TV URBAN LEGEND: In his guest appearance on The Simpsons, Bret Hart was not originally playing himself in the episode.
The Simpsons have had hundreds of celebrities guest star on the series over its long and storied run, from actors to athletes to musicians – you name it, they’ve had them guest star at one point or another (either as themselves or as a character). However, for whatever reason, The Simpsons has been hesitant to feature many professional wrestlers on their program, despite the great popularity of pro wrestling. The Rock has never even appeared on the series! And he’s super famous! As of the conclusion of their most recent season, The Simpsons have only had two wrestlers ever appear on the show, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Bret “The Hitman” Hart, and of the two, only Hart actually played a wrestler in his episode.
In “Old Man and the Lisa” (from 1997), Mister Burns loses his fortune and has to sell his estate.
Bret Hart buys it and he and Burns have an amusing exchange…
However, you might notice that Hart does not really sound like himself. That question puzzled fans for years until Dave Hofer of The AV Club got to the bottom of the situation in an interview with Hart in 2009:
Hofer: Why did your appearance on The Simpsons sound so, well, weird?
Hart: They approached me about doing a voice as a wrestler, but not Bret Hart. It was the Mad Russian or something. I said, “I don’t want to be the Mad Russian, I want to be Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart!” We went back and forth for a while and they eventually said, very politely, “This is the way it’s written, take it or leave it.” I agreed, and flew down to FOX Studios. They had blocked off this huge chunk of time for my three lines, and were saying things like, “We need you more mad,” “Okay, not quite that mad!” I did my lines about 100 times in two minutes! I went outside to wait for my limo that had gone to get gas, and I signed autographs and took pictures for 45 minutes. The guy that was in charge of my episode came up to me and said, “I had no idea you were this big of a star! If we haven’t already started the artwork, we’re going to draw you in as yourself.” That’s why the voice doesn’t really sound like me, because I thought I was playing a crazy Russian!
I guess if they were unfamiliar with Hart’s career, it makes sense as to why they were not interested in any other wrestlers on the show.
They did let Bart appear on the cover of WWE Magazine!
I think that the truth is probably a bit less interesting, in the sense that I believe Hart that he was going to be a different character when he recorded his lines and thus, that is the explanation for why his voice sounds different, but I just have a little doubt as to how the rest of the story went. Producers on The Simpsons have mentioned in commentaries that Hart continually pestered them about wanting to play himself, so I could see it being a bit of a mixture – they might have been impressed with how popular he was, but he also might have kept asking them until they agreed to have him be drawn as himself.
Either way, the main part of the legend is…
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