ROME — When Universal’s “The Lorax” goes out to Italo auds in March, local auds will experience something rare: a Hollywood star dubbing himself in Italian.
Danny DeVito — who voices the titular furry creature in the Dr. Seuss adaptation — will also be dubbing himself in German for the first time.
Usually, local stars are used to dub studio films in their home territories, but this mini-trend of Hollywood talent tackling the lingua franca in which their films are playing seems to have begun in Italy.
Antonio Banderas did his own voiceover track in Italian, and also, naturally, in Spanish, for DreamWorks’ “Shrek” franchise, as well as for Universal’s “Puss in Boots,” which did some $20 million in Italy for U, thanks partly to the dub.
“After Banderas, producer Chris Meledandri proposed that we do the same thing with Danny DeVito in ‘Lorax,’ ” says Paolo Mangiavacchi, Universal Italy film operations director. The point was written into DeVito’s contract.
“Danny speaks some Italian; but less than Antonio,” Mangiavacchi notes. DeVito presumably knows even less German.
But there are ways to provide high-wattage voice talent with a foreign-language speed course of sorts. First a guide track is recorded with a local dubber, which the Hollywood star can work with in an L.A. studio. And local dubbing directors are flown to Los Angeles to supervise and act as voice coaches.
Also, going native is not the point.
In DeVito’s case, his Brooklyn accent remains very strong. “But, within the story, it works; in fact it’s a key element of ‘Lorax’ even in Italian,” Mangiavacchi says. “Whenever you have Hollywood stars willing to do this, it helps us re-create the same flavor as the original.” Even though, he is quick to add, local dubbers are great.