Great acting typically requires using every tool in one’s toolbox: physicality, facial expressions, mannerisms, and voice. Really skilled actors can take away one of those things and still give a good performance. John Hawkes, for example, couldn’t rely on body movement when playing a paraplegic in The Sessions, yet he still delivered emotionally devastating work. Jean Dujardin, meanwhile, didn’t utter a word playing a silent movie star in The Artist, and he won the Academy Award for Best Actor.
When doing voicework, actors leave behind all but one of their tools, which makes the job much harder. While it may seem easy to stand in front of a microphone and read lines, it actually isn’t. Stripped of most of the other things they typically rely on to create a full-blooded character, actors have to compensate by putting the one tool they have left into overdrive. They have to create that character with just their speaking ability.
Lots of big movie stars have taken a turn at voice acting over the years. Often, the results were unmemorable. There are, however, some cases where stars proved to be uncommonly good at voice acting. We celebrate their accomplishments here.
Here are 16 Huge Movie Stars Who Became Amazing Voice Actors.
16. Bill Murray
From the start, Bill Murray has been a larger-than-life performer. Via Saturday Night Live roles like Nick the Lounge Singer and “nerd” Todd DiLaMuca, he proved to be a comedic force of nature. The movies quickly capitalized on this quality, allowing Murray to play the wild man in Meatballs, Stripes, and Groundhog Day, among many others. These days, he’s widely considered to be a fine dramatic actor as well, thanks to celebrated turns in Lost in Translation and Broken Flowers.
Murray’s crazed energy and impeccable comic timing have made him a much in-demand voice performer. While the two Garfield movies themselves weren’t so hot, he brought the lasagna-eating feline’s trademark sarcasm perfectly to life. Later, he memorably portrayed a droll badger in Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. Most recently, he was the voice of Baloo the bear in Disney’s live-action/CGI remake of The Jungle Book. That character — one of the most beloved and distinct in Disney’s library — needed an actor who could convey his outsized personality. Murray was just the guy, which no doubt helped the film become a $947 million blockbuster smash.
15. Freddie Prinze, Jr.
For a while during the 1990s, Freddie Prinze, Jr. was poised to be the Next Big Thing. He was talented, good-looking, and in possession of real charisma. And for a time, he was definitely a top young star. I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scooby-Doo were both hits, and She’s All That quickly became a touchstone movie for teens of that era. Prinze’s time as a leading man was short-lived, though. A string of hardcore flops — Wing Commander, Boys and Girls, Head Over Heels — damaged his career. He couldn’t open a picture anymore.
It’s rare to see Prinze onscreen these days, but it’s incredibly easy to hear him. The actor has moved into the world of voicework, where his success has been undeniable. He’s worked on the animated features Delgo and Happily N’Ever After, as well as the videogames Mass Effect 3, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Disney Infinity 3.0. His vocal talents have most recently been put to use on the popular animated TV series Star Wars Rebels, where he plays the character Kanan Jarrus. Through this voicework in these projects, Prinze gets to play a variety of roles, rather than just the heartthrob role that movies repeatedly shoved him into.