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The Voices We Know So Well

Patrick Poivey: you may not recognize the name, but you have surely heard his voice, whether in “Sixth Sense” or in “Pulp Fiction.” Patrick Poivey is a French actor, but he is also Bruce Willis’ official dubbing voice.

The actor, who can be heard as the dubbed voice of Orson Hodge in Desperate Housewives and in a host of TV ads, entered the profession quite by accident. At the time, it was often seen as degrading to be a dubbing voice in films or in advertising, but Patrick Poivey didn’t see it that way. Luckily for him! Today, dubbing and voice-off schools are starting to pop up all over Paris, and some specialties are truly taking off!

Each dubbing actor (whether it’s Patrick Poivey, Greg Germain—official dubbing voice of Will Smith—or Med Hondo—official dubbing voice of Eddie Murphy) follows the same philosophy: to be as faithful as possible to the film being dubbed. During the dubbing process, the text must closely match the actor’s lip movements. So it is essential to adapt the actor’s lines without changing the meaning.

Something else all dubbing actors have in common: none of them live in the shadow of a Hollywood star. “Bruce Willis is the one who is filming, my job is not to mess it up too much. I try to recreate the situation as he experienced it, although all I have is a microphone and a very good sound engineer. But that’s precisely what makes it exciting! These are situations that we never had the chance to act ourselves. I often get to blow up helicopters… in real life, I’d be locked away for 50 years, but here it is free and they even pay me to do it!” confides Patrick Poivey with a smile.

The short film “Finding Nemo: The Making of Dubbing” clearly shows the types of challenges dubbing actors often face. The film shows Franc Dubosc dubbing Marlin: even in an impersonal studio with nothing but a microphone, the actor is compelled to use his arms and other means of non-verbal communication to become fully immersed in the character of the fish, with spectacular results!

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