‘King of Voiceovers’ LaFontaine dies

Voiced thousands of movie trailers

Don LaFontaine, the man who popularized the now-loved catchphrase “in a world where…” and lent his voice to thousands of movie previews, died Monday of a collapsed lung in Los Angeles. He was 68.

LaFontaine made more than 5,000 trailers in his 33-year career working for the studios and television networks. He was also the voice of the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Academy Awards telecasts.

In a rare onscreen appearance in 2006, he parodied himself in a television commercial for Geico car insurance. Playing himself, he told a customer, “In a world where both of our cars were totally under water…”

In an interview last year, LaFontaine explained the strategy behind his signature phrase.

“We have to very rapidly establish the world we are transporting them to,” he said of his viewers. “That’s very easily done by saying, ‘In a world where … violence rules.’ ‘In a world where … men are slaves and women are the conquerors.’ You very rapidly set the scene.”

LaFontaine insisted he never cared that no one knew his name or his face, though everyone knew his voice.

Born in Duluth, Minn., LaFontaine served in the Army, where he worked as a recording enginer. He moved to New York to work in the promo industry in the early 1960s. As an audio engineer, he produced radio spots for movies with producer Floyd Peterson.

When an announcer didn’t show up for a recording session in 1965, LaFontaine voiced his first narration, a promo for the film “Gunfighters of Casa Grande.” The client, MGM, liked his performance.

He worked as head of production for trailer house Kaleidoscope Films and then started his own production company, Don LaFontaine Associates. In 1978, he became head of the Paramount Pictures trailer department, becoming the “voice of Paramount” for several years. He left Par in 1981 to work independently and became known as “the king of voiceovers,” voicing campaigns for NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox and UPN as well as TNT, TBS and the Cartoon Network. He is thought to have signed more SAG contracts than any other actor.

LaFontaine remained active until recently, averaging seven to 10 voiceover sessions a day. He worked from a home studio his wife nicknamed “the Hole,” where his fax machine delivered scripts. He was also active in working with the Silver Lake Children’s Theater Group in Los Angeles.

LaFontaine is survived by his wife, singer-actress Nita Whitaker, and three daughters.

More Film

  • Atmosphere91st Annual Academy Awards, Governors Ball

    Oscars 2019: Inside All the Parties!

    People are partying all around Hollywood before, during and after the Oscars. Here, Variety hits the town to give you the inside scoop on all the star-studded soirées. Keep checking back throughout the weekend for the latest updates… 2019 Makeup Artistry Dinner Sunset Tower, Los Angeles, Feb. 20Variety and Giorgio Armani Beauty hosted an intimate [...]

  • 'Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’ Heads

    'Monty Python's Life of Brian' Gets 40th Anniversary Release (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” is heading back into movie theaters to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the classic comedy film. Trafalgar Releasing took the rights to the film last year. The event cinema specialist is planning a 400-screen release on April 18 that will span the U.K. and U.S. as well as territories [...]

  • Korea's CJ CGV Switches Turkey CEOs

    Korea's CJ CGV Switches Turkey CEOs as It Battles With Local Industry

    Yeun Seung-ro has been appointed as CEO of CGV Mars Entertainment, the Korean-owned company that operates Turkey’s largest cinema chain. He replaces Kwak Dong Won, another veteran of the CJ-CGV group. The change of personnel may reflect two ongoing battles within the Turkish film industry. CJ-CGV, which bought Mars for some $650 million in 2016. [...]

  • Woody Allen Developing Next Film With

    Woody Allen Teams With Spain’s Mediapro for Next Film

    MADRID — Woody Allen is re-teaming with Spain’s Mediapro, one of Europe’s biggest independent film-TV companies, to develop his next film with an eye it seems to shooting in Spain. Mediapro co-financed and co-produced two of Allen’s highest-grossing movies, 2008’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” which grossed $96.4 million worldwide, and 2011’s “Midnight in Paris” which earned [...]

  • 'Stitches' Review: Berlin Film Festival

    Berlin Film Review: 'Stitches'

    An elegant hybrid of true-story exposé and slow-moving arthouse thriller, Serbian director Miroslav Terzić’s sober sophomore feature “Stitches” takes a familiar idea — a lone crusader taking on a corrupt system in pursuit of the truth — but delivers an unusually thoughtful, psychologically compelling character study. Taking its cue from Snežana Bogdanović’s eerily composed but fathomless [...]

  • Aruna and Her Palate review

    Berlin Film Review: ‘Aruna & Her Palate’

    When mouthwatering Indonesian cuisine and romance are on the table, “Aruna & Her Palate” is a bouncy crowd-pleaser. Less tasty is the backdrop of a suspected bird flu outbreak that brings a food-loving epidemiologist into contact with her secret crush. Adapted from Laksmi Pamuntjak’s 2014 novel “The Bird Woman’s Palate,” “Aruna” manages to overcome its [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content