After 45 Years, Woody Allen Dumps His German Double For Younger Voice

Wolfgang Draeger has dubbed Woody Allen's parts in German since the American actor-director's first film appearance in 1965. Did vanity drive Allen to replace Draeger for the German version of "To Rome With Love?"

Woody Allen has the last word on who dubs him (David Shankbone/B.H.)
Woody Allen has the last word on who dubs him (David Shankbone/B.H.)
Hanns-Georg Rodek

BERLIN - Two people - one voice for the past 45 years. Perfect harmony, mutual esteem and a fundamental understanding so deep that the one could read the other's lips. And then suddenly -- divorce!

I'm talking about Woody Allen and Wolfgang Draeger. Since Allen's film debut with "What's New, Pussycat?" in the mid-1960s, Draeger has dubbed Allen's voice into German in all 34 movies in which the actor appeared.

Only once, in "Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask)," was Woody Allen's voice dubbed by someone else (Harald Juhnke) in Germany, because professional voice-over actors were on strike. But when the strike was over, the German version of the movie was re-dubbed, this time using Draeger's voice.

The two W's aged together: the New York-based filmmaker is now 76, and Berlin-based Draeger 83. And their voices have weathered together, still suiting each other admirably --in fact Allen is supposed to have once said that Draeger's voice suited him better than his own did.

And even a few weeks ago, it was Draeger's voice in the German version of the trailer for "To Rome With Love," in which Allen --playing a grandfather-- appears as an actor for the first time in years. Draeger admits he wasn't in great shape when he did the job (he was recovering from a tooth implant) but that he now sounds like his old self again.

But still, the axe has fallen: Draeger won't be dubbing Allen in "To Rome With Love". And that axe was wielded by the filmmaker himself, or at least someone in his immediate entourage. Contractually, Allen has the last word on scripts, actors, trailers --everything having to do with the dubbing of his movies into foreign languages. It's not an unusual practice, and has been followed by creators as diverse as Pedro Almodóvar, Jim Jarmusch and Stanley Kubrick.

A symbiotic relationship

The verdict from New York was: too old. Freimut Götsch, who has replaced Draeger, is ten years younger and has also lent his voice to Steve Buscemi and Willie Nelson. There's nothing unusual either about these vocal musical chairs. John Wayne, for example, was during the course of his 40-year career dubbed into German by 15 different voice-over actors. Even Robert De Niro, said to be connected to Christian Brückner by a sort of vocal umbilical cord, was dubbed by a half-dozen different voice-over actors before he and Brückner joined voices definitively 20 years ago.

Twenty years --that's the critical time frame. After that period of time has elapsed, we can't imagine De Niro any other way; to German audiences even his own voice sounds strange. But with Woody Allen and Wolfgang Draeger it was 45 years. German directors staging Woody Allen plays even cast Wolfgang Draeger in the Woody Allen role because the voice association is so deep-set.

Director Gerald Grote cast Draeger and Traudel Haas in "Unser Film" (Our Movie) --Haas being Diane Keaton's German voice. And in Katharina Amling's first movie "Als ob ich Woody Allen wäre" (As If I Were Woody Allen), still in production, she has Draeger telling Allen to make a comedy based on a writer's story. Never in Germany has there been such a symbiotic relationship between an artist and a voice-over actor.

From August 30, when "To Rome with Love" is released in the German version, audiences will have a chance to judge for themselves if the vocal rejuvenation exercise was justified --or if it was just an age-old exercise in vanity on Allen's part.

Read the original article in German

Photo - David Shankbone/B.H.

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How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.

But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

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