While Joaquin Phoenix is in nearly every frame of the spike Jonze movie Her, Scarlett Johansson gives a stellar voice-over performance Phoenix’s A.I. love interest. She’s so good, in fact, that she put us in the mood to hat-tip other great vocal portrayals in live-action cinema – actors that we hear but do not see.
NOTE: Great though he may be, a talent like Andy Serkis doesn’t apply, here, as his body and movement are used to create characters like Gollum or Ceasar the ape. So who made the cut in our top ten? Read on to see our favorite picks for the 10 best off-screen performances in film:
But Hal, the sentient, devious artificial intelligence controlling the space shuttle Discovery One, ends up being so much more than one-note as he clashes with the ship’s crew – and that’s due to how much nuance Rain squeezes into his work. He never for a moment breaks his unrelenting calm, yet he instills Hal with a wealth of subtle emotion all the same.
Whether with menacing undertones or mild hints of fear, Rain makes Hal into something greater than the cool thrum of his voice.
Maybe Stark wouldn’t consider that a bonus; as J.A.R.V.I.S., Bettany, perhaps drawing a bit of inspiration from Rain, happens to be just about the only person capable of cracking wise to the genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist and getting away with it unscathed.
Then again, he’s also handy in a pinch, and Stark wouldn’t be much of an Iron Man without the aid of his armor’s snippy A.I.. Just A Rather Very Intelligent System, indeed.
The second is Pierce’s inimitable classiness. He famously refused credit for his involvement in the production as a nod to the physical contributions of Doug Jones, the man who gives Abe shape in Hellboy as well as Hellboy 2.
Going between both pictures, there’s something lost in Jones lending his voice to Abe after having Pierce do the honors in Hellboy – he’s not bad by a long shot, but Pierce’s refined diction and inflections make the BPRD agent stand out on a whole other level.
Basically, think of it as a Lifetime Achievement Award. The Muppet Movie stands out as arguably the best adventure Kermit and co. have had on celluloid, but Henson injected so much life into that beloved puppet, over so long, that it almost seems criminal not to honor the totality of the time he invested in the frog of our hearts.No one did it better than him then, or has done so since.
Look, everybody has their favorite between Yoda, bog-dwelling master of the Force, and Darth Vader, Sith Lord and complicated father figure – but nobody can dispute how immediately recognizable Frank Oz and James Earl Jones are in their respective roles in the original Star Wars trilogy.
Whether it’s Oz’s penchant for anastrophes or Jones booming, commanding bass, these two icons have both lasted for decades in our cultural consciousness through their respective embodiments of the Grand Master of the Jedi Order and the right-hand of the Galactic Empire. They’re both so good and so essential, in fact, that they both deserve to show up here.
Among the cast of Wild Things, though – which includes Paul Dano, Lauren Ambrose, Chris Cooper, Catherine O’Hara, and Forest Whittaker – it’s James Gandolfini who rumpuses best. The late, great, former Sopranos star might seem like an odd fit, but despite his tough-guy image, he blends childlike vulnerability and animal savagery together in perfect harmony.
But among these, Falcor is easily the most memorable figure; most twenty or thirty-something cinephiles probably had nightmares of Gmork the wolf at one point or another during their childhood, but everybody to this day wants a luckdragon of their very own.
And why not? Oppenheimer gives Falcor a laid back, sage-like amicability. He’s a sight to behold, and that deep, belly guffaw of his resonates like no other.
Putting anybody else in the sound booth for this character might have resulted in an overbearing caricature of the chronically-depressed robot. Fortunately, director Garth Jennings called on the skills of none other than Alan Rickman for the job.
Rickman’s nasal, sonorous performance here not only conveys Marvin’s ceaseless lugubriousness in the best way possible, it actually renders the poor little guy kind of loveable.
Anybody with the right dimensions can put on a hockey mask and make Michael Myers or Jason scary, but change the voice that issues forth from Chucky’s mouth, and fans would notice right away.
That’s because of what Dourif brings to the voodoo-possessed Good Guy doll. His wicked sense of humor, his brutal creativity, and his high-pitched cackle make Chucky into one of horror’s most notorious killers.
Good choice, too: Adán, a native Spanish speaker, adds authenticity to his dialogue and an impressive, captivating authority to his voice. The result is a layered delight, one that keeps us guessing as to Pan’s purpose until the final scene. (And maybe even after.)
There’s a lot that goes into bringing a character to life on the screen with naught but your voice; it’s a difficult balancing act, and hopefully, these choices each demonstrate the endless variety of methods performers can use to pull it off.
Of course, there are many, many outstanding performances that occur in recording studios – espeically when we start taking, say, animated movies into account.
So sound off in the comments, Screen Ranters, and let us know what your favorite off-screen performances are! (And have a look at Screen Rant’s review of Her while you’re at it.)