I was reading an article about the acting career of Pamela Lewis… What’s that, you’ve never heard of Pamela Lewis? Apparently she’s the woman you hear screaming in Cape Fear not Jessica Lange, she’s also the woman you here sighing in Working Girl not Melanie Griffin. My question is why do they do this? Why not just get the actor to do it?
Most of the time, either the director wants a very specific sound (such as screams, because some people can’t scream convincingly) or (as is probably the case in Working Girl) the sound didn’t come through to the director or editor’s satisfaction and they didn’t re-record with busy (and expensive) Melanie Griffith, but hired Ms. Lewis to come in and record these little extras.
She’s just like a foley artist… you wouldn’t expect the star to walk across a boardwalk over and over if his footfalls weren’t loud enough… you get a specialist to do it for you.
I did some foley in college… it’s hard work, more art than science. I admire good looping work.
Simply put, they do it whenever it’s cheaper, easier, more convenient or more effective than doing it another way. Or when they have no choice. Sometimes the A list star of the movie just isn’t available, but the good-enough for this bit jobbing actor will do and is available.
Also, there’s more of this than you think. There’s a Steve Martin / Goldie Hawn remake of ‘The Out Of Towners’ that sank without trace at the box office two or three years ago. There’s a scene where they are in a car and struggling to get the satellite nav system to work. Goldie keeps tapping and bashing the unit to try and get it to work, and you keep seeing close up shots of ‘her’ hand doing this. Except it isn’t her hand. It’s another actress’s hand, manicured to look the same. I know, because I was going out with the actress at the time and was there on set when they shot this sequence. Get this - she had had to wait around for more than 2 days until they were able to find time to shoot these close up shots. You can’t keep your expensive stars hanging around like that, so they use no-name actors instead.
Check out John Travolta’s Blow Out.
Just a dumb little aside, but a friend of mine is part of an agency that provides specially combined groups of voice actors for background murmours – and that’s all they do! There’s the Restauant Group, the Wedding Group, the Playground Group, the Panic Group, etc.
My cousin fills in the gaps between visible roles doing looping. I got to listen to her yell racist filth for “Rosewood.” Weird. But she also got to be a sheep in “Babe.”