What do a Pretty Woman, Charlie's Angel And Smurfette have in common? They all have the voice of actress Celine Monsarrat, who finally drops the mask on a 30-year career of finding the perfect pitch for incarnating other people's roles.
PARIS — I started in this field a bit by accident thanks to an aunt and uncle who had a dubbing studio. I had taken courses in theatre so I tried my luck.
Soon, I learned to both appreciate my voice and to tame it.
At first, I mostly dubbed Chinese films when karate movies were all the rage in France. It seemed that I had the perfect voice for the damsel in distress whom the valiant prince would come and save from evil, a fact I found rather amusing.
By the next summer I had the roles of Kris Munroe in Charlie’s Angels and Mary in Little House on the Prairie. Next was the Smurfs' television series. I was the only girl cast, so I got the role of the Smurfette.
It was all a learning experience, and I soon understood the connection between dubbing and acting.
I remember I was at another dubbing studio waiting to audition for another role (I don’t remember which one) when a director suggested I try out for the part of Pretty Woman. It took me five minutes to get the job.
It’s still one of my favorite dubbing memories. It was the first time I had seen her, but I quickly realized that Julia Roberts – still unknown in France – was a great actress.
The film was funny, sexy, romantic, and I knew that it was going to work, but I wasn’t expecting it to be such a huge success. Since then, I have dubbed all but four of her films.
My voice became recognizable, so much so that I was asked to say my lines with the voice of Julia Roberts, which made me laugh because it was my voice before it was hers! There’s nothing better than to come to a point where you lend your voice to a character and it sticks perfectly in one's mind. I think that’s what happened with Julia Roberts.
But there have also been times when I dubbed actresses and realized that my voice did not fit theirs. For example, I dubbed a German actress for a television movie, and I felt ridiculous listening back to my voice.
Lend my your voice
When I first started working, I rarely knew the plot of the film I was dubbing. I only knew the pay rate for my work – the equivalent of around five euros per each line of about 54 characters.
People don’t know the work that goes into dubbing. You’re often alone in front of a screen. The words scroll by at a breakneck speed and you have to be ready to interpret the actor on screen as closely as possible
I remember when I dubbed the voice of Dory, that adorable fish who'd lost her memory in the Disney's Finding Nemo. I had the opportunity to record a scene with Franck Dubosc (a famous French humorist and actor). It was the only time because the producers thought that working in teams would be disruptive. But right away, he told me how much he regretted not dubbing the entire film with others present, and how so much of the work was actually acting.
What I love about dubbing is the freedom it gives me. I never do the same thing twice. People don’t know my face, which doesn’t bother me. I was never looking to become a celebrity. Sometimes, at the supermarket checkout people ask me “Why is your voice so familiar?” and I let them guess.
Today, I do not make my living off of Julia Roberts. I am happy to dub her films, and I'd be sorry if her career ended, but I think that I would find other things to do with my life.