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Finding Dory is currently in theaters, and it's already enjoying a pretty good run at the box office. Like most Pixar films, the film has a range of delightful side characters played by talented actors such as Idris Elba, Kaitlin Olson, Ed O'Neill and Ty Burrell. As it turns out, though, one of these actors initially thought they were going in for just a small role, and realized they were a main character after a few recording sessions. That actor was Ed O'Neill, who plays Hank the septopus.
Entertainment Weekly spoke with Ed O'Neill and director Andrew Stanton about Finding Dory, when O'Neil revealed this gem of a story. Stanton claimed that much like Ellen DeGeneres was the inspiration for the character Dory, O'Neill was the only one he had in mind for the role of Hank. The septopus would serve as a foil and mode of transportation for Dory while she was in the aquarium. Apparently nobody told O'Neil that, who assumed this was a small role similar to his time voicing Mr. Litwak, the arcade owner character from Wreck-It Ralph. O'Neill didn't realize this was a major role until he kept having to go in for recording sessions.
I thought it was just a little character thing, and he drops in, drops out, and that's it. I didn't see a script. It was basically scene-to-scene. And long story short, it just kept going. And that's when I started thinking, 'You know, I don't think this is a cameo.' Nobody ever said to me this is one of the lead roles! Never said it!
Ed O'Neill had also never seen Finding Nemo, so he was really in the dark for a while on this one. Regardless, the whole thing is a pretty adorable story. O'Neill goes on to elaborate that he would just keep going to work until they told him not to come back anymore. Additionally, he first saw footage at the 2015 D23 convention and was really impressed by how much he saw of himself in the picture. He also didn't learn that his Modern Family co-star Ty Burrell was in the movie too until he saw him at D23. Life is just full of surprises.
If you'd like an idea of the big role O'Neill had as Hank, here is a clip featuring crotchety septopus having an argument with Dory. It's also a good place to take note of his movement and body language. Like anyone on the Pixar animation staff will tell you, it's reportedly extremely difficult to animate the many movements of an octopus.
You can watch Hank and see for yourself how large of a character he is in Finding Dory, which is out in theaters right now.