Looking back through Courtney B. Vance’s filmography, it’s actually shocking how little voiceover work he’s done – especially considering just how great a voice he has. When I brought this up to Vance – who is the narrator of Wes Anderson’s new animated film, Isle of Dogs – this did seem like a bit of a sore spot. And hearing Vance’s voice in person, it’s kind of insane he’s not narrating every movie. But as Vance explains, there was a shift in Hollywood where producers wanted celebrities and not voice actors, so Vance was left for a while on the outside looking in.
Not that this stopped Vance’s career, which is now storied – and Vance takes us down his long road, reminiscing about everything from The Hunt for Red October –Vance missed a chance to ride in the real submarine — to his film debut in Hamburger Hill – a film whose cast of unknowns are now all pretty famous.
Vance is an actor with stories, and sometimes it’s best just to listen to them. And Vance couldn’t help but also bring up the success of Black Panther, and it’s obvious how proud Vance is of that film for a few reasons, including the tremendous performance of his wife, Angela Bassett.
It feels like you should have been doing Wes Anderson films for a while. I hope you do more.
We will all push him in that direction. He needs to have some color in his films.
I’m actually surprised you haven’t done more voice work, because you obviously have the voice.
Me, too. Me, too. I mean, it’s tough to crack. And the voiceover business has changed. It used to be these guys and gals and they did all the voiceover, and then it switched to the celebrity-driven piece. And so the folks who used to do voiceovers couldn’t get anywhere near it anymore.
When I was a little kid, it would be like Frank Welker, who did Megatron in Transformers, but he did voices for everything and he wasn’t like a famous person.
Nope. And you don’t even know that that was Tom Hanks or some other celebrity. You know, it’s amazing the way the business has shifted. And then the clients, they don’t know, these corporate types – they don’t know what voice they want. And then if they hear that Tom Cruise or Tom Hanks or Julia Roberts wants to do a voiceover, then they want them. So, consequently, I got caught in-between that. Because potentially I was starting to do some voiceover things but then the business shifted to celebrity and then you’ve got to refocus on your work in the legit areas so that they’ll be able to say, “Oh, he’s got an Emmy, he’s got a Tony.” You know, “We want him now.”
And now you’re a celebrity.
We want him now, he’s a celebrity.
And you actually have the voice…
Yeah, you know, I really enjoy doing voiceovers. I really do. Or after you do a film, you do the ADR. I really love to, “beep beep beep, boom.” You know, being able to get your lips matched up with what’s happening on the screen. That’s a little bit of an art form. Most people don’t know that it’s even a part of the filmmaking, all the little sounds and the gasps.
So how did this one happen? Does Wes Anderson reach out to you?
No, Wes reached out. So, we’ve known each other and, you know, a lot of times people have to be coaxed into looking in a different direction. So I just think that someone probably said, “You know, what about Courtney?” “Oh, wow. Yeah. Would he do it?” Boom boom boom boom – hey. And, you know, that’s how it goes.
Well now you should be part of his troupe.
Yes, I want to be part of Wes’s troupe. I sat down with him and Harvey Keitel yesterday with Harvey’s wife, which was very fun…
I bet there are fun stories there…
[Laughs.] There were some stories being told there about Gene Hackman and George C. Scott…
Did you bring up John McTiernan?
No, John didn’t. John Irvin came up. So it was really, really a wonderful, wonderful time of just comparing notes. And, I mean, I love Harvey Keitel. I just keep seeing him in Thelma & Louise.
I would pay money to watch that conversation.
There’s some stories, yeah. We had some fun. It was good.
Thelma & Louise has been on cable a lot recently….
It’s so good. So good. Brad Pitt as a young whippersnapper.
Speaking of cable rotation movies right now and John McTiernan, The Hunt for Red October is on nonstop right now.
Yeah, that’s Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin. I was just talking to somebody else about that film. It really holds up.