Reiss revealed the real reason why the show’s producers and writers lobby for guest stars.
“Why do we even use guest stars?” The Simpsons producer pointed out. “After all, our cast can imitate anyone on earth. … Truth is, we often write in guest stars to meet our idols. The writers have used the show to bring in all of their comedy heroes: Eric Idle, Rodney Dangerfield, Albert Brooks, Mel Brooks, Jerry and Richard Lewis.”
One factor often doesn’t woo superstars toward taking on a role. “No celebrity does The Simpsons for the money,” Reiss noted.
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