DON LAFONTAINE Voice artist, Film trailer creator and producer
Interview by Thierry ATTARD
Special thanks to
Steve TISHERMAN and
He has been nicknamed « The Voice of God ». But Don LaFontaine is more than the voice artist moviegoers have been given the opportunity to hear in most of the movie trailers of the 20th century. He has invented the modern trailer and the influence of his work goes beyond the Cinema industry, as contemporary advertising borrows a lot to the standards he has established in more than 40 years.
« When you die, the voice you hear in Heaven is not Don’s. It’s God trying to sound like Don. » (Ashton Smith)
Objectif Cinéma : Don LaFontaine, thank you very much for accepting this interview. First, what are the origins of your name, « LaFontaine » ?
Don LaFontaine : My immediate family on my father’s side came from Montreal, Canada. One of our ancestors, Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine, was one of the original Voyageurs who founded the fort that became the city of Montreal. We are also descended from Jean de La Fontaine, the fableist.
Objectif Cinéma : Before being the well-known voice-over artist you are, you were a recording engineer and sound editor. Could you please tell us a few words about this part of your rich career.
Don LaFontaine : I learned to be a recording engineer in the Army in the late 1950’s. I was assigned to the U.S. Army Band and Chorus, stationed near Washington, D.C. When I got out of the service, I moved to New York, where I found work at National Recording Studios. One day I was assigned to work with a young radio producer named Floyd L. Peterson. We found that we had a lot in common, and shortly thereafter, I joined him, and we became a two man operation.
We were part of a very small number of people who were advertising motion pictures. The business grew rapidly, and within two years, we had our own building and about twenty employees.
Objectif Cinéma : You started your voice-over activities on movie trailers in the sixties, at a time where, for instance, Alfred Hitchcock could allow himself to visit the set of Psycho with the spectators during the trailer of this classic (almost 7 minutes, which is unthinkable today !) But as you also not only voiced them but write and conceived them, you gradually, over more than 40 years, changed this conception and literally invented the modern trailer.
Don LaFontaine : That’s true. There were about six of us in the beginning. One of the most talented was a young man named Ed Apfel, who must be credited with creating some of the most popular phrases that are still used today. I found that I had a knack for writing, and now, here I am, 43 years later, still reading variations on scripts I wrote in the early sixties.