With Film being a visual medium it’s quite understandable that most focus on what James Bond looks like. The character’s creator, Ian Fleming, gave us many helpful pointers on Bond’s look in the 14 original books. But Fleming was much less detailed about how Bond sounded. He never even specifies 007’s accent. Given the era and Bond’s status as a senior civil servant with a decent education it’s fair to assume that he was intended to speak with some sort of RP. But what about the parts of the voice that are not governed by accent? What about tone, pitch and effort?
“You silver tongued devil!” is a phrase we all have likely heard at some point in our lives. The evocative imagery of a person’s tongue – the source of their loquaciousness – being made of silver implies that their use of language is both valuable and expensive. It also calls to mind a certain artificiality or ulterior motive. Convincing someone of your virtue with your silver tongue is seen, in other words, as something of a hustle. Equivalent to charming someone with your looks instead of your intentions.
Imagine my excitement when the author, Wendy M. Wilson contacted me about narrating her historical crime drama: Not The Faintest Trace. Wendy hails from New Zealand and she has written a truly gripping murder mystery set deep in the 19th century. She wanted an English voice as the central character, Frank Hardy, is an Englishman. But the book also contains Danish settlers, Maori warriors, modern New Zealanders and even a sharp-witted Chinese cook. If you’re writing about indigenous New Zealanders then it’s surely essential to embrace the Maori language and this Wendy has done with aplomb.
When we talk about voice there is a tendency to focus on two things: your mouth and your throat. After all the mouth is used to shape the words and the sounds are made by your vocal cords. So, what relevance does the rest of your body have to the sound of your voice? A lot. It’s true that the squeak made by the folds of your vocal cords originates in your larynx, which is barricaded behind your Adam’s apple. It’s also true that you use the articulators of your mouth to create intelligible words. But where does the actual tone of your voice come from?
One of the measures of an actor’s reputation is how easy or difficult you are to work with. You can probably all think of at least one Hollywood star who is famously difficult. There are also well-known stories of actors who are consistently popular on set because they are a breezeto be around. Beyond super-size trailer demands and personal hair stylists though, what actually causes others to label an actor easy or difficult? One measure is how easy they are to direct.