Film: Clooney alley

‘Being George Clooney’ a glimpse into the world of voice acting

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The documentary ‘Being George Clooney’ illustrates the world of audio-dubbing Hollywood films for the international market. Photo courtesy of the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center.

By Richard von Busack

It was said that Cary Grant had “a mid-Atlantic accent”—as if the Bristol-born actor had arisen out of the foam in the middle of the Atlantic halfway between New York and London. George Clooney, who turned 55 last month, is rightfully considered Grant’s successor, but his distinctive voice is harder to place. It’s “crumbly,” as Mary Astor said of Gable’s voice; gregarious, Midwestern yet edgy, unimpeachably masculine without being aggressive.

Former Contra Costa County public defender-turned-documentary filmmaker Paul Mariano’s Being George Clooney has some infectious fun with how Clooney’s coolness is treasured around the world. Is it the voice? Apparently, it’s more than just that. Mariano searches out the men who dub Clooney in the movies, in regional markets from India to Turkey.

Mariano interviews six “Clooneys,” including Brazil’s Marco Antonio Costa, the regular dubber of Clooney who is also an emergency room physician. Still, Francesco Pannofino, the Italian voice for Clooney, tends to steal this small and amusing documentary. The dubber has been doing a buttery yet hyper-macho version of the movie star’s voice since 1996’s One Fine Day. Pannofino, a dapper, hirsute party guy with an open collar, met his wife Emanuela Rosi when she was dubbing Michelle Pfeiffer’s part on One Fine Day. Rosi admits that she hears jokes about being married to George Clooney—“Many women would like to take my place.”

This leads Mariano into a sidebar on the importance of dubbing to Italian movies, a matter considered by both fans and critics, who give an award for best dubbing annually. American actors—such as Robert De Niro in The Godfather: Part II—who tried out their Italian-speaking chops dismayed the Italian fans: Used to the regular dubber, the audiences fretted that De Niro didn’t sound like himself.

Perhaps Being George Clooney is a small thing considered, but its particular focus adds a fascinating footnote to the study of voice acting in the movies, along with such comedic inquiries as Maria Bamford’s Netflix show Lady Dynamite and Lake Bell’s In A World.

Filmmaker Paul Mariano will present and discuss a special advance screening of ‘Being George Clooney’ at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center on Sunday, June 12 at 7pm; rafaelfilm.cafilm.org.

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