I think that when most people think of “dubbing” or “looping”, the most common images of are giant monsters movies and kung fu flicks. While neither is an inappropriate thought response, dubbing used to be a whole lot more common than many might realize. FACT: While the James Bond franchise as we know burst onto the silver screen in 1962, the first film in the series to not feature any major dubbing (at least to my knowledge) was 1974’s The Man With The Golden Gun. That’s the NINTH film in the franchise. In fact, out of the 15 films released in the series from 1962-1987, only two didn’t feature any dubbing of lead or supporting actors.
Do you recognize the woman up on the right? Of course you don’t. You would, however, recognize her voice. That is Nikki Van der Zyl and her voice is heard in at least five Bond films; probably more. Hers is the voice* that came out of Honey Ryder’s (Ursula Andress) mouth after she arose from the sea in Dr. No. In addition to various background voices, Nikki also lent her vocal talents in replacing the lines of Eunice Gayson (Dr. No & From Russia With Love), Shirley Eaton (Goldfinger), Claudine Auger (Thunderball), Mie Hama (You Only Live Twice), and a great deal of Jane Seymour’s work in Live And Let Die! While those beautiful women provided the sexy Bond Girl look, Nikki Van der Ziyl brought the voice to back it up.
The vocal meddling doesn’t stop with the ladies though. Joseph Wiseman, the titular Dr. No, is the only lead antagonist to make it through the early films without having his voice looped. Goldfinger himself, Gert Frobe, was completely overdubbed and knew this would happen from the get-go; speaking his lines quickly in his native tongue to aid in the process. His actual voice can be heard in the original trailer though. Above is Robert Rietty, a dubbing regular for the series. He brought to life the sound of “Strangways” in Dr. No, “Largo” in Thunderball, “Tiger Tanaka” in You Only Live Twice (except when Japanese is spoken), and the uncredited “Blofeld” at the start of For Your Eyes Only.
The final voice actor I’ve chosen to highlight is my personal favorite of the bunch. Every Bond fan has a favorite among the actors who have portrayed Bond’s archnemesis and SPECTRE’s leader: Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Some prefer the archetypal look and menace of Donald Pleasence in You Only Live Twice. Others prefer Telly Savalas’ turn on On Her Majesty’s Secret Service; including Bruce Timm, who patterned his reimagining of Lex Luthor in the DC animated universe after Kojak’s take. Charles Gray’s take in Diamonds Are Forever is probably the one closest to Fleming’s description physically and is a favorite of many. While my own would likely be a mixture of the latter two, neither is my preferred version. Blofeld was iconic before his face even graced the screen and that is due entirely to the efforts of actors Anthony Dawson and Eric Pohlmann. Dawson (who also essayed Professor Dent in Dr. No) did a marvelous job of providing the physical presence in From Russia With Love and Thunderball. It is voice actor Pohlmann, however, who sealed the deal and created an unseen icon whose influence has spanned decades. There would be no “Dr. Claw” in Inspector Gadget or “Dr. Blowhole” (yeah, I know) in The Penguins of Madagascar, not to mention countless other imitators across animation and live action, if not for these men.
Even George Lazenby was not immune to looping! Despite given his own impression of actor George Baker on set when Bond was “in character” as Sir Hillary Bray, the producers ultimately chose to have Baker loop all of those lines for the finished film. Other actors dubbed throughout the franchise include:
- Daniela Bianchi (From Russia With Love)
- Burt Kwouk (Goldfinger & You Only Live Twice)
- Gabriele Ferzetti (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)
- Lana Wood & John Abineri (Diamonds Are Forever)
- Robert Drix (Live And Let Die)
- Caroline Munro (The Spy Who Loved Me)
- Corinne Clery (Moonraker)
- Carole Bouquet, John Hollis, John Wyman, & John Moreno (For Your Eyes Only)
- Jean Rougerie (A View To A Kill)
- Andreas Wisniewski (The Living Daylights)
Starting with Dalton’s Licence To Kill (1989), dubbing ceased to be a regular element in the franchise. While voice actors are still used to provide background comments**, the producers have steered clear of looping their main and supporting cast for over 20 years now. The question now stands: would you want to be apart of this franchise’s cinematic legacy, even if your actual voice never graces the screen? It’s a tough question that would weigh heavily on anyone’s mind.
Before I close things out this time, I want to take the time to urge all of you to give Epix’s new documentary on the franchise a look. Everything or Nothing: The Secret History of 007 is a fantastic documentary. Despite its under 2 hour running time, the film is very informative and even brought to light quite a few things that I did not know. On top of that you have very candid interviews with Bond actors Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan; as well as many others who have been involved in the franchise over the past 50 years. And even a few that haven’t (i.e. Bill Clinton)! If you don’t have a subscription to Epix’s movie channels, fear not! The doc is streaming off of there website HERE and can be viewed by anyone who signs up for a free 14-day trial. No credit card information is necessary, so there is no fear of being charged after the trial is up. You will also gain access to all of the movies and programs they have available for those two weeks, including many Bond films. So do yourself a favor by heading over there and signing up. I guarantee it will be worth your while.
* – Though not the singing voice. That was Diana Coupland.
** – During Dominic Greene’s fundraiser sequence in Quantum of Solace, the voices of both Alfonso Cuaron and Guillermo Del Toro can be heard coming from off-screen party guests!