You could be standing next to a major movie star and not even know it. Seriously? Sure.
We’re talking about voice-over professionals who provide foreign-language dubbing for Hollywood’s biggest stars, from Angelina Jolie to Catherine Zeta Jones.
Film studios will often use the same voice-over artist to play a particular actor’s voice in movies throughout their career. For audiences in non-English-speaking countries, it provides consistency and dramatic integrity. It means, for example, that Robert de Niro’s German voice in Taxi Driver (1976) is still recognisable as the one used nearly a quarter of a century later in the German dubbed version of Meet the Parents (2000).
Who are the voice talent behind the Hollywood talent? And how do you get to be one? We find out from the professionals themselves about what it takes to create a voice-over for the stars.
Françoise Cadol, France – Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock, Patricia Arquette
For French-speaking audiences around the world, action hero Lara Croft looks like Angelina Jolie but her voice is 100% Françoise Cadol.
Cadol is a seasoned voice-over professional who has also dubbed for Hollywood stars such as Sandra Bullock and Patricia Arquette, as well as Chinese-Singaporean actor Gong Li. And her talents aren’t taken for granted: Cadol has received phone calls from French fans who’ve tracked her down and called her up – just to hear her voice. The stars onscreen are stars, and so are the stars offscreen.
In an interview with The Guardian, she explains why she thinks voice-overs are
important to audiences.
“People feel they know the voice and they want to know you,” she says. “A voice is a very moving thing. Dubbing is taken seriously in France, and people get very upset if an actor who has dubbed a star for a long time suddenly changes. Audiences want continuity.”
Dennis Schmid-Foß, Germany – Eddie Murphy, Ryan Reynolds, Simon Pegg
German voice-over professional Dennis Schmid-Foß has dubbed for a mind-boggling range of English-speaking actors from Eddie Murphy to Simon Pegg.
In an interview on YouTube, he comments that the pace of voice-over work has
really ramped up over the last few years. “We used to do 10-15 takes an hour at most, and today fast voice actors can do 40 takes,” he says.
He also notes, regretfully, that it’s now much more common to do voice-overs on your own rather than with an ensemble of other voice-over actors in the same room.
“When I started as a dubbing artist, I was still standing in front of the microphone together with all the experienced colleagues […] there are so many nuances, that’s what makes it so special… and that’s how I was able to learn.”
Schmid-Foß puts the hallmark of good dubbing down to one thing: the audience shouldn’t notice it.
“You will always notice a bad synchronisation immediately, [but] with a good one [you don’t]. That’s how I feel too, I don’t even listen and wonder ‘Oh who is that now, who is that speaking?’… I just enjoy the movie and forget that it’s dubbed, and that’s the best case [scenario].”
Similar to Hollywood, it seems that voice actors like to keep the trade a family tradition too: Schmid-Foß’s father-in-law Manfred Lehman has dubbed the German voices for Hollywood stars Bruce Willis and Kurt Russell.
Ren Wei, China – voice-over for Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Hugh Jackman
Tom Cruise is a big star in China. He has his own nickname: “Liang Tang (or simply Atang)” which means delicious soup and handsome Tom.
For Mission Impossible: III (2006), the role of Tom Cruise’s voice went to hugely experienced voice-over artist Ren Wei, who has been a member of the Shanghai Film Dubbing Studio since 1986.
In an interview with The Guardian, Wei describes the process as an intense one.
“While Atang… had months to make the film, I had to do the whole thing – from learning the script to dubbing all the lines – in four days. We always have to rush because of the piracy problem in China. If we don’t get the translation and dubbing done quickly, an unauthorised version will be out on the streets before ours.”
Wei’s versatility means that he has also provided the Chinese voice-over for John Travolta in Broken Arrow (1996), Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge (2001) and Hugh Jackman in Kate and Leopold (2001).
Claudia Motta, Mexico – voice-over for Kirsten Dunst, Naomi Watts
If you’re a big superhero fan in Latin America, you’ve probably heard the voice of Claudia Motta.
The Mexican actor provided the Spanish dubbing for Kirsten Dunst in the 2002 version of Spider-Man and has since gone on to voice roles for the American star in films such as Mona Lisa Smile (2003) and Wimbledon (2004).
The actor told The Guardian about her approach to voice-over work.
“I don’t imitate the actor; I get into the personality of the role. I focus on the gestures and reflect that in my voice, even if there was no sound in the original. I add to the drama because, to dub well, you have to be as good an actor, or better.”
Kirsten Dunst aside, Motta is probably most famous to Latin American audiences for providing the Spanish voice for Bart Simpson (interestingly, the character is also voiced by a woman, Nancy Cartwright, in the original US version).
Motta fell in love with acting through her fascination with the spoken word in Japanese cartoons as a child. These days, she’s very aware of the large expanse which covers the regional market she is providing for. “Mexican dubbers mostly use a kind of neutral Spanish without accents or regional expressions so all Latin America can understand.”
Booking Your Next Project
Dubbing is a hugely skilled art but at its best, as Schmid-Foß points out, it should be so well done that it’s not even noticed.
For your next project, work with a full-service team of professionals who have access to some of the best voice actors in the industry, as well as state-of-the-art recording studios in London. Give our team a call on 0203 744 3558.
We’ll be happy to walk through your requirements and make sure your next voice project is the best yet! We look forward to hearing from you.
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