Impersonating voice overs

The voice of the robot on Craig Ferg’s talk show also does a pretty kick ass Morgan Freeman.

Which got me to thinking:

  1. I guess there might be protection against a use of impersonation falsely claiming to be the actual person. But is there any protection against merely imitating a strongly recognizable voice?

  2. Is there any value in hiring impersonators for voice over work rather than the actual actor? IOW, does Morgan get hired because people will think “hey, that’s Morgan Freeman!” or just because he has a soothing voice? And does that translate into a large or small pay difference?

  3. Do many impersonators get hired for real jobs unrelated to comedy? I imagine there might be a niche for video game adaptions but I’m thinking more in terms of non-identified voice overs.

Joe Estevez, Martin Sheen’s brother, does a lot of commercial voice over work because he sounds just like his bro.

UK insurance company More Than, which uses a voiceover actor who does the Morgan Freeman thing, lampshades this well. The gag is that at the end of the ad the camera pans over to the actor who is standing in some improbable location (e.g. on top of a doghouse holding a tuba) and you see it’s a white guy in a bad suit who ends the monologue with “I’m More-Than Freeman.”

I think the same guy did Freeman’s voice on several episodes of Robot Chicken. Their Shawshank parody is a classic, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more accurate vocal impression.

“I remember thinking ‘That is the WHITEST son of a bitch I have ever seen’.”

Parody is protected. But I’m sure that Josh Robert Thompson would never accept a job that would deprive the real Morgan Freeman of work. Also, as Miller Beer found out, hire an Eric Clapton sound-alike, and you’re going to wind up paying money to the real Eric Clapton. (What gets me is why they didn’t just hire one of the old, broke-ass black bluesmen that Clapton spent his entire career imitating instead.)

Thompson is a voice-over professional who also has a smaller career as an impersonator.

It occurred to me after the fact that of course the damn things will be on YouTube (WARNING: contains basset hound).

Well there you go, that’s Josh Robert Thompson, aka the voice of Geoff Peterson, the guy most of the posts so far have been talking about.

He once did his impression in front of Morgan Freeman himself on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and I think he was somewhat intimidated.

I’d always assumed that was Morgan Freeman, overdubbing that guy. (To be fair though I’d heard the MoreThan ads on the radio hundreds of times and have only seen it on the TV a couple of times and the radio had convinced me it was indeed Mr. Freeman)

That sounds to me like a guy trying to sound like Morgan Freeman.

I think that dubbed over profanity in TV cuts of movies sometimes use impersonators. Particularly if the real actor has died.

I wonder if they use an impersonator to do President Nixon’s head on Futurma?

Nicholas Meyer made the claim, in his TV movie The Night that Panicked America, that Orson Welles wanted to have an announcement by President Roosevelt during the infamous “War of the Worlds” broadcast, but that CBS wouldn’t let him do it. So they said the announcement was from the Secretary of the Interior – who sounded exactly like Roosevelt.

Although I’d heard the broadcast before, I’d never picked up on the resemblance, which was clearly intentional (“We’ll say it’s the Secretary, but everyone will know it’s really FDR”), but the General Public , who heard hi all the time, would have picked up on it instantly.

What a bunch of farging iceholes.

Fans of old time radio will recognize the actor doing the FDR voice as Kenny Delmar, the voice of Senator Claghorn and an announcer on Fred Allen’s show.

Tom Waits, for one, has successfully sued companies who tried to use a Tom Waits sound-alike in their advertising.

This is related to the discussion:

Voiceover master Don LaFontaine died in 2008. But I still hear movie trailers that sound like him. Since some of the trailers/ads have lines specific to the plot, someone must be impersonating Don. But who? As far as I know, it’s not Pablo Francisco, who is known for his LaFontaine impression.

Can you show us a trailer that sounds like him?

Yeah, I have to agree. It doesn’t quite work for me either.

I think that’s just an example of how much LaFontaine’s style came to dominate movie voice overs. Some people sound a lot like him, but I don’t think they’re imitating him specifically.

“In a world … where one man’s voice … lives on, beyond the grave …”

And not doing a very good job of it. Were people actually fooled by it for more than 20 seconds?