Hal Douglas



Hal DouglasHal Douglas is a voice actor who has lent his deep voice to many movie trailers and television commercials. He has been described by a Miramax publicist as "perhaps the most recognizable trailer voice in the business." Demo reel

His voice is similar to Don LaFontaine's.


Douglas is known in the film industry as the "In a world..." guy because many of his trailers start with these words. (That may be debatable. In an interview with Don LaFontaine, Mr. LaFontaine states that he wrote and was the first to use that phrase.) In addition, he is the standard voice-over man for the WB Network.


Hal Douglas can be seen parodying himself in the trailer for Jerry Seinfeld's film Comedian.



Obituary - Daily Telegraph - 11 March 2014

Hal Douglas, who has died aged 90, was the “titan of trailers” - a voice actor whose gravel-toned decrees whetted audiences’ appetites for more than 1,000 forthcoming feature films, teasing out the explosive action, maudlin melodrama and intergalactic showdowns coming to a screen near them soon.

His credits include the ominous introductions to Forrest Gump, Philadelphia and Men in Black. “This summer, check your weapons, take your seat and say your prayers,” he growled for Con Air in 1997. His voice-overs were delivered in an almost omnipotent timbre. “If his voice sounds anything like God’s, it’s God on Day 7: world-weary and slightly amused,” said one journalist. Yet he recorded his renditions in a studio on his farm in the hills of northern Virginia — sometimes still dressed in his pyjamas.

Hal Douglas was born on January 12 1924 in Stamford, Connecticut, the son of Latvian and Russian émigrés. During the Second World War he served in the US Navy after which he studied Drama at the University of Miami in Florida. “I chased pretty girls into the drama department,” he later recalled.
His career began as an announcer on radio programmes in the 1950s. A decade later he was producing advertisements for several prominent agencies in New York, but by the early 1970s he had begun to work regularly on film trailers for cinema distribution: “I was really well-equipped because I had been an ad agency guy. I knew how to read copy and sell pieces.”

Douglas believed spontaneity (he did not use a stopwatch) and an understanding of genre lay at the heart of his art. “You get the description of the movie, the contexts of the lines that you are doing, and the rest of it is intuitive , ” he stated in his eighties. “Movies, particularly, fall into departments. You have an action film, you have a romantic film, you have the dark films. They all suggest an attitude and a voice quality.”
His main competition for the major blockbusters came from Don LaFontaine. Nicknamed “Thunder Throat”, LaFontaine claimed to have created the catchphrase “In a world... ” — the fallback beginning of many outlandish trailers — and by the time of his death in 2008 had reportedly worked on more than 5,000 of them. Inevitably, the two men were compared. “Hal was the only guy that in some way, shape or form could be mentioned in the same breath as Don,’’ said Jeff Keels, producer of the documentary The Voice Gods of Hollywood. “But there’s a difference between Don and Hal. When Don said 'In a world’ it sounded like a spot. It grabbed you. But when Hal says it, it transports you.”

Douglas never had a catchy moniker, just an instantly recognisable voice. “It hangs out there,” he said. “You sit down in the theatre and sometimes in three out of four trailers I’d be on them.” Although Douglas was reluctant to discuss his rewards from Paramount, Warner Brothers, MGM and the other studios, voice-over work can be an extremely profitable career path — actors can earn in the region of $2,000 per trailer (for recordings lasting as little as 15 minutes).
His bass modulations made him perfectly pitched for other commissions. He worked on television advertisements and promotions for Disney and the History Channel. He also provided the narration for sports documentaries on basketball champions the Chicago Bulls (1996) and the ice-hockey team Detroit Red Wings (1997).

Film trailers, however, remained his staple - so much so that, in 2009, he was well-placed to mock his own trade in the trailer for Jerry Seinfeld’s film Comedian, in which Douglas delivers a quick-fire clutch of clichés to the fury of his producer. His long career was characterised by a sense of humour and modesty. “It’s a craft that you learn, like making a good pair of shoes,’’ he said. “And I just consider myself a good shoemaker.”
Hal Douglas is survived by his wife and daughter.

Hal Douglas, born January 12 1924, died March 7 2014




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