We all know voice actors get way less credit than they deserve in the film industry. But the most underrated role in Hollywood has got to be voice matching, filled by the unseen heroes who finish what the stars can’t.
Even if you’ve never heard of voice matching before, you have actually heard it time and again. It’s everywhere. It’s in the the movie trailers you can’t get enough of, almost every film that goes to TV and even some of your (not-so) favourite Disney songs. So let’s pay our dues to the heroes who pick up where the stars leave off.
William Hurt couldn’t finish the job in Lost in Space
Possibly the greatest sci-fi epic of our generation, Lost in Space took some fine-tuning before it would become the classic we all remember. Between a studio cut, director’s cut and a producer’s cut, actor William Hurt left the set with a total of 38 lines that needed replacing.
Many actors never come back to rework their lines and this is where the likes of Lex Lang step in to finish the job. Lang also voices the weird spider creature Gary Oldman turns into during the film’s climactic peak. Good work Lex.
Andy Serkis sounds too much like a human
Yes, it’s true. Despite all his qualities, the most celebrated voice actor in Hollywood sounds too much like a human being. That was the grand revelation for the production team behind 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Even more surprisingly, it turns out apes sound too much like apes. Shock.
Which is why Lex Lang comes to the rescue once again, in yet another sci-fi starring Gary Oldman. This time, as part of a team that voices thousands of apes in one movie. Lex and his fellow voice matchers had the task of bridging the gap between between the voices of real apes and Serkis’ Caesar.
“They gave us all this audio and it was to bridge the gap between what a real primate sounds like and what the actors that were playing the three leads were interpreting what a primate sounds like, which was vastly different. We found a happy medium, so that the viewing audience never feels “Andy Serkis’ character sounds too human” or “those other apes sound too ape-like.” – Lex Lang, The Swerve Magazine interview.
It turns out some actors just can’t sing
When they’re not busy sounding too much like humans, many actors turn to not sounding enough like singers. Jeremy Irons mastered that particular art while voicing Scar in Disney’s The Lion King, which left producers with a problem when the movie’s villain broke out into song.
“As one of them put it to me, Irons singing sounded like, ‘You could hear every Marlboro the man has ever smoked in his life'” – voice actor Jim Cummings told Business Insider.
He was called in to replicate Irons’ singing voice – without that packet-a-day edge – and his version of Be Prepared remains the least memorable song of the film to this day.
Memorable or not, Disney was so impressed with Cummings’ voice matching he went on to match Christopher Lloyd in Anastasia, Russell Means in Pocahontas and Danny DeVito in Hercules for their respective songs.
Every actor eventually dies
On a more serious note, there’s a big place for voice matching when actors are no longer with us. Occasionally, actors sadly pass during the production of a film and voice matchers are needed to complete the process. More often, though, it’s the expansion of a long-running franchise that outlives their original actors and calls upon voice matching to keep key characters alive.
Stephen Stanton has become the man to go to when Hollywood or the gaming industry needs the voice of an actor who has passed on. Star Wars is a perfect example, with Stanton matching the voices of Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in games of the franchise.
So those are some of the profile voice matching gigs that snuck into Hollywood over the years. More recently, voice matchers have been called in to supply dialogue for movie trailers as studios rush to get them out for release. So next time you see an early trailer for that upcoming blockbuster, keep a keen ear out for any voice matching going on.