There Can Be Only One…Voiceover Artist

If your head comes away from your audition…it’s over

 

Hackings and beheadings: O What Fun!

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Once upon a time there comes along a movie that blows you away with its incredible ideologies.  I’m talking about Terminator.  The Matrix.  Inception.  Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  Movies with concepts that are beyond the scope of mortal thinking.

Highlander is such a movie!  Ohhhhh, it had everything: Immortals slashing their way to win The Prize, which, if you remember, included omniscience, sweeping 80’s music video camera shots, cheap monster graphic effects, and 80’s arm-candy women with feathered hair and lots of rouge.  For me, I would be content with just an endless supply of cheeseburgers.  But I’m sure you feel the same.

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On the one side you have Connor McLeod of the clan McLeod (played by Christopher Lambert, who starred in this movie and, well, really only this movie), hailing from the Highlands, which is another way of saying he lives so far up there that he’s nearly in outer space, so he has to wear a kilt so that he can flash all of us mortals down here.  There’s no air up there, but he’s an immortal, remember.

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And on the other side, you have The Kurgan, played by Clancy Brown: a man with an effeminate name who got to play a man without an effeminate name.  The Kurgan was a barbarian of a man hellbent on world domination accomplished through performing the worst Christian Bale Batman voice impression possible.  Someone give that man a lozenge, and an even more masculine name.  I think Agamemnon will do nicely.

When Highlander came out on Showtime in 1986, I was hooked.  Is it graphic?  Yes.  Is that why I was hooked?  Yes, because I was a zit-faced angst-ridden teenage boy who loved seeing people hack at each other with swords, set to furious guitar riffs by Queen.  It was a time of questioning, so Queen and swords was just the right recipe. I see a little silhouetto of a man… Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the fandango?  See?  There was a question mark right there.  Questioning.

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My favorite element was Sean Connery, a Scottish man who hails from Spain (because, ya know, casting reasons) who played Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez, a name which in ancient Latin means “My Name is Much Too Long.”  Unfortunately, Mr. SVLR gets dispatched much too quickly, so you never in fact get to see an immortal ask for a martini: shaken, not stirred.  This is disappointing of course, but not enough to make me hit stop and switch to Purple Rain, another musical movie hit for the angst in teenagers everywhere, featuring music by the artist formerly known in life as the artist who was formerly known as Unpronouncable Symbol, who is the artist formerly known as Prince.  But you do have to hand it to the makeup artists for making Sean Connery look like he was still 35, when in fact in 1986 he was 328.

Ultimately, Highlander’s plot centers around lots of people cutting each other’s heads off, because beheadings were en vogue, it was a Friday night and there was nothing better to do.  But then the scriptwriters said, “no, that sucks…let’s have them be freaking immortals with freaking swords…yeah!!!”  And then everyone agreed and went out and drank much beer.  Thus Highlander was born, and zit-faced angst-ridden Queen-loving teenage boys everywhere were pleased.

How does this relate to voiceovers, you ask?  Hold on to your neck, and I’ll tell you.  It’s a cut-throat affair, and you’ve got to keep your kilt about you, aye, lad.

 

Voiceovers: A Cut-Throat Affair

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Voiceovers can be competitive.  There is really only one voice out there that’s going to win a role, unless of course there’s more than one, in which case I need to curse loudly, tear this up and start writing an entirely different blog.  Ultimately, we’re all vying for the same thing: to win the Prize.  Thank goodness we use microphones and not Dragonhead Katana swords.  When you and I are going up for the same role, we’re dead-set (see what I did there?) on winning The Prize, and looking down upon our vanquished foes lying in a heap at the bottom of the hill.  The hill, of course, being that little step up from the bottom floor leading into our isolation booth, littered with dead voiceover bodies who tried to get in our way.

Did you know that way, way, waaaaaaaaaay back in the olden days, when Barack Obama was president, there were still “killing contests” happening in such far-off, distant and undeveloped places of the world?  I’m talking about Arizona.  I am not kidding.  In these savage contests, hunters would bait and kill as many wild animals as possible. Participants competed for prizes like belt buckles, cash, trophies, a free Grand Canyon souvenir snake-belt, and Joe Arpaio’s pink underwear.  They would boast about how much fun it is to kill innocent animals with “like-minded” people. Horrifyingly, youth clubs also held competitions, sending a message to young children that killing animals is a game.  I’m telling the truth.  And it’s an evil truth that won’t go away, exactly like Milli Vanilli music.

Thankfully, progress has been made on this front, but it just serves to continually reveal how savage our society still can be.  I think we’re getting better though.  We’ve downgraded to body-slamming 55-year-old ladies outside Chick Fil-A now.  BUT!  Witnesses report NO animals were savagely hunted.  Phew.  I feel better, because that could have been an awful scene.

It’s this kind of savageness that is represented in Highlander.  There truly can be only one Prize winner.  Were there two winners, then they would just be constantly striving, and it would be a bad pairing, much like peanut butter and bratwurst, or Anthony Wiener and texting.  (Note: I said “winner”, not “Wiener.”  End of note.)

But as voiceover artists, we’ve just got to land that role.  And we’d do anything to get it.  Heck, we may even body-slam our 55-year-old cohorts if they get in our way.  But thankfully, as we voiceover artists have evolved, our measure of self-control has evolved as well, and it’s not quite as cut-throat as it could be.  There’s nothing enjoyable or funny about a voiceover artist beheading, and so we practice civility in the highest sense.

Still…should another voice talent get in our way… *cue scary music and maniacal laugh here*

 

Voiceovers: There Can Be Only One

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At one point in Highlander, Sean Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez Gonzalez Vasquez-Hildebrandt Smith-Conchita Anderson McGillicuddy McGurk Connery says to Connor McLeod, “My name is much too long.”  McLeod is confused, so SJSVLRGVHSCAMMC clarifies: “If your head comes away from your neck, it’s over.”  I’d venture to say that during Juan’s introduction of his name to Connor, Connor’s head should have in fact fallen clean off from the weight of Juan’s name…but, ah!  Thank goodness.  There it stayed, in all its Michael Bolton-esque glory.  (Disclaimer: I still hate Michael Bolton).

As voice talents, thank goodness the battlefield exists only in our minds.  And truly, if our head comes away from our audition, it is indeed over.  We need to focus. We need to get into our roles with passion.  Unbridled and unassailable passion.  Passion unmatched since the dawn of time.  Passion that rivals THE Passion.  You know what I’m talking about.  There’s only one kind of passion like this.  I’m talking about Nancy Pelosi let’s-impeach-him-right-this-very-minute-okay-how-about-in-a-few-months-from-now Passion!  It’s that kind of unrelenting passion that gets things done!  Oh yeah and also gives us great TV drama.

Speaking of TV, here comes a great audition that I better get to before you do.  After all, there can be only one.

But in order to get into the zone, in order to really inhabit the role so that I’ll be awarded the job, I’ll need something. Something to equip me. Something to fire me up with a fury and bring out the best drama I can muster.

Press play on that Queen cassette, baby.

*grabs sword*

Sincerely,

Clancy Agamemnon Alexander

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Joshua Alexander
Seattle Voice Actor & Voiceover Talent for hire
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7 thoughts on “There Can Be Only One…Voiceover Artist”

  1. Josh, I like the spirit and fun of this blog but we have to get a few things straight. Christopher Lambert had already starred in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes in 1984 before Highlander. Secondly, the Kurgan has had his throat cut and that explained his voice which could NOT be an imitation of Christian Bale’s Batman because Christian Bale’s voice probably hadn’t even changed at age 12 in 1986. Other than that, I loved the blog. Keep up the good work.

    1. True…but his only lines in Greystoke (which I saw and knew about aforehand…any chance to say the word “aforehand”!) were “Oh! Oh! Oh!” (grunting). So I didn’t consider that a significant enough role. Conner McLeod was his eclipsing role, indubitably. (Any chance to say the word “indubitably.”)

      As for the Kurgan…well, blogs have no timeline, right? Case in point, I penned this reply to your original post back in 1983. Ha!

  2. I think the real travesty is being overlooked here! Hollywood, or the BBC version, has taken our beloved movie with its gratuitous beheading and signature tag lines and replaced it with a sappy time traveling, broken-hearted love story!! The horror, Oh the horror!!

  3. Yes, Loved Highlander – it was up there alongside Ferris Bueller and that Kim Basinger one with the Mermaid.. Some of the best amazingly talented and inspiring but somehow such reminders of how far we had to come in cinematic glory!

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