I love this guy. His real name is Don LaFontaine, and he looks a bit like Tony Curtis. He's been doing the trailer voices since as long as I know, and has two styles. For a serious movie, he uses the normal, deep, gravelly growl that we know and love. If it's a comedy movie, he goes for the deep, rich, louder purpley-sounding voice that goes up and down, usually when saying things like "a-Whoopie Gollllldberrrrrrrg".

These are the lines that I've noticed appear quite a lot in trailers. There must be a stock supply of lines that sound good in trailers, or appeal to the lowest common denominator, or whatever:

  1. "In a world..." (on one occasion, this was in every single trailer I saw at one cinema visit)
  2. "It was a time for heroes..."
  3. "Only one man... (can stop the evil/kill the bad guys/save the damsel etc etc)"
  4. "Time is running out..."
  5. "When there's no-one you can trust..."
  6. "...playing a deadly game..."
  7. "...an explosive combination..."
I've also realised that certain movie stars have good trailer names, ie names that sound cool when Movie Trailer Voiceover Man says them. Here are a few (just imagine them spoken with that voice, all gravelly, and soun-ding out ev-e-ry sy-ll-a-ble):

For a fascinating day in the life/interview/article type thing with King La Fontaine, go here:

Check out the trailer for the Jerry Seinfeld movie Comedian: http://www.apple.com/trailers/miramax/comedian.html - it features a hilarious piss-take of the voiceover thing. You'll need Quicktime 5 to see it, and special pants.

In a world...
Where movie trailers are serious business...
Don LaFontaine is...

The Movie Trailer Voiceover Man.

There are roughly two dozen firms in Los Angeles that do nothing but movie trailers and, of all the voice actors employed by them, Don LaFontaine is the king. The guy with the recognizable gravelly voice you hear in nearly every movie trailer? The "in a world..." guy? That's him.

Don started in the movie business forty years ago, at roughly the same time Hollywood theatrical trailers stopped being star-driven afterthoughts and started being big business, and has now worked on over 3500 different television and theatrical projects. The average movie trailer costs $100,000 to make, and studies consistently show that in 75% of cases a person's choice of what movie to see is based solely upon it. As a consequence, Mr. LaFontaine's schedule is booked so solid that his desire to hire a private limo was motivated more by his need to get to the dozen or more jobs he does per day than by a surplus of money--he even claims he can do more than 80 voiceovers in a single twenty-four hour period!

The King of Movie Trailers does nothing special to protect his voice, eschewing neither alcohol nor cigarettes, and most every interview with him is highlighted by his ability to rattle off dozens of movie trailer cliches:

"In a world..."

"He's a one-man killing machine."

"He's a one-man army."

"He's your worst nightmare."

"...until now."

The existence of which can be forgiven, unlike much of Hollywood's lack of creativity, by the fact that, with the hundreds of movies released every year, there's only so much hyperbole to go around.

Editor's note: Don LaFontaine died September 1, 2008 following complications from pneumothorax. He was 68.

Culled from various interviews.

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