When Mark Gill, head of Warner Independent Pictures, hired Roberts to adapt the narration for U.S. release of “March of the Penguins,” he presented the scribe with a unique challenge. The original French version used actors to give voice to the “thoughts” of the penguins.
Roberts’ mandate was to connect to an American audience. “The film was a huge success in France, but we came to the decision pretty early on that while there was an emotional component to these birds’ lives, it was moving too far to actually hear their thoughts and feelings,” he says. With Luc Jacquet’s blessing, Jordan placed the film in third person.
The writer had 10 to 12 weeks to write, research (in partnership with National Geographic) and record the narration before the film’s June release. “We didn’t have time to finesse Morgan Freeman’s narration, so I did six versions with my voice. What I found is that moving a line a half a second later or earlier made a huge impact on whether it was funny or emotional or just a piece of objective fact.”